In August, the Cubs traded outfielder Buck Coats to the Cincinnati Reds and dealt LHP Clay Rapada to the Detroit Tigers. They also traded RHP Rocky Cherry and INF Scott Moore to the Baltimore Orioles.
Cincinnati gave the 25-year-old Coats a few starts back in September before placing the 18th-round Cubs draft pick from 2000 on waivers just recently. In return for Coats, the Cubs picked up a player to be named (minor league RHP Marcos Mateo).
Coats was a likeable teammate, but he never seemed capable of doing any one particular thing excitingly. He also had virtually no chance of advancing past Triple-A in a system filled with plenty of exciting outfielders at both the major league and minor league level.
Rapada was traded to Detroit in late August as the player to be named later in exchange for the services of outfielder Craig Monroe. Rapada received some looks in September with the Tigers, appearing in four games.
Rapada, it would seem, is the one prospect the Cubs and their fans regret losing the most in recent months. A sidearm specialist, he has gone from rags to near-reaches – including having made his big league debut this past season with the Cubs – since being signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2002.
For his part, Moore was a fairly exciting third base prospect that could hit for power but was generally seen as someone stuck behind a bigger, more proven third baseman that could hit for better power in Aramis Ramirez.
Early on in his stint as a Cubs farmhand at Class-A Daytona in 2005, many of Moore's teammates at the time privately voiced some concerns over the now 24-year-old's attitude. (No problems with Moore's attitude were ever detected or witnessed by this reporter or any other, to my knowledge.)
Cherry, meanwhile, was a former starter whose career might seem to have been slowed by injuries. In reality, this is only part true.
While Cherry underwent Tommy John Surgery and essentially missed all of the 2005 season, he returned in 2006 and was lights-out at Double-A, touching 97 mph before earning a mid-season call-up to Triple-A Iowa.
Cherry and Moore were the Orioles' reward for seldom-used and seldom-needed journeyman pitcher Steve Trachsel, who was acquired for the Cubs' stretch run.
In something of a unique twist, the same Andy MacPhail-led Orioles who acquired Moore and Cherry would eventually get their hands on another Cubs prospect as a result of the Trachsel trade: RHP Jake Renshaw.
Renshaw was a ninth-round draft pick from Ventura College in California in 2006 that spent the past season at Low Class-A Peoria in the Midwest League. He finished tied for the most wins in the Cubs' farm system with 12 victories and had a 4.33 ERA in 112 1/3 innings combined this past season.
As part of the trade agreement with Baltimore, the Orioles were guaranteed to receive an additional prospect from Chicago if the Cubs reached the playoffs. Ironic, considering that Trachsel was no more useful in helping the Cubs win the National League Central Division than Renshaw was.
Elsewhere, many players that spent time in Chicago's farm system over the past year or years have been given their releases this offseason. Those players would include RHPs Chuckie Platt and Michael Christl, infielder-turned-pitcher Brandon Taylor, and outfielders Andrew Lopez and Alfred Joseph, just to name a few.
Others remain in limbo with regards to their future.
Left-hander Ryan O'Malley, for instance, is one of a small handful of minor league free agents this off-season that is looking to test the waters elsewhere. Other free agents from the Cubs include outfielder Jorge Cortes and RHP Federico Baez.
O'Malley was a feel-good story late in the 2006 season when he made his unscripted major league debut in Houston and proceeded to one-hit the Astros.
He had spent parts of the last four seasons with the Cubs' Triple-A team.
"I'd love to spend my entire career with the Cubs, but I have to do what's best for me," O'Malley, 3-9 with a 7.76 ERA at Iowa this past season, said this week.
"I'm going to wait and see what happens and see what the offer is," he said.
And with the annual Rule Five Draft scheduled for Thursday at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, even more Cubs minor leaguers could find new homes for 2008.
First baseman Brian Dopirak, at one time considered the top prospect in the entire Cubs organization, is a name that many teams might be interested in taking a chance on. Dopirak, who has been slowed by injuries the last two years, hit 40 home runs in his first full season of pro ball with Class-A Lansing in 2004, but has largely been on the decline since. He showed some promise toward the end of the season following a demotion to Daytona, though, and has never lacked motivation.
Another first baseman, Micah Hoffpauir, could also attract some interest. A left-handed hitter that showcases some power, Hoffpauir was having a career year at Iowa, batting .319 with 16 home runs before suffering a knee injury in early July.
Rules state that any player who was signed to a professional contract and has spent four years (or five years if that player was signed at age 18 or younger) with his parent club, and is not on that club's 40-man roster, is Rule Five eligible.
Players drafted in the major league phase of the Rule Five Draft must remain on the 25-man roster of the team that drafted them for the duration of a full season or be offered back to his original club, should the player pass through waivers.
The Cubs drafted both Hoffpauir, 27 and Dopirak, 23, in 2002.