Cubs trade DeRosa for three hurlers
Chicago also adds utilityman Miles with two-year contract
CHICAGO -- It won't show up in the transactions as an even Aaron Miles-for-Mark DeRosa swap, but that's what the Cubs essentially did on Wednesday.
Clearly, something else is coming.
DeRosa, a right-handed batter who is coming off his best offensive season, was traded to the Cleveland Indians for three Minor League pitchers, while the Cubs signed Miles, a free agent, to a two-year, $4.9 million contract.
The addition of the switch-hitting Miles puts another left-handed bat in the Cubs' lineup -- joining Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Fontenot and Joey Gathright -- but not in right field, where the team could use some power.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry is still trying to land a significant bat for the middle of the lineup -- free agent Milton Bradley appears to be the leading candidate -- and he also spent much of the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas talking to the San Diego Padres about acquiring Jake Peavy.
Bradley was looking for a long-term deal and the Cubs did need to trim some payroll. If they are able to deal Jason Marquis to the Colorado Rockies, as rumored, that would create an opening financially as well as in the rotation.
The question is whether Hendry can afford to do both. If Marquis is moved along with his $9.875 million salary, the Cubs could fill the vacancy in the rotation internally with someone like Sean Marshall. A possible Peavy deal may have to wait until the Cubs' ownership situation is resolved.
"We'll be adding some more people before we get to Spring Training," Hendry said Wednesday. "We feel confident we'll put a better club on the field by the time Opening Day starts than we had last year. Sometimes, you have to move dollars to add dollars in other areas. It's a transition with the ownership change. We're moving forward, and we're not worried about having enough flexibility to get the things done that we want to."
When Hendry looked at the lineup and tried to find spots where he could add left-handed bats, it became obvious that second base and right field were the only openings. Fontenot was expected to get more playing time, Hendry said.
"This has nothing to do with the type of player DeRosa is," Hendry said.
DeRosa, 33, was playing golf on Wednesday when Hendry called with the surprising news. Since that call, his cell phone has been buzzing all day as his now former Cubs teammates check in to say goodbye.
"I'll miss the city, I'll miss driving to the park and seeing all the people, I'll miss putting on the uniform," DeRosa told MLB.com. "Everything about that place [Wrigley Field] is special. But it's a business and you have to move on."
It's been quite the year for DeRosa, who began the season dealing with an irregular heartbeat that limited him in Spring Training. On New Year's Eve, he will now toast a new team and a different position.
"I'm excited about playing third," he said.
This season, DeRosa set personal highs with 21 homers, 87 RBIs, 103 runs and 69 walks while batting .285. The popular infielder had one year remaining on his three-year contract with the Cubs, and he was to be paid $5.5 million in 2009. He was the Opening Day second baseman, but he played four different positions over the season and had to fill in for Fukudome in right field when the Japanese outfielder struggled.
DeRosa's name had been mentioned in trade rumors during the Winter Meetings.
"Mark has been a very good player for us and a guy who I have a tremendous amount of respect for," Hendry said. "The Cleveland Indians got a very, very good player today and a first-class young man. That part is always difficult, but we felt we had to move forward in this direction, so we decided to make the deal."
Of the three pitchers the Cubs acquired for DeRosa, only right-hander Jeff Stevens was considered as the closest to being a big league commodity. He could factor into bullpen consideration in 2009.
Stevens was a combined 5-4 with six saves and a 3.24 ERA in 36 games, all in relief, last season at the Double-A and Triple-A level for the Indians. Left-hander John Gaub appeared in 34 games, all in relief, for Class A Lake County, and compiled a 3.38 ERA, while right-hander Chris Archer was a starter for the Captains, going 4-8 with a 4.29 ERA in 27 games.
Miles batted .317 with 15 doubles, four home runs, 31 RBIs and a .355 on-base percentage in 134 games for the St. Louis Cardinals last season.
Miles played seven positions last season, making 85 appearances at second base, 27 at shortstop, 11 at third base, four in left field, one in center and one in right. He also made one relief appearance on the mound.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.