Three Down … One to Go for Jim Hendry?

Slowly but surely Jim Hendry is removing the mistakes he made last winter when he decided to make unnecessary changes to a 97-win team.

First, Hendry traded Aaron Heilman to the Diamondbacks for Ryne White and Scott Maine on November 19. His next move, letting Kevin Gregg quietly leave Chicago … then on Thursday, Hendry dealt Aaron Miles to the Oakland A’s, along with Jake Fox and $1 million for Jeff Gray, Matthew Spencer and Ronny Morla. Gray was added to the 40-man roster and is expected to compete for a spot in the Cubs’ rotation this spring.

Jim Hendry still has one more trade to make. According to a report from the Tribune, Hendry will look at pieces for his bullpen, bench and outfield all while trying to trade Milton Bradley next week in Indianapolis.

Here’s the latest from the mill on the Friday before the Winter Meetings with more on the Fox-Miles trade and the Cubs’ system ranking. Milton Bradley

According to a report from Bruce Levine, the Cubs are “listening to offers and trying to be creative” as they try to deal Milton Bradley. According to Levine, the deal “possibly involving three or four teams in a deal” that could send Milton Bradley to the Rays for Pat Burrell … then Burrell to the Mets “or another team unknown at this point” with Luis Castillo ending up with the Cubs.

Jim Hendry is trying to save as much money as possible on Bradley’s contract to use for improvements to the 2010 club.

Hendry stated on Thursday the Fox-Miles trade had nothing to do with his efforts to trade Milton Bradley.

WGN News at Nine asked, “What the A’s wouldn’t take Milton Bradley? Maybe soon?

Reed Johnson on Sports Central

Reed Johnson joined Dave Kaplan on Thursday night during the first hour of Sports Central.

Johnson told Kaplan that his number one goal is to return to the Cubs. He spoke with Jim Hendry on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Hendry congratulated Johnson on the recent birth of his child (Lou Piniella called Johnson a couple of weeks prior) and the two discussed Johnson’s future with the Cubs.

Hendry said he would love to have him back and Johnson indicated that he talked specifics with Hendry. Johnson said he reminded Hendry of the importance of defense and the fundamentals of the game. Johnson said he might not be great at one specific thing but is pretty good in a bunch of different areas.

Ryan Theriot spoke highly of Reed Johnson during his time with Kaplan earlier in the week … and Kaplan brought up that conversation to Johnson. Theriot said Reed has been one of the best leaders in the clubhouse during his time with the Cubs.

Johnson said he will talk to players when he feels they are out of line and will remind them how to act and play the game the right way.

Reed Johnson talked about his confrontation with Milton Bradley (the one that Milton praised Johnson for after the fact) and reminded Kaplan of the “argumentLou Piniella and Bradley had on the South Side. Johnson indicated Bradley held it together better after both incidents before eventually slipping back into his old ways. Johnson explained Milton is not a bad person that he just needs to be reminded from time to time how to carry himself. Johnson said Milton always listened to his advice.

Reed Johnson is a baseball player … and one that wants to return to the Cubs.

Jake Fox-Aaron Miles

The Cubs were able to redirect $1.7 million of the $2.7 million owed to Aaron Miles by dealing him to Oakland on Thursday. Jake Fox will receive more playing time in Oakland.

Aaron Miles, on the other hand, dealt with personal issues all season that reportedly affected his performance on the field (rumors suggested a messy divorce). Miles put together one of the worst seasons by any ballplayer in recent memory … and fell out of favor with Lou Piniella during Spring Training according to a report from the Chicago Tribune.

According to a report from the Daily Herald, Jim Hendry feels like he maximized Jake Fox’s trade value on Thursday.

Hendry told the Tribune, “Aaron will be better served going elsewhere after a very, very tough year for him.

Jeff Gray

According to multiple reports, Jeff Gray will compete for a spot in the Cubs’ pen during Spring Training. Jim Hendry said, “He doesn’t have experience in the eighth or ninth innings. But he throws the ball very hard, and he throws a lot of strikes. Our scouts felt he throws a lot like [Angel] Guzman, a hard-throwing type guy on the verge of getting better. It’s up to him to compete for a job. If not, he’s got an option [to be sent to the minors without becoming available to other teams] left.

The Cubs like Gray’s power-arm and compared him to Angel Guzman. Jeff Gray has one minor league option left.

More on Jeff Gray from Scout.com:

“Gray, 28, went 0-1 with a 3.76 ERA (11 ER/26.1 IP) in 24 relief appearances last season with the Athletics. The righthander walked only four batters in 26.1 innings pitched while striking out 19. Gray did not allow an earned run in 15 of his first 19 outings, turning in a 1.71 ERA (4 ER/21.0 IP) through September 19, before allowing seven runs in his final five outings to increase his season-ending ERA to 3.76.

The six-foot-three, 196-pound Gray split the 2009 campaign between Oakland and Triple-A Sacramento. Gray went 2-2 with 16 saves and a 1.54 ERA (7 ER/41.0 IP) in 37 Triple-A relief outings. Combined between Oakland and Sacramento last year, Gray posted a 2.41 ERA (18 ER/67.1 IP) and walked only 10 batters in 67.1 innings pitched.

Originally selected by the Athletics in the 32nd round of the 2004 June Draft, Gray made the jump from Single-A Kane County at the start of 2006 to Triple-A Sacramento by the end of 2007 before making his major league debut with Oakland in 2008. He is 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA (15 ER/31.0 IP) in 29 career major league relief outings and is 21-21 with 36 saves and a 3.38 ERA (139 ER/370.2 IP) in 212 minor league outings (24 starts). He has allowed only 15 home runs in 370.2 minor league innings, an average of one home run per 24.2 innings pitched.

Gray is a native of Texas City, Texas and pitched collegiately for Southwest Missouri State University.”

Cubs System Ranking

Baseball America ranked the farm systems of all big league teams on Thursday. The Rangers have the best, the Astros are the worst and the Cubs are just below average. Baseball America ranked the Cubs’ system 18th out of the 30 teams … several steps ahead of 2009, the Cubs’ system a year ago was just three out of the cellar at number 27.

“Much better than at this point last year, led by SS Starlin Castro.”

Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer

Jonathan Mayo posted information on Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer, the other two players acquired in the Miles-Fox trade with Oakland on Thursday.

From Jonathan Mayo (MLB.com):

Ronny Morla

Morla is a solid mid-range kind of prospect. His numbers in the Northwest League don’t look all that exciting, but what probably interested the Cubs is that he was throwing 93-94 mph with his fastball and maintaining it in his starts. He complements the fastball with a good slider. It’s the breaking ball that largely was the swing-and-miss pitch that allowed him to rack up over a strikeout per inning with Vancouver. At 21 years old, he’s got a good pitcher’s body and is projectable. If a team put him in the bullpen exclusively, he could increase the fastball into the mid-90s.

Matt Spencer

Spencer is big and athletic, capable of playing the outfield as well as first base. He’s got an above-average arm. In fact, there was some talk about drafting him as a pitcher because he was 90+ in brief mound stints at Arizona State. He’s got plus raw power and became a much better overall hitter in 2009 by shortening his swing after getting promoted to Double-A. He can hit the ball out of any park and the OF-1B mix gives him a little versatility defensively. He drew a comparison to current Cub Micah Hoffpauir at similar stages of their careers.

Rick Ankiel

Bruce Miles mentioned the Cubs are looking at Rick Ankiel but rumblings of the Cubs actually being interested in signing him at this point “are a bit premature.” The Cubs must still move money and probably should “stay away from Ankielaccording to Miles.

Other Hot Stove News

Quote of the Day … Jim Hendry in the Tribune:

“This was a good trade for us to clear the deck before we get there (the winter meetings). We’re going to be very prepared and try to deal in the next couple of weeks.”

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Well, that’s the latest … and I’m sticking to it!