Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cubs pen might be good place to shop

Sam Bass over at the Brave-O-Matic blog raises interesting possibilities regarding new closers. He suggests that the home team should explore raiding the Cubs pen, which is loaded with relatively expensive set-up men who are little use to a floundering team.

Specifically, Bass mentions Scott Williamson, Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry as possible targets for JS. Intriguing. All three guys are pitching well, and if the Cubs don’t pull a spectacular about-face soon it would hardly be surprising for them to dangle some contracts on the market.

Howry is signed for another couple of years after this one at $3 mill per, while Eyre is paid similarly and under contract for next season with a player option for 2008. Williamson, on the other hand, is signed only through the rest of this season at $2 million. So if the Braves go closer shopping at Wrigley, Williamson might seem the likely candidate. He's hardly a glamorous name. He has a history of injuries, yes, but has closed and, as long as we don’t have to give up too much, would be a reasonable gamble.

Chances are Jim Hendry & Co. wouldn’t look to dump any of these guys for another three or four weeks to see if they can reanimate (reference to great B horror movie) when Prior, Wood and Lee return. Remember, Houston was 15-30 last year.

However, if the Little Bears keep sliding – and they just got swept by the Marlins – you’d have to figure some or all of those relievers will be made available. They probably won’t come cheap. Bullpen arms are always in demand. So JS would have to ponder how much of the future to mortgage. There might be a nice match: the Cubs need help in the middle infield, and we have multiple prospects there in Pena, Prado, Andrus et al. I’d try to keep Betemit in a deal like this.

Can Reitsma right himself and be a reliable closer? I confess I’m clinging to a shred of hope, but it seems as likely as Bob Rathbun becoming Vin Scully. Failing a Reitsma revival, a deal is mandatory if we hope to contend even for the wild card.

Thinking about the Cubs, that's a team that, unlike the Braves, chose to invest heavily in its bullpen. It clearly is not working so far. There is no perfect formula.

-- CD

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