All the players have reported for Spring Training, and the focus has now shifted to one player not in Cubs camp yet. No, I’m not referring to Aramis Ramirez, but rather Brian Roberts. It’s funny because I half heartedly expect to pull up the 40 man roster on Cubs.com and see a dash where a number should be and Roberts name as part of the team. It’s almost like the team and the fans have accepted the fact that it’s going to happen and now just continue the waiting process. Me? I’m not so sure it will happen. I wrote in an earlier post that we didn’t need to get Roberts because we had Eric Patterson already in house. (Source)
I still maintain that if given the chance, E-Pat could produce with enough effectiveness to almost equal the production of Roberts while still allowing us to save some of the prospects we would have shipped in the deal. However, I’m also a realist and know that Patterson’s chance of cracking the starting lineup this year on a consistent basis is about as much as Brittany Spears chance of staying sober and becoming a productive member of society. That being said, I’d like to look at why the Roberts trade makes sense for the Cubs and for the Orioles.
The most recent word I have seen has Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno and a pitching prospect (presumably Sean Gallagher) going to Baltimore. If we work from that deal it doesn’t make sense for the Orioles at all. However, if they can pry someone like Felix Pie or Tyler Colvin away as well, things begin to look a little nicer in return. More than likely, Colvin will be the more attractive outfielder, as the Orioles brought in Adam Jones to play CF in the Eric Bedard deal.
From the Cubs point of view, Roberts gives them a bona fide leadoff man, which also allows the team to move Alfonso Soriano out of the one spot. According to the Chicago Sun Times:
Soriano has been running at 75 percent speed, on orders from the Cubs’ medical staff, as part of his conditioning program leading up to camp. And when asked Sunday whether he thought he could get back to stealing 40 bases a season, he said, ”I don’t know yet. I have to see maybe in a couple weeks, see how I feel in my legs. (Source)
The fact that the legs are even a concern tells me that he won’t be stealing 40 bases again any time soon. Without the speed, his value as a leadoff man is diminished greatly. If Soriano can’t run, the Cubs need someone to anchor the top of the lineup and get on base. Roberts would provide the speed Soriano lacks and allow newcomer Kosuke Fukudome to have some protection in the heart of the lineup. With Derrek Lee, Ramirez, Fukudome and Soriano as the 3-6 hitters in the lineup, the Cubs should be able to score a boat load of runs on a consistent basis.
From a subtraction standpoint, Murton’s exit is perhaps the hardest to deal with, seeing that many would argue that he hasn’t ever been given a legit opportunity to play on a consistent basis. I would argue back that it’s because he’s not that good. People go googly eyed about his plate discipline, but that discipline hasn’t turned into the BB% you would expect out of him. Cedeno seems to have played himself into the doghouse with the errors and strange mental mistakes in the field, despite being hyped as a no hit, good field shortstop coming up. The new acquisition of Alex Cintron also leaves Cedeno expendable.
From a pitching side, Baltimore would get a guy in Gallagher that projects as a number 3 or 4 starter with high upside. He keeps the ball in the park and has three above average pitches (Fastball, Changeup, Curveball). Right now, the Cubs can afford to move him along with possibly a guy like Jason Marquis to clear up some of the jumble in the rotation coming into camp.
Overall, the trade makes sense for the Cubs, which seems to be why they are so anxious to make the trade. But, does it make sense for the Orioles?
Roberts is going to be 30 years old this year and is signed through 2009 at $6.3 million in 2008 and $8 million in 2009. With the Orioles moving Miguel Tejada and Eric Bedard, it’s clear that they are interested in rebuilding. That being the case, Roberts is a piece that needs to go. The hold up at this point is the desire to maximize the return on perhaps the last significant bargaining chip the Orioles have left to play. Murton would fit in nicely in LF, but would probably continue to push for consistent starting time with Luke Scott. Cedeno would jump right in as the starting SS, and if he translate some of his winter ball production into the Majors, the Orioles would have a nice SS at a cheap price. That leaves the remaining piece of pitching, which is sorely needed. Everything I have read in the past has the Orioles insisting on two of the young arms in the Cubs system, Sean Marshall being the second. Assuming only one comes back in return, the Orioles have to hope Gallagher is the real deal or the whole deal turns into a bust.
I know the Cubs will not part with both Marshall and Gallagher and are high on Colvin and Pie. That leaves one pitcher and the patchwork players in Murton and Cedeno. To me, that doesn’t seem like a slam dunk deal just waiting for signatures. If Hendry can wait this one out and get Roberts for his price tag, I’ll be very impressed. Until then, let’s not start ordering our Brian Roberts jerseys just yet. OK?