Thursday, January 05, 2006

What's the Deal with Todd Walker?

Why do the Cubs seem to be hell-bent on trading Todd Walker? Shortly after the Juan Pierre trade, Jim Hendry talked about the positions that were set at that time, but he failed to mention second base. Hendry's comments lead several folks in the Chicago media to conclude that Walker was on his way out of town. For his part, Hendry didn't do anything to set the record straight.

So if the Cubs do want to move Walker, I have to ask "why?" During his time with the Cubs, Walker has been one of the more productive second basemen in the league. He is a career .290 hitter (hit .305 in 2005) and he is a valuable bat from the left side of the plate. He seems like the perfect guy to hit second behine Pierre. I've heard criticism about his defense, but I never have considered Walker a liability in the field. In 413 chances in 2005, Walker had 6 errors. Not outrageous by any measure.

I've heard rumors that Walker is a born-again Christian who is rather vocal about his beliefs. This apparently has caused some problems over the years in the clubhouse. However, its hard for me to believe that the Cubs would want to trade him solely for this reason. At least I would hope that isn't the reason.

I've also heard that, because Walker is such a productive second baseman, he has a lot of trade value. This is an age old debate, but when is the best time to trade a player? Certainly it isn't when the player is all washed up because at that point they don't have much trade value. On the other hand, it doesn't make much sense to trade the player when they are the top of their game either. When a guy is playing really well, don't you want him playing really well for your team?

The time to trade a player is when you can get back in return what you need for your team without hurting your team too badly by losing that player. In Walker's case, what could the Cubs get for him? Could they get what they need? Probably not.

Hendry has said that he would like to get another good starting pitcher (always in short supply) and in my opinion, the Cubs need a quality starting shortstop. I don't think most teams would be willing to give the Cubs what they need for Walker alone. He might work as part of a package deal, but most teams would likely be more interested in the Cubs' pitching prospects than in Walker, who will turn 33 this year.

On the other hand, the Cubs are fairly well set up to replace Walker at second if he goes elsewhere. Jerry Hairston is listed on the depth chart for the Cubs as a left fielder, but second base is his natural position. There is also a chance that if Walker departs, either Neifi Perez or Ronny Cedeno could play second (whichever one doesn't play shotr). I don't like this option, but it is an option nonetheless.

If it is true that the Cubs want to trade Todd Walker, it seems like it is for personal reasons more so than for what Walker can bring in a trade. What those reasons might be are a mystery to me.


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