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Long Shot: Willis Back To Cubs?

Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus has an interesting note in today's Rumor Mill:

"The Cubs also still covet Dontrelle Willis as "the one that got away" and--despite his not being on the market--Willis is one player the Cubs could get if Larry Beinfest suddenly changes his mind about that. Adding Felix Pie to Jacque Jones and Donald Veal would get it done, while not adding to the Cubs payroll."

Jim Hendry already tried to patch up one of the all-time classic Cub mistakes by signing Greg Maddux before the 2004 season.  At least that departure didn't happen under Hendry's watch. 

Back in March of 2002, Hendry traded Ryan Jorgensen, Jose Cueto, Julian Tavarez, and Willis to the Marlins for Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca.  Where are they now?

  • Jorgensen, a catcher, had a four-game cup of coffee for the Fish in '05, and now toils for the Reds' Triple A team.
  • Cueto, a pitcher, never made it past Double A and finished off his career back in the Cubs' system in '04.
  • Tavarez started 27 games for the 2002 Marlins, but his performance was worth only 0.4 wins.  He left via free agency after the season to sign with the Pirates.  Now he's with Boston, of course.
  • Clement provided a ton of value to the Cubs during 2002-04; he was worth about 17 wins over those three years according to Baseball Prospectus.  He was worth 4.8 wins in 2003, but Willis was worth 5.8 in fewer innings.  Getting Clement made this a respectable deal for Hendry, though in hindsight he would've rather just kept Willis.  Clement signed a three-year deal with B Boston and succumbed to shoulder woes in Year 2 of the pact.  He hopes to help Boston as a reliever in September, which should be interesting.
  • Alfonseca was OK as the Cubs' closer in '02, saving 19 games.  He was not helpful in '03, and the Cubs let him go.  Now he's in the Phillies' pen.

Back to the present day rumor.  Jones, while hitting better of late, probably would not be missed by the Cubs.  He's still only slugging .382 in July.  Veal was the Cubs' best pitching prospect heading into the season but has taken a step backward in Double A.  Veal has been control problems, though his arm has been described as "electric."  Lefty starters who can touch 95 can be hard to find.

Pie, though, would be the gem of the deal and the player with the best shot at stardom.  Literally - BP gives him a 30-40% chance at becoming a star player.  He struggled mightily in his first 139 ABs with the Cubs, but he now owns Triple A pitching.  He should be the Cubs' starting center fielder for the next six years at least. Trading him for the declining Willis would create another "one that got away" situation, which seems perfectly Cub-like.  Most likely nothing happens in the next two days, but we might revisit this rumor this winter.


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You might have a better shot leaving Jones out of the deal. The Marlins have plenty of corners and just need the 1 ml ready cf which Pie could questionably fill. I don't know why they would take on a bad contract(Jones) when they have no money to sign thier own players. Seems like a classic case of an armchair gm throwing in someone he doesn't like to fill out a trade without thinking of the other teams needs. Maybe they would take one of the Cubs relievers instead? I doubt it, maybe Marmal if they want to give him a go in the pen. In this market and everyone looking for a non-existing front line pitcher, the potential of Willis comming back to form would start a bidding war. There would probably be about 5-6 legitimate bidders for Willis if he is truly available.

I think the Jones addition is to even out the money part of it Spieldogg…

(Oops, missed the second line on that)
Kind of like Lee Stevens being sent to Cleveland in the Colon for Sizemore/Phillips/Lee deal.

Alfonseca was "OK" as the Cubs closer? I realize you're a Cubs fan but be real. He notched 19 saves alright...in 28 opportunities. Last time I checked, that's not even a 68% conversion rate, which is horrible for a closer. I can't think of a single closer that holds onto his job posting a 68% conversion rate, so I don't think Alfonseca's performance can be considered "OK."

That Stevens-Colon thing was a wierd situation. MLB owned the Expos and they were not allowed to spend over X amount. So any trade they made either had to shed money or do it like an NBA trade and match salaries. The Expos were not even allowed to bring up September call ups because it was not in the budget.

This situation is different because the Marlins do not need to bring back salary on trades. We have seen this time and time again with the fire sales. Look at thier trades a few years back sending Beckett and Lowell to Boston and Loduca and Delgado to the Mets. They never took any money back in those deals, it's thier style.

If the Cubs want to pawn off one of thier bad relievers in the deal, I could buy that. But if Pie is ML ready in 08 like has been preached here many times to go along with Willingham, Hermida, and Ross who are clearly better/cheaper than Jones. And Deaza/Bouchard/Reed/Abercrombie all making peanuts that could step in and produce some. Then there is no room at the inn for mr. Jones. And that's not even including Amezega who will probably go supersub if the ever find a true cf.

veal pie and another spec would make more sense. The fish dont care about "evening the money" They were only going to take Jones because the deal had him being Fully paid all but the minium.

If willis is shopped though every team will be after him. The fish could get a catching spec which is their primary need.

"Literally - BP gives him a 30-40% chance at becoming a star player."

This is why so many people are high on Pie...thats a hell of a projection. Not saying he is worth more than Salty, that just depends on a team's needs. (A response to a post on another thread about why people like Pie so much on this board...)That, and there are a lot of Cubs fans here...

I think this is stupid if you are the Cubs. Who are you going to take out of the Rotation, Marshall? He has been GREAT, one of the best #5 pitchers in all of baseball. If anything, marquis should go, but they have paid him way too much for that to happen. Also, you can't have 4 lefties in your rotation, so that would mean Marshall or HIll, both of which are cheaper for longer and should be at least as good as the much declining Willis.

I like Willis, but he is not worth our best 2 prospects (arguably). Jones couldn't be included because they wouldn't have a center fielder anymore. They would probably want Soto...and I think he is at least the ML backup next year.

Not to mention that the Cubs have the best Starting ERA in the NL right now....at least top two I believe. They should NOT be messing with the biggest strength of this team!

Good point on Alfonseca, I was just looking at his WARP1 value for that year and it was pretty good. 3.5 wins I think.

replacement must have been horrendous!

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