You may or may not recall this, but back at the end of May, I proposed a trade between the Royals and the Cubs. In that column, I suggested that the Royals trade David DeJesus, Esteban German, and a prospect to the Cubs in exchange for Felix Pie and Ronny Cedeno.
Naturally, almost every rationale I used to justify this trade proved to be wrong.
I proposed the Royals trade DeJesus because, hitting .284/.339/.374 at the time (and just .260/.351/.372 in 2007), he wasn’t pushing the Royals towards a championship any. The next day he went 2-for-4 with a homer, and his OPS never again went as low as it was that day; he hit .317/.378/.485 from May 31st on, and today he looks like he may be a part of the solution after all.
I proposed that the Royals acquire Ronny Cedeno to play shortstop, because Tony Pena hit like a pitcher and because “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.” Hey, I was right about Pena.
And I proposed that the Cubs acquire DeJesus because “they've got a great lineup - but they have one massive, gaping, festering, chest wound of a hole. They have no centerfielder.” I was even more specific than that. “So now, they have Jim Edmonds, which is great except this is 2008, not 1998, and
Yet with all that, as badly as I messed up the specific rationale for such a trade, today’s rumors suggest that I got the general reasons correct. The Royals would, as I suggested, benefit from trading one of their “solid” players to a contender with a specific need for a tweener – it just turns out that the player was Teahen, not DeJesus.
The Cubs did, as I pointed out in May, have a potentially fatal weakness on an otherwise excellent squad:
“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.” This lack of balance in their lineup persisted into October, and more than any other reason, the inability to stack their lineup with left-handed hitters against the Dodgers’ power right-handers led to the team being swept in the NLDS.
This problem is actually more acute for the Cubs now than ever, because that one left-handed starter – Fukudome – was completely worthless the second half of the season, and was so lost at the plate during the first two games of the NLCS that Lou Piniella had no choice but to bench him in Game 3. Fukudome’s future in
We know that the Royals have been shopping Teahen – never mind what Dayton Moore says – and the Cubs are a good fit; the only negative in having them as a trade partner is that they do not see Teahen as a third baseman (or at least not primarily as third baseman – his versatility is seen as an asset.) But what were the odds that two of the three players Dutton mentions as guys the Royals might be interested in were…Pie and Cedeno?
Pie is pretty much the same player he was when I talked about him back in May – a tools goof who was promoted aggressively through the minors when he probably shouldn’t, who reached the majors before he was ready (and it shows: his career line is .223/.284/.331 in almost 300 plate appearances), but whose upside is still considerable. Pie would only add to the Royals’ problems with plate discipline, and after the Mike Jacobs acquisition, it would be only too easy to rip into Moore for acquiring yet another player who doesn’t know the strike zone from a map of Alaska. The circumstances here are entirely different. Plate discipline is a problem for Jacobs, but it’s far from his only one – he has no defensive value whatsoever, he has no speed, he doesn’t hit for average. Pie, on the other hand, has shown flashes of pretty much every skill except plate discipline.
In 2007, at age 22, Pie hit .362/.410/.563 in half a season in Triple-A. Maybe that was just a hot stretch, but anyone who can hit that well at that age for that long has to be taken seriously as a prospect. He hit just .287/.336/.466 in Iowa this year, but add the two lines together, and you get a player who, in 140 games in Triple-A, hit .317 with 29 doubles, 10 triples, 19 homers, 20 steals (in 33 attempts), and even 42 walks. He’ll be
Two years ago, Baseball America ranked Pie the #1 prospect in the Cubs system, and that was before he hit
The Royals have a fairly fly-ball oriented pitching staff, which makes their outfield defense particularly important. They can’t do much about Jose Guillen, except to make sure that he can actually walk before they put him in the field, but if DeJesus and Pie are patrolling the other two-thirds of the outfield, they’ll be alright.
And then there’s Cedeno, who hit an empty .237 after I proposed the trade, and finished at .269/.328/.352. Cedeno now has nearly 1000 plate appearances in the majors, and his career line is .252/.289/.350. That makes him a decent utility player at best. If I thought that truly represented his talent level, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit interested in acquiring him.
Fortunately, I don’t. Cedeno will be
Between 2005 and 2007, Cedeno played in 140 games in Triple-A (the same number that Pie played in between 2007 and 2008.) In those 140 games, he hit .357 with 29 doubles, 4 triples, 18 homers, 17 steals in 24 attempts, and 50 walks. Basically, Pie with an additional 40 points of batting average.
Is he just a Quadruple-A hitter? I have no idea. But while I wouldn’t go out of my way to acquire him, if he’s available as a throw-in, wouldn’t you love to take a flyer on him? If nothing else, he makes for a better utility player than Pena. If the Royals are concerned about Alberto Callaspo’s defense (and they are), they can either start Cedeno at 2B or start him at SS and move Aviles to 2B; either way they can get another defensive upgrade without surrendering more on offense. I could easily see Hillman using Cedeno and Callaspo in a sort of platoon at the beginning of the year, with Cedeno starting against LHP and Callaspo against RHP, and letting their performances dictate who gets more playing time as the season progresses.
But the Royals shouldn’t trade Teahen to get Cedeno. They should trade Teahen to get Pie, and if they can get Cedeno as well, that’s a heck of a coup. Six months ago, my colleague Kevin Goldstein thought I was vastly overrating DeJesus if I thought he would fetch Pie and Cedeno. If, six months later, the Royals can turn Teahen into the same package of talent…well, color me impressed.
Why would the Cubs make this trade? Ever since the NLDS sweep, there’s been an aura of desperation surrounding the team – it’s hard to overstate just how disgusted the fan base was with the team afterwards. The Cubs are in serious win-now mode, and last week traded Jose Ceda – who Goldstein ranked as their #3 prospect, and who is one of the best closer prospects anywhere in the minors – for Kevin Gregg, who got a lot of save opportunities for the Marlins last year but who would have been, like, the fourth-best reliever in the Royals’ bullpen. So they’re clearly willing to overpay in future currency for cold hard performance in the present. And as exasperating as Teahen can be at times, would it surprise anyone if he hit .280/.360/.500 in a Cubs’ uniform next year?
(Dutton also mentioned Mike Fontenot as a possible pickup instead of Cedeno. Maybe Dutton knows something we don’t, but given that Fontenot hit .305/.395/.514 last season, if they needed a corner outfielder that badly wouldn’t they just move Fontenot out there? A second baseman who just posted a 900 OPS shouldn’t be talked about as a throw-in, should he? But hey, we’ll take him too.)
The wild card here is Fukudome, who the Cubs would love to pawn off on someone else. I actually think Fukudome would be a worthwhile gamble for the Royals – he’s left-handed, and especially if the Royals trade Teahen, they’re in danger of leaning too far to the right side themselves. If nothing else, Fukudome knows the strike zone; early last year, he was widely credited for spurning the Cubs to appreciate the value of the base on balls. (The Cubs, who finished dead last in the NL in walks in 2005 and 2006, and next-to-last in 2007, led the league in walks in 2008. They drew 395 walks just two seasons ago, but this year they took 636 of them. That kind of jump may be unprecedented.) He’s a solid defensive outfielder as well.
The problem with Fukudome is his contract, which guarantees him $38 million over the next three years. I’ve been long meaning to put together a list of far-fetched trade ideas for the Royals this winter, and my favorite was to suggest trading Guillen to
That’s a trade for another day, but I thought I’d put it out there, if only because the last Royals-Cubs trade I proposed may be coming close to reality.
Nothing may come of this rumor, but there are a lot of reasons to think that Teahen-for-Pie-and-Cedeno is more than just your garden-variety trade gossip. (Not the least of which is the fact that