When Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer told reporters last week that the team could make a trade or two before Opening Day, the expectation was that the Cubs would trade from their surplus of starting pitchers. The prime candidate to be traded was, and maybe still is Randy Wells. Wells does not figure to make the Cubs’ starting rotation, and likely will start the season in the bullpen as a longman. Speaking of the bullpen, that is the one area where the Cubs could stand to improve before Opening Day. That would explain why the Cubs signed veteran reliever Shawn Camp on Monday to a minor league deal.
But the Cubs are still looking to improve their bullpen. While there are still veteran free agents available such as Mike Gonzalez, it seems that the preferred method of the Cubs’ front office is to trade a player that is currently on their 25 man roster for some relief help. While Wells would be a prime candidate, it would appear that the Cubs are more inclined to trade one particular position player before Opening Day.
According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times, the Cubs are listening to offers and engaging in trade discussions circling around center fielder Marlon Byrd. Sources cited in the Chicago Sun Times tell Wittenmyer that the Cubs have offered Byrd to the Washington Nationals for pitching help, and that the Cubs are in discussions with the Atlanta Braves regarding a Byrd trade. Wittenmyer cautions, however, that if Byrd is traded that does not necessarily mean that top prospect Brett Jackson will be with the team on Opening Day. The Cubs still could have Jackson start the season with the Iowa Cubs as that would allow the Cubs to have extra season of control over Jackson.
Nonetheless, the report originating from the Sun Times would seem to suggest that Cubs are looking to trade Byrd before Opening Day. Typically when trade rumors surface, local reporters try throw water on the report by saying that rumors are more speculative than they are factual. But Wittenmyer does not go out of his way to do so. In fact, Wittenmyer opens his article by writing that “the Brett Jackson era for the Cubs could start sooner than many might have thought…”.
Both the Braves and Nationals interest in Byrd dates back to 2011. The Cubs and Nationals were having regular conversations about Byrd during the early portions of the 2011 season but Byrd suffered an injury in late May and that put a end to the team’s discussions. The Braves, on the other hand, made an offer for Byrd at the trade deadline last season but former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry rejected the offer. One would have to wonder that if Hendry–who was already made aware of his firing before the trade deadline–had not been reluctant to pull the trigger on trades that involved the Cubs’ veterans last season, would Byrd still be with the organization to start the 2012 season?
Once Byrd is traded, that will kick-off the Brett Jackson watch. With manager Dale Sveum already admitting at one point this spring that Jackson is ready for the Major Leagues, the spotlight will be on the Cubs’ top prospect once an opening exists in center field for the Chicago Cubs. An opening that could form quickly if the Cubs are able to trade Byrd before Opening Day.