Fire Sale In Chicago?
It's May 28th and the Cubs are now 13.5 games out of first place, 13 games under .500. The June schedule doesn't include any pushover matchups (if there is such a thing for this club). It's becoming time to shake things up. Which players are the most likely trade candidates?
How about Kerry Wood? Yes, he loves Chicago and has a no-trade clause. But there are a couple of teams in Texas who could use Wood as a backup option if they miss out on Roger Clemens.
The Rangers are clinging to first place right now and could get Adam Eaton back in July. Still, if the league figures out John Koronka the second time around, there may be a need for more starting pitching. Wood makes $11MM and has the huge injury history, but he'd make for an intriguing pickup if he improves over the next month. Seems to me that a Jason Botts would be plenty given how far Wood's stock has fallen.
Houston would probably only express a mild interest in the event that Roger Clemens goes to the Yankees. They could part with Willy Taveras, and then Jim Hendry would have his low-OBP speedster atop the lineup for years to come.
I've seen Aramis Ramirez's name bandied about in the local papers. Ramirez's current four-year deal includes a player void option after '06, built in by agent Paul Kinzer in the event that he has a monster 2006 season. He's off to a slow start, but does have an .848 OPS for May. Even an off-year, resulting in .270-30-90, would be more than enough to top three years and $33MM in the free market. That's what's left on his current deal. Ramirez only turns 28 this year. Still, he doesn't sound like a man who wants to bail out. One could envision the Angels, Phillies, or Dodgers getting involved if the Cubs decide to shop Ramirez. He's probably the team's most marketable player, Mark Prior included.
Greg Maddux has a handshake agreement that he will not be traded. Still, he could have some interest in helping the Padres, Giants, Angels, or A's make a pennant run. Unfortunately for the Cubs, Maddux's hot streak came at a time when teams aren't ready to make deals (April). Is Maddux hungry for pennant race baseball at all costs, or is he complacent the way Jamie Moyer was last summer? Funny how the Chicago press was calling for a contract extension for Maddux after his renaissance (one month of excellent pitching).
Juan Pierre seems very likely to be dealt. There's just one little problem: his .231/.268/.286 line. The speedster hasn't quite been Rondell White/Yadier Molina bad, but he's still been awful. If Pierre can heat up for a month or so the Cubs might be able to get something useful in return. He would seem to fit in with the Angels or White Sox. How about Brian Anderson for Pierre? John Mabry better watch his back.
The Cubs will definitely send off Todd Walker at some point this summer. Countless teams would have interest in the affordable second base/DH candidate. Role players like Scott Williamson and John Mabry are trade candidates as well. Despite poor control this season, Williamson could be the most marketable of the three.
The Cubs have a host of additional undesirable to awful type contracts that probably could not be unloaded. This includes Jacque Jones, Glendon Rusch, and Neifi Perez. Some might include Bob Howry and Scott Eyre on this list despite their excellent starts. If the Cubs want to use 2007 to rebuild, the two relievers should be shopped.