Here’s the Deal

Another loss, another lack of offense — time for  a shakeup, Cubs fans. Needed: Bats, or at least one, to replace some of the puzzling absences.

Aramis Ramirez we know about; but Derrek Lee’s power seems sapped (despite a home run against Houston in a 13-inning, 2-1 loss); Geovany Soto has been painfully slow in coming around; Alfonso Soriano is apparently banged-up to explain his prolonged slump; and Milton Bradley — well, it seems cruel to beat up on the guy who was so obviously the wrong signing.

Time to start looking at the bottom-feeders. Oakland has Matt Holliday, with a power stroke buried in the A’s big park. Holliday is only 29, believe it or not, so he’ll be at a premium when the trade deadline gets close. All the more reason to take a shot now, and pick up his 8 homers, 37 RBIs and .373 on-base percentage (.274 BA). Problem with Holliday: He hits right-handed, and the Cubs are fixated on left-handed hitters.

That brings up the big prize, Adam Dunn in Washington. Dunn is showing his usual strikeout rate (62 already), but the big lug has 17 home runs and a .394 on-base percentage from all his walks (.256 BA). Dunn is equally inept at first base and the outfield, so it doesn’t matter where he plays. Putting him in left means moving Soriano back to second base. Now there’s a thought. . .

Colorado has the same destination — Nowheresville — as Washington. The run-producer who could be dangled there is 36-year-old lefty first baseman Todd Helton (7 HR, 42 RBI). Much more intriguing is right fielder Brad Hawpe (9 HR, 45 RBI, .407 OBP), but Hawpe is only 30 and again the price would be high.

Another possibility in Baltimore: Aubrey Huff, who can play first, third and the outfield. Not strictly a power hitter, Huff is a left-handed hitter who can drive in runs (39 RBI, 8 HR). He would give Piniella versatility, especially valuable while Ramirez is out, and at 32 is hardly over-the-hill. Cubs GM Jim Hendry seems to have a good working relationship with Baltimore’s Andy MacPhail, his former boss in Chicago.

Everyone is looking for pitching, and the Cubs supposedly added three good prospects in the deal with Cleveland for Mark DeRosa. Sean Marshall is probably ticketed somewhere before Larry Rothschild and Lou Piniella ruin him completely (which might be the best thing for Marshall). Micah Hoffpauir and Jake Fox are candidates for inclusion in any deal, since the Cubs seem adamant about not making room for them. The only real candidates for inclusion as compensatory outfielders are Reed Johnson and Kosuke Fokudome. Either one would leave the Cubs without a legitimate center fielder.

If the Cubs dip below .500 with their interleague series, starting today against Minnesota, look for the longstanding rumor about Brian Roberts to resurface. The switch-hitting second baseman with leadoff presence is wasted in Baltimore, might like the chance to play for a contender, and should solve the mess the Cubs have created at second base and elsewhere with the DeRosa trade.

But something’s got to give if the Cubs are serious about pulling out a Central Division title before another playoff implosion. And if they make the right deal, the playoff outlook could be a hit this time.




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