(I posted this piece a few hours ago, only I just noticed that - because I had started this post a few days ago before all hell broke loose - the blogger software posted this under Wednesday's date, halfway down the screen. Bad blogger. So I'm posting again and deleting the original post, although this may result in a few comments being lost.)
As we wait for our long national nightmare to end - again - there are so many things I want to talk about. I still haven't given my thoughts on the Soria extension, the draft is coming up in four days and I want to get my thoughts on that, and of course we still need to finalize some nicknames. (I figured the last thing on the list ought to wait until the Royals pull out of their tailspin - otherwise everyone's going to end up with awful nicknames like "scumbag" and "dorkface" and "Tony Pena Jr.")
But right now, everyone wants to talk about how to fix the team's offense. And so I brainstormed a little, and I came up with a trade idea that might benefit the Royals. And unlike most trade ideas that fans come up with, I'd like to think my trade idea might actually make sense for both sides. Maybe. Possibly.
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the state of our offense, my idea for improving the team's offense involves...trading away two of our hitters. So here goes.
The Royals trade: David DeJesus, Esteban German, and a pitching prospect to Chicago.
The Cubs trade: Felix Pie & Ronny Cedeno to Kansas City.
Settle down, everyone. Here's the rationale for both teams.
For the Royals: David DeJesus is a fine player, but he epitomizes solidity. From the Royals standpoint, the problem with DeJesus isn't that he's a problem - it's that he isn't part of the solution. By trading DeJesus, the Royals would get Felix Pie, who may never rise to the caliber of player that DeJesus is, but whose upside exceeds that of DeJesus. Pie hit .362/.410/.563 in 55 Triple-A games last season. He's not that good, and he's a free swinger and a high-risk prospect, but he has the ability to hit .300 in the majors, with 15-20 homers and better speed than David. He's just 23, whereas DeJesus is 28. By 2010 or 2011, which is the earliest the Royals should be targeting contention, he may be the better player of the two.
Cedeno, of course, immediately represents a massive upgrade on Tony Pena Jr, primarily because any animal that walks on two legs and has opposable thumbs ought to represent an upgrade. Cedeno was a massive flop in his one opportunity as the Cubs' everyday shortstop, in 2006, when he hit .245/.271/.339. But the year before, he hit .355/.403/.518 in Triple-A; the year after, he hit .359/.422/.537 in Triple-A. We're all excited about Mike Aviles and his .338/.369/.634 line in Omaha, but 1) he's never hit this well before; 2) most people feel he can't handle shortstop in the majors; 3) he's 27 years old.
Cedeno is 25, and he's had two seasons in Triple-A as good as Aviles' best season. He's hit .321/.402/.444 for the Cubs in limited playing time this year. He would not be a free agent until after 2012; Pie wouldn't be one until after 2013.
German had an OBP over .380 for the Royals the last two years, and 38 at-bats this season don't change the fact that he's a terrific utility player who can play second base, third base, and the outfield. He does everything that Cedeno currently does for the Cubs, except that he's a backup shortstop in an emergency only.
Basically, this trade would at the very least not hurt the Royals offense in 2008, because any loss of offense in centerfield would be made up for at shortstop, and the Royals simply have no playing time available for German. The Royals could put Pie directly into their lineup, although given his struggles this year (both in Triple-A and the majors) I'd prefer they stash him in Omaha for a few months, try to teach him some plate discipline, and tell Joey Gathright he's got one last opportunity to play every day, and let's see what you got.
For the Cubs: the Cubs have the most potent offense in the National League. They are in first place in their division. They have an excellent shot at the playoffs, and have to be considered one of the favorites to come out of the National League. As you may know, this would be a rather unusual event for this franchise, and would be met by much applause throughout the land.
The Cubs are playing to win now. They've got a great lineup - but they have one massive, gaping, festering, chest wound of a hole. They have no centerfielder. Well, they have Pie, but they don't think he's ready, and pennant races in a big media market are not kind to rookies struggling to establish themselves. So now, they have Jim Edmonds, which is great except this is 2008, not 1998, and Edmonds is evoking the memory of Willie Mays in 1973 right now - a once-great player reduced to such a degree that he's almost painful to watch. They've started Reed Johnson out there the last two nights.
The Cubs also have a problem which may not hurt them now, but will almost certainly haunt them come playoff time - even their longtime fan George Will thinks they lean too far to the right. Eight Cubs have batted 100 times or more this season - and seven of them (all but Fukudome) bat right-handed.
DeJesus would solve both of these problems. While he's not a great hitter, his career line is a perfectly respectable .282/.357/.412. Factor in the league difficulty factor, and you can add 5-10 points to those numbers. Plus you can't help but think that once he escapes the swirling vortex of doom that is the Royals' offense, his performance will go up a bit. He won't need to bat at the top of the lineup in Chicago - he'll probably bat 7th, behind guys like Ramirez and Soto, sandwiched between DeRosa and Theriot. With a fresh start on a winning team in a weak division in the inferior league, DeJesus could easily hit .295/.370/.440 the rest of the way.
Secondly, DeJesus is signed to a very favorable contract. He's making $2.5 million this season, and is signed for $3.6 million next year, $4.7 million in 2010. His contract has a club option for 2011 at $6 million, or a $500,000 bonus. (Thanks, Cot.) The Cubs would have him under contract for three more years after this one, and yet they'd be on the hook for less than $9 million in guaranteed money if his career goes south and they elect to decline his option.
Keep in mind, the Cubs are still in the midst of being sold, and so having guaranteed player commitments on the books is a good thing for them - at least that's what we were told when they offered Alfonso Soriano $136 million and the rights to Lake Michigan. Having a centerfielder under contract into the next decade may be appealing to the Cubs' management team for that reason.
In return, the Cubs would give up Pie, who is a top prospect, but they have reason to be concerned - his #1 PECOTA comparable going into this season, of the thousands and thousands of minor and major league players over the last 50 years, is Corey Patterson. Pie hasn't hit well in a small sample size this year. They may well decide that a bird in the hand is better than a bird in the bush. And Cedeno is basically a utility infielder for the Cubs at this point, with little hope of starting in the future - replacing him with German would be almost a wash for 2008.
Is it a fair deal? I asked Kevin Goldstein for his opinion - originally, the trade was DeJesus for Pie and Cedeno - and he felt, not surprisingly, that I was greatly overrating DeJesus and that the deal was tilted in the Royals' favor. Adding German balances the trade considerably, but even so I can see the argument that two young potential starters are worth more than one ready-now league-average player and a good utilityman. So I've included the generic "pitching prospect" as an equalizer, with the exact value of that player to be negotiated by the teams.
The Royals have had quite a year on the farm in terms of the development of their pitchers - more on that at some point - and so I think they could afford to part with some depth. Certainly, a Grade C prospect like Blake Johnson or Henry Barrera could be given away without any regret. Would I put Julio Pimentel into the deal? Probably. Blake Wood? Probably not. But I am not a scout; I would trust Dayton Moore and friends to get together with the Cubs and arrive on a mutually agreeable player. Or they may well decide that the trade is even, two-for-two.
Will this happen? If it does, it will be the first time in the history of these here internets that a trade suggestion made by a blogger comes to fruition. (If I'm wrong about that, somebody please let me know.) But it should. Both teams would benefit. God knows the Royals could use all the benefit they can find right about now.