In transactions that were directly related, the Cubs signed free agent infielder/outfielder Aaron Miles, formerly of the Cardinals, and traded infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa to the Indians for three pitching prospects.
If the Cubs were going to get more left-handed, DeRosa was their only option to trade. First baseman Derrek Lee, third baseman Aramis Ramirez and left fielder Alfonso Soriano all have no-trade clauses in their contracts, and Hendry had no appetite to trade any of them in the first place. Catcher Geovany Soto and shortstop Ryan Theriot also aren't going anyplace, so that left DeRosa as the logical choice.
Trading DeRosa lops $5.5 million off the payroll for 2009, with Miles making $4.9 million over the next two seasons.
Next up was a trade that allowed Hendry to free up more money.
Right-hander Jason Marquis, who will make $9,875,000 this year, was sent to the Rockies in exchange for reliever Luis Vizcaino, who has $4 million left on his deal. The Cubs will pick up part of Marquis' contract.
Hendry will use savings to sign free agent outfielder Milton Bradley, another switch hitter. According to multiple media reports, the Cubs and Bradley agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal on Jan. 5.
Last season, right fielder Kosuke Fukudome and center fielder Jim Edmonds were the Cubs' only left-handed bats. Fukudome faded badly down the stretch, and Edmonds shared time in center with Reed Johnson. If the Cubs can land Bradley, they'll be able to field what they hope is a much more balanced and versatile lineup with as many as four or five left-handed hitters on some days.
--Bradley agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal with the Cubs, according to multiple media reports. The switch hitter led the American League with a .436 on-base percentage for the Rangers last year. The Cubs had been clearing salary in recent weeks (INF Mark DeRosa, RHP Jason Marquis) in order to make a run at Bradley.
--2B 2B Mike Fontenot figures to benefit most from the trade of 2B/OF Mark DeRosa to Cleveland. GM Jim Hendry says he can envision a double-play combination on many days of Ryan Theriot at shortstop and Fontenot at second. Fontenot is a left-handed batter who reaches base (.395 on-base percentage last year) and can sting the ball (22 doubles, nine homers). Fontenot and Theriot were college teammates at LSU.
--Miles appeared at seven different positions last year for the Cardinals. Predominantly a second baseman, Miles also played shortstop, third base, left field, center field and right field in addition to making one relief-pitching appearance. The Cubs expect the 32-year-old switch hitter to share time at second base with Mike Fontenot and make spot starts in the outfield, much as Mark DeRosa did in his two years with the Cubs. Miles doesn't have DeRosa's power, but he hit .317 last year with four homers, 15 doubles and a .355 on-base percentage.
--SS Ronny Cedeno could be the odd man out in the Cubs infield. With Ryan Theriot starting at short and Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles available as backups, Cedeno looks to be a good bet to be traded. Cedeno ran afoul of manager Lou Piniella the last two years with what the Cubs perceived to be careless play at times.
--With Marquis on the verge of getting traded, LHP Sean Marshall figures to step into the rotation. That's unless, of course, Marshall becomes part of a trade for RHP Jake Peavy, currently with San Diego. (The Cubs' ownership situation most likely will have to be settled before that has a chance of happening.) One dark horse to watch if Marshall isn't the fifth starter is RHP Mitch Atkins, the Cubs' minor league pitcher of the year in 2008. Atkins went 17-7 with a 4.00 ERA between Class AAA (Des Moines) Iowa and Class AA (Kodak) Tennessee last year, and the Cubs like his mound presence. If he doesn't break camp with the Cubs, he could be an early-season call-up, either as an emergency starter or as a long man.
--There is still a chance the Cubs could sign C Paul Bako to compete with Koyie Hill for the backup job behind Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto. Bako played for the Cubs in 2003-04, and management likes the way he calls games and handles pitchers. He also is a left-handed batter, while Hill is a switch hitter. Bako, 36, played in 99 games for the Reds last year, batting .217 with six homers.
INSIDE THE NUMB3RS: .315/.317 -- Newly acquired switch hitter Aaron Miles bated .315 last year against left-handed pitching and .317 against right-handed pitching.
HE SAID IT: "It's never easy to say goodbye to a quality player and person like Mark DeRosa." -- Hendry, after trading INF/OF Mark DeRosa to Cleveland for three pitching prospects.
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