Saturday was an important day for the Chicago Cubs. Though, the importance came for what the Cubs did off field rather than what the team did on the field. However, the Cubs did snap their six game losing streak with a 6 to 1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
But before we delve into the game details, lets take a look at why Saturday was so significant to the Cubs’ organization. Prior to the game, there were rumors that center fielder Marlon Byrd was close to being traded to the Boston Red Sox. Those rumors surfaced shortly after the Cubs placed starting pitcher Ryan Dempster on the 15 day disabled list and outfielder Tony Campana was called up to take Dempster’s spot on the 25 man roster.
As it turns out, Campana’s call up to the Major League roster was pre-cursor to Byrd being traded to the Red Sox. Shortly after the Cubs completed their victory against the Reds on Saturday, the Cubs announced that they did indeed trade Byrd to the Red Sox for relief pitcher Michael Bowden, and a played to be named later.
Saturday’s trade is expected to be the first of many that the Cubs make this season. Despite speculation, the Cubs did not trade Byrd for the sole purpose of opening up a spot for top prospect Brett Jackson. Even though Byrd was off to a miserable start to the 2012 season, the Cubs’ front office saw fit to trade Byrd at this point in time. Reason being the Red Sox are desperate. The Red Sox are off to a 4 and 10 start this season and are currently in fifth place in the American League East division. Cubs’ president Theo Epstein took advantage of the state of his former employer and convinced Red Sox general manager Byrd is a solution, especially in light of learning that Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury will be sidelined for the next four to sx weeks with a dislocated shoulder.
What we learned from the trade of Marlon Byrd is that the new regime is not going to waste any time in their effort to rebuild the team. Going into the season, Byrd along with pitchers Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, and outfielder Alfonso Soriano were all among the candidates to be traded during the 2012 season. Typically April is deemed too early to begin trades, but the Byrd trade proves that if the Cubs’ front office is confronted with the right offer the team will pull the trigger on the trade regardless of how far along the season is.
Lost in all the discussion about Byrd being traded to the Red Sox is the fact that the Cubs beat the Reds on Saturday.
What went right: Starting pitcher Paul Maholm has struggled in his first two starts with the Cubs, but the third one was a charm. Maholm pitched six innings giving up one run on four hits and three walks while striking out 5 Reds’ batters. This was an encouraging start for Maholm. Though, the reason it is important for Maholm to regain his top form is not related to the the Cubs’ record in 2012. Lets be honest, the Cubs’ record is of no importance this season. What is important is if the Cubs can build the team this season to a point where they are ready to contend in the 2013 season. Maholm would be a nice trade piece if the pitcher continues to pitch like the top of the rotation pitcher he was with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Saturday was hopefully the start of that for Maholm.
The Cubs offense was also impressive. The team collected 14 hits overall with David DeJesus, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Steve Clevenger, and Joe Mather all having multiple hit games. Barney and Clevenger had three hits each with each player driving in a run. The Cubs were 5 for 15 with runners in scoring position and left 9 runners on base.
What went wrong: Third baseman Ian Stewart has hit the ball hard this season though it has not shown by his current averages. Stewart is hitting .196/.268/.314 with the Cubs this season. Hopefully as the weather warms, Stewart will begin to find more holes in the defense. If not, then Josh Vitters may be with the Cubs sooner than originally anticipated. Vitters is off to an impressive start with the Iowa Cubs, and could be pushing up his call-up to the Major League team. Nonetheless, I still expect Stewart to get the benefit of the doubt, at least for the first half of the season.
What was interesting: Now that Marlon Byrd is no longer with the Cubs, catcher Geovany Soto‘s struggles will take center stage. Soto is hitting .150/.190/.300 with the Cubs this season. Soto’s less than stellar is especially disappointing considering many in Spring Training were quick to predict that Soto would return to the form the earned him rookie of the year honors in 2008. As it turns out, Soto could soon be replaced by a rookie. Steve Clevenger won the back-up catcher’s role with his performance in Spring Training, and the rookie catcher is slowly catching the attention of many during the early portions of the 2012 season. Clevenger, who had three hits on Saturday, is currently hitting .588/.588/.824 on the season in 17 at bats. Clevenger could soon be receiving more opportunities in the Cubs’ starting lineup, especially against right handed pitchers.