The Vanishing Rumor

With the non-waiver trade deadline just around the corner, the rumor mill should be in full swing over the next few weeks. Jim Hendry has already made a big splash with the acquisition of Rich Harden, but ‘Trader Jim‘ has stated he is always looking at ways to improve his team.

In the midst of the All-Star festivities, the San Diego Union Tribune ran a report that the Cubs “recently asked aboutKhalil Greene. But as quickly as it was posted….it was removed in the same timely manner. The link is no longer there, but does that mean the Cubs are no longer interested? Or is it more of a case of the mainstream media running an unfound rumor?

Rumors surfaced this past off-season that the Cubs were interested in Khalil Greene. Kevin Towers, the Padres GM, mentioned several times through the mainstream media that he was interested in Matt Murton. Some thought there could be a deal worked out between the Cubs and the Padres that included Greene and Murton….but when the Padres signed Greene to a 2-year deal in February, those rumors went away.

Ryan Theriot had a very good first half offensively and at times showed solid defensive skills at shortstop. Theriot’s line before the break was: .320/.394/.369/.763 with 12 doubles, 41 walks and 33 strikeouts in 87 games, 347 at bats….and Lou Piniella refers to him as a spark plug in the lineup. But defensively is where his skills must improve in order for the Cubs to succeed in the second half. So…. Are the Cubs looking for an upgrade defensively at short and at the same time attempt to strengthen their bench?

First, Khalil Greene has struggled this season offensively in San Diego and is hitting just above the Mendoza Line (.216/.264/.329/.593/11 doubles/8 home runs/85 strikeouts in 92 games, 343 at bats). His home-road splits are just about even (at PETCO: .219/.291/.354/.645/2 doubles/6 home runs/16 walks and 41 strikeouts in 52 games, 192 at bats. On the road: .212/.228/.298/.526/5 doubles/2 home runs/5 walks and 44 strikeouts in 40 games, 151 at bats) and not exactly what the Padres thought they were getting after he hit 27 home runs a year ago (2007 stats: .254/.291/.468/.759/27 home runs/44 doubles/32 walks and 128 strikeouts in 153 games, 611 at bats). Greene’s offensive numbers are nowhere near Theriot’s and many feel his struggles at the plate are one of the reasons the Padres are in last place.

Greene finally started hitting in June (.274/.327/.432/.759/3 home runs and 4 doubles in 25 games) but regressed dramatically before the break (July: .088/.139/.088/.227 just 3 hits in 10 games, 34 at bats).

Lou Piniella preached time and time again before the season began he was concerned about the depth on his roster. Injuries to key players over the past 6 weeks (Soriano, Zambrano, Johnson, Theriot, Fukudome, Edmonds) and demotions of players that figured to play huge roles in the 2008 campaign (Hill, Pie and Wuertz) have not given Piniella the chance to rest players like he reportedly wanted to. Piniella has blamed the lack of rest on the recent struggles at the plate of Kosuke Fukudome….and there figures to be more signs of a long season as the team plays through the summer heat over the next 6 weeks. While Mike Fontenot has stepped up in several key spots, Ronny Cedeno has disappeared and despite the fact Henry Blanco was not called upon much in the first half, Mr. White figures to get a lot more playing time in the second half.

Greene is owed a lot of money to be just a role player (signed a 2-year deal in February of 2008 that voided his last two years of arbitration eligibility. Owed remainder of $4.5 million dollar salary for this season and is scheduled to make $6.5 million in 2009 with four possible increases based on plate appearances. $125,000 each for 525, 550, 600 and 625 at bats) but the old excuse, “change of scenery“, could be what he needs. Not only would he play in a more hitter friendly park (on some days) but he might benefit from a winning team and a new hitting coach (career numbers at Wrigley: .200/.236/.400/.636 with 3 home runs and 4 doubles in 16 games, 65 at bats).

Depending on what Hendry would have to give up, trading for Greene could turnout to be a good addition to an already solid team. Greene would give Piniella an above average (to excellent) glove at short and would allow Ryan Theriot to possibly move to second base. With Theriot at second, Mark DeRosa could continue to play all over the field and give his teammates regular days off without losing much either offensively or defensively.

Pitching and defense wins a lot of games, especially toward the end of a long season. Ryan Theriot should be on the field and in the lineup, daily, but if Jim Hendry can find a way to add a player with the defensive skills of Khalil Greene, without giving up too much, it is a trade that must be done.

Quote of the Day

"Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you." - Arnold Palmer
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