The Chicago Cubs made a trade right before the Winter Meetings – moving Jake Fox and Aaron Miles for Jeff Gray. Sometimes I really don’t think GM Jim Hendry has a clue as to what he is doing.
My biggest complaint is moving Fox. At 27, Fox could be coming into his prime. I know that finding a position for Fox is the issue – the Cubs are set in left field with Alfonso Soriano, 3rd base with Aramis Ramirez and 1st base with Derrek Lee. But injuries are always a concern with older players like Soriano, Lee and Ramirez (see how many games they missed last year) and Fox filled the void very well. He played in 82 games (216 at-bats) and batted .259 with 11 HR’s and 44 RBI’s. Compare that to Soriano (117 games, 477 at-bats, 20 HR’s and 55 RBI’s) and Bradley (124 games, 393 at-bats, 12 HR’s and 40 RBI’s) – the Cubs regular corner outfielders – and you can really see how productive Fox was in a reserve role. Sometimes you just have to admit you made bad moves – if Soriano and Bradley aren’t living up to their expectations, then you have to suck it up and move on even if you owe them a lot of money.
Because of his mistakes, Hendry now has moving Bradley at the top of his list (even if it means that the Cubs have to eat some of his salary for the next 2 years) and is forced to deal younger players like Fox in order to free up some salary cap room because of the bad moves that he made. What a big mess.
As for Aaron Miles, it’s great that we can save the $1.7 million owed to him for 2010. Miles will be 33 this month and he was a complete bust for the Cubs in 2009 – .185 batting average and .224 on-base percentage in just 157 at-bats.
Jeff Gray made 24 appearances for the Oakland A’s in 2009. He was 0-1 with a 3.76 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. In 26 1/3 innings pitched, he walked only 4 batters while striking out 19. Gray did not allow an earned run in 15 of his 1st 19 outings and the Cubs like the upside potential with Gray. Hendry had this to say about Gray: “He’s a power arm type of guy who gets it up to 95, 97 on a regular basis. We felt he could come in and compete for a job in the bullpen… We’ll put him in the mix with a lot of young people… His arm strength is very good. He’s not old by any means as far as bullpen guys. He’s got the stuff to be able to pitch in any area of the bullpen, if he’s able to harness it a little bit better. He throws very hard and throws strikes.”
The Cubs also got highly regarded prospect Matt Spencer and Ronny Morla in the deal. Spencer split time in the Class A and Double A levels in 2009 – .289 batting average with 19 HR’s and 91 RBI’s. He is only 23 years old. Morla had a 4.86 ERA in 17 games for Class A Vancouver.
I’m definitely disappointed with the departure of Fox. I like Fox and think he has a lot of upside with very little salary commitment. But I guess Hendry thought it was the right time to move him with his options being almost all done. We’ll see how the move pays off – it would be great if Gray made the club in 2010, but with an already young, deep talented bullpen, that seems unlikely…