Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cubs Could Fill Pitching Hole With Willis

Here’s a crazy idea. The Cubs are looking for starting pitching and have even offered a rather generous contract to Ted Lilly, a second tier lefty who has trouble pitching past the sixth inning. Like many teams, the Cubs have an interest in Jason Schmidt, but as Seattle Mariners blog Lookout Landing points out, Schmidt is a guy whose name value exceeds his actual performance. So who should the Cubs go after? How about the Marlins’ Dontrelle Willis?

I know at first blush this may seem ridiculous, but let’s look a little closer. From the Cubs point of view, they’d love to add Willis to their rotation. That’s a no-brainer. But why would the Marlins entertain trading Willis?

First, the Marlins have a couple of needs that the Cubs could fill. The Fish need a center fielder and a closer. And like most teams, they could always use pitching prospects. As it turns out, the Cubs have players that could fill these holes.

For center field the Cubs could offer hot prospect Felix Pie. The feeling is that he needs another half season at AAA to be ready for the big leagues, but he has a tremendous amount of potential and the Marlins have proven they are not averse to playing AAA players on the big club.

If Pie does not intrigue the Fish, Jacque Jones might. Jones began his career in center field, has the speed to cover the position, and is an effective left handed bat with some pop. Most importantly for the Marlins, Jones is signed for the next two years at the reasonable price of $9 million total.

At closer, the Cubs could offer Ryan Dempster. Dempster had a down year in 2006, but that could be explained away as both over use and inconsistent use. In 2005, Dempster saved an impressive 33 out of 35 games and looked to become one of the top closers in the league.

Scott Eyre is another option at closer. He has been used primarily as a set up man with the Cubs, but he has closed for the Indians in the past and looks to have the make up to do it again. And again, Eyre's contract is reasonable, particularly in this FA market.

On the pitching prospect front, the Cubs are loaded. They could offer any prospect(s) from a list that includes Sean Marshall, Juan Mateo, Angel Guzman, Jae-Kuk Ryu, Will Ohman, Rocky Cherry, Carlos Marmol, Roberto Novoa, Clay Rapada, Ryan O’Malley, and even more.

So the Cubs have what the Marlins need. But why would the Marlins part with Willis instead of one of their other pitchers? The reason is because of money. Willis is going to be arbitration eligible after the 2007 season and is likely to earn a big pay day. The Marlins don’t like big pay days. Although the team is reportedly ready to increase their payroll from $15 million in 2006 to $25 million in 2007, they do not appear to be willing to expand it to the extent necessary to keep Willis after 2007. Why not deal him now and get the pieces needed for 2006? Brilliant!

Of course, the wild cards in all of this are the GMs. Jim Hendry and Larry Beinfest are buddies. They were together at Creighton University and Beinfest followed Hendry into the big leagues. Neither GM is going to just roll over for the other, but the fact that they can and have worked deals together before could be the grease needed to get this deal done.

With the Winter Meeting starting tomorrow, I would suggest that Hendry make Beinfest’s room his first stop when he gets to Orlando today. He might be able to fill his most pressing need before the meetings even begin.


At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ain't going to happen.

At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Brick said...

I like your thinking Sweet Lou, but I just don't see it working. The Marlins might be willing to deal Olsen or Johnson, but not Willis. Of course, if you don't ask, you don't get, so Hendry should at least ask.

At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Charlie said...

Dream on, brother. Hendry may have lots of money to spend, but he's not smart enough to figure this one out.


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