Monday, July 7, 2008

The AL Central Just Got Weaker and the NL Central Just Got Stronger

With the Milwaukee Brewers on the verge of acquiring C.C. Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians for prospects, the NL Central just got a bit tougher for the Chicago Cubs to win.

Most Cubs fans were hoping that they would be in on the bidding for Sabathia, but the Cubs just didn't have the top-level prospects to compete with the Brewers. And as a whole, the Cubs farm system can't compete with most teams in baseball anyway. So what's next for the Cubs?

The Chicago Sum-Times is reporting that the Cubs are interested in Oakland A's pitcher Rich Harden. Harden is a top of the line rotation pitcher, which I said last week is what the Cubs needed. The problem is that Harden hasn't pitched a full season in the Majors since 2004 and that was when he was 22. Numerous injuries have slowed any chance of him becoming the dominant pitcher that his stuff leads all of us to believe he can become. As a matter of fact, he has made 13 starts this year, which is as many as he had combined in 2006 and 2007. And he's already had a stint on the disabled list this year. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Harden will be injured, again, before the trading deadline this season and that, along with A's GM Billy Beane's wild shopping list will prevent any deal for Harden to take place.

Two other options for the Cubs top of the rotation hunt is Erik Bedard from the Seattle Mariners and A.J Burnett from the Toronto Blue Jays. Bedard was the Mariners big offseason move, giving up top prospect AdamJones to the Baltimore Orioles, along with a few other players, in the hopes of picking up Bedard would help them make a run at the playoffs. But as of this posting, the Mariners are currently 18 games out of first and will be looking to sell some pieces off to help facilitate a rebuilding process. And shedding Bedard and what's left of the 7 million he is owed this year and whatever he might make through the arbitration process next year, along with some prospects, might help get the Mariners on the right move back into contention. Right now though, Bedard complained of shoulder stiffness after his last start on Friday and has not thrown more than 99 pitches since May 28th. Now for a young arm, the fewer the pitches thrown, the less stress on the arm. But the most pitches Bedard has thrown all season is 110 and in fact has only gone over the 100 pitch mark in 6 of his 15 starts. He has thrown 28 innings in his last 6 starts and something tells me that the problem in his shoulder may end up preventing the Mariners from moving him.

Burnett on the other hand has been the complete opposite, only pitching under a 100 pitches once since May 12th. Burnett has had injury problems in the past and is someone that would be a concern to have on your staff. In fact, during his 10 years in the majors, Burnett has only gone over 200 IP twice, neither of them since signing with the Toronto Blue Jays during the 2005 offseason, when he signed a 5 year, 12 million dollar per year deal. The Blue Jays would probably be welcoming any team to offer them enough to give them Burnett, but any trade for Burnett would have to give Hendry a bit of cause for concern as Burnett can opt of his deal at the end of this season to become a free agent. I don't see the Cubs making a move for him, more likely the New York Yankees in the hopes that Burnett might be able to help them right the ship towards the playoffs.

What options are left? We're looking at 2nd tier starters like Randy Wolf and Gred Maddux, both from the San Diego Padres. Wolf and Maddux have been awful away from Petco Park, the Padres home ballpark and would be cause for concern for Cubs fans. We already have seen what Maddux is like the second time he was with the Cubs and unfortunately, I would expect more of the same. Wolf is a soft tossing lefty in the Jamie Moyer mold and someone who doesn't throw hard in Wrigley Field when the wind is blowing out? Yikes. That being said, one of those two would be the guy I would expect Hendry to accquire, with Maddux being the most likely. Blah.

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