Cubs finalize Marquis-Vizcaino swap
Chicago gains salary flexibility; Fifth starter may be found in-house
CHICAGO -- The Cubs dealt Jason Marquis to the Rockies on Tuesday for reliever Luis Vizcaino and created an opening in the rotation for another starting pitcher.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Tuesday he'll continue to look for a starter before the team opens Spring Training with the first workout in Mesa, Ariz., on Feb. 14, but also felt good about some of the in-house candidates.
The list of possible replacements includes lefty Sean Marshall and right-handers Angel Guzman, Kevin Hart and Chad Gaudin. Jeff Samardzija also is a long shot.
"You deal with what you have on the wall now until somebody else is there," Hendry said. "We'll still look at some possibilities."
Marshall, who made seven starts and 27 relief appearances last season, would seem too valuable as a swing man to be slid into the rotation.
"Anybody would love Marshall in that role and he did great at it," Hendry said. "At the same time, in fairness to the young man, if he keeps improving -- he's made big steps each of the last years -- if he makes another step up and comes into camp and competes and wins a job, then he certainly has a right to stake a claim to that.
"He proved to us last year, whatever role we put him in, and as tough as we made it on him, he did a quality job," Hendry said. "Sooner or later, you like to reward that, too."
Marquis, who was 23-18 with a 4.57 ERA in two seasons with the Cubs, became the second player to be traded by the team in a week. On New Year's Eve, the Cubs dealt Mark DeRosa to the Indians for three Minor League pitchers and signed free agent Aaron Miles.
The Cubs also have lost closer Kerry Wood, who signed with the Indians, while adding right-hander Kevin Gregg, and are expected to finalize a three-year deal with Milton Bradley by the end of the week.
The bullpen will definitely have a different look in 2009 with the addition of Vizcaino, Gregg, and possibly Rule 5 Draft pick David Patton and Jeff Stevens, acquired from the Indians in the DeRosa deal.
Vizcaino, 34, was 1-2 with a 5.28 ERA in 43 games last season with the Rockies, with 49 strikeouts over 46 innings. He missed some time early in the season because of a strained right shoulder. The right-hander has a career 4.34 ERA over 10 seasons, including one year with the White Sox (6-5, 3.73 ERA in 2005). In his career, opponents have batted .183 against him with runners in scoring position.
He also has pitched for Oakland, Milwaukee, Arizona, and the New York Yankees. The Cubs will be Vizcaino's sixth different team in the last six years.
Hendry said his scouts reported that Vizcaino's velocity was still good and predicted he'll pitch primarily in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
During the team's organizational meetings in October, the Cubs decided to try to move Marquis. Hendry said by the time the season starts, all of the offseason maneuverings should make sense. The Cubs have reacted quickly this offseason, adding players such as Miles and Joey Gathright, who were not specifically on Hendry's wish list but the type of player he was looking for. Both were non-tendered by their 2008 teams.
The addition of Miles, for example, will likely mean Mike Fontenot will get more playing time at second base. Miles, a switch-hitter, can give Ryan Theriot a breather at shortstop.
Marquis is in the final year of a three-year contract he signed with the Cubs in December 2006. The right-hander is to be paid $9.875 million this year, and the Cubs are expected to pay $875,000 of that. Vizcaino is set to make $4 million this year. This was not a move driven by economics, although the Cubs do have to clear some room if they are to sign Bradley.
"We don't call anything a 'salary dump,'" Hendry said. "We're no different than anybody else except maybe my buddy [Yankees general manager] Brian Cashman. We have a payroll and a fair payroll. You still have to, in this job, especially the situation we have now, until there's a new owner, you follow the guidelines of the payroll and that's what we're doing.
"We were very fortunate in that we spent a lot of money the last couple years and it turned into two outstanding regular seasons," Hendry said. "At the same time, some of those contracts escalate. I have no complaints. No matter who my boss has been. ... I've always been given a payroll that I've felt you could compete and contend with and for the most part, I've been allowed to spend it how I want to."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.