As Jordan posted earlier today, the word on the street appears to be that GM Jim Hendry has pulled Carlos Pena off of the trading block. Division rival and surprise NL Central contender Pittsburgh had been rumored to be very interested in the Cubs slugging first baseman, but with Pena apparently no longer available, the Pirates had to go else where to fill their need at first base.
The Bucs found their answer in former Cub Derrek Lee, who signed with Baltimore for the 2011 season at a going rate of $7.25 million. In return the Pirates sent Aaron Baker, a minor league first baseman on their advanced A ball team. The left handed hitting prospect is not ranked in the top 30 for Pittsburgh, but considering the Cubs do not have much depth in the minors at the position, Baker would have been worth a look.
Lee is currently only hitting .248 on the season with 12 homers, although six of those came in the month of July alone. Compare that to the 20 home runs Pena has so far, albeit with a lower batting average, and it would not be a stretch to imagine that the Pirates would have thrown in one more mid level prospect, possibly creating a similar two prospect combo that the Cubs got from the Indians for Kosuke Fukudome. With Pena’s contract already having $5 million deferred to 2012, the Cubs could have easily agreed to eat the deferred money and still have Pena’s remaining 2011 salary come in below what Lee is left owed.
I have tried to defend Hendry in recent seasons despite disagreeing with his signings of Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, and Fukudome; but he is really leaving me without much ammunition to continue to do so. Hendry’s refusal to offer arbitration to pending Cubs free agents has really irked me, as the team ends up missing out on compensation draft picks, and his inactivity with less than 24 hours remaining before the non waiver deadline may be the straw that broke this camel’s back.
Hendry’s inability to trade Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, and Ryan Dempster is understandable given no trade clauses and/or overpriced remaining salary due. While fans will add this argument to the growing list to oust Hendry, I chalk these roadblocks up to sunk costs. What has been done is done.
But in the case of Pena, there are no such roadblocks. The only explanation to not trading Pena would be the desire to keep him in Cubs pinstripes past this season. But even that argument has a hole in it, as the Cubs could easily pursue Pena as a free agent this off season even after trading him this month. Hendry is known to have good relationships with his players, even when it comes to saying goodbye. Surely there should be no concern that trading Pena know would sour the first baseman’s feelings to the point where he would refuse a reunion in 2012 to spite the Cubs.
The Cubs may argue that they would have no one left to cover first base to play out the rest of this miserable 2011 season. Apparently they forget that they still have Jeff Baker on the roster and not on the trading block for the reason that the super utility man would be a useful piece to the 2012 team. The front office also apparently forgot that they forced outfielder Tyler Colvin to get some reps at first base in an effort to find a creative way to get the kid in more games at the Major League level. Colvin was able to hold his own in his three games at first base this season, and would open another option on the field to get the kid the at bats he needs to prove his worth for 2012 and beyond.
I cannot defend Hendry anymore. Not only will it take an amazing off season to get back in my good graces, assuming he is still on board as GM of the Cubs, but more importantly, he will need to be wizard like in his moves if he has any hopes of fulfilling his wish to contend in 2012 with what will be left of this dysfunctional roster.
Jim Hendry, what the…