Cubs deal Hill to O's, Wuertz to A's
Lefty shipped for player to be named; righty nets two prospects
CHICAGO -- The Cubs decided Rich Hill and Michael Wuertz both needed a change of scenery.
On Monday, the Cubs continued their offseason reorganization plan and traded Hill to the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named, while dealing Wuertz to the Oakland Athletics for two Minor League players.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said he knew he wanted to move Hill but took into consideration that he wanted to find a place where the lefty would succeed. Hill will be reunited with Rick Kranitz and Alan Dunn, who are both on the Orioles' coaching staff, and who both worked with Hill in the Cubs' Minor League system.
"You hope, because he is such a good kid, that he gets back on track," Hendry said.
In 2007, Hill was 11-8 with a 3.92 ERA and led the team in strikeouts, fooling hitters with his sweeping curve. He was projected as the Cubs' fourth starter last year but struggled with his control, walking 18 in 19 2/3 innings, and compiled a 4.12 ERA in five starts before he was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on May 3.
He pitched in the Venezuelan Winter League and had a good first outing Oct. 17, when he struck out six over 5 1/3 innings. But it was his only win, and he gave up 23 walks and 23 hits over 21 innings and posted a 6.86 ERA in nine outings.
Hendry said it was difficult to figure out what went wrong, and was concerned that Hill would have a tough time finding a job late in Spring Training if he didn't make the Cubs' rotation. The lefty, who turns 29 on March 11, was out of options.
The Cubs could receive a high-level player as compensation if Hill makes the Orioles' Major League roster.
With the trade of Jason Marquis to Colorado and Hill gone to the Orioles, the Cubs are looking at Sean Marshall, Chad Gaudin, Aaron Heilman and Jeff Samardzija for the vacant fifth starter spot. Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 13. Heilman was acquired last week in a deal with the Seattle Mariners for Ronny Cedeno and Minor League pitcher Garrett Olson.
The Cubs have been adding relievers this offseason and decided to part with Wuertz, 30, who went 13-7 with one save and a 3.57 ERA in 265 relief appearances in all or part of five seasons with the Cubs.
"We felt Michael wasn't as effective last year and felt with the new arms that we've added, there were guys who were ahead of him," Hendry said. "It will help Mike, it will help the A's and it will help us, too."
The Cubs acquired Minor League outfielder Richie Robnett and infielder Justin Sellers for Wuertz.
Robnett, 25, was selected by the Athletics in the first round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. A left-handed hitter, he was limited to 82 games last season after early season surgery to remove a tumor from his stomach. He batted .236 at Triple-A, and has a .256 average in five Minor League seasons. He was added to the Cubs' 40-man roster and will report to Spring Training camp.
Sellers, who turned 23 on Sunday, has "above Major League average potential" defensively, Hendry said. The infielder was selected by Oakland in the sixth round of the 2005 Draft and spent an entire season at Double-A Midland for the first time in 2008, batting .255 with 15 doubles, eight triples, six home runs, 46 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 123 games. He will report to the Cubs' Minor League camp this spring.
It's been a busy offseason for the two-time defending National League Central champions. Outfielder Felix Pie and Cedeno, who also were out of options, were both dealt. The Cubs also have acquired Kevin Gregg from the Florida Marlins; dealt Mark DeRosa to Cleveland for three Minor League pitchers; signed free agents Milton Bradley, Aaron Miles, Paul Bako and Joey Gathright; acquired David Patton in the Rule 5 Draft; and traded Marquis for Luis Vizcaino. Gone via free agency are Kerry Wood, Bob Howry, Daryle Ward and Henry Blanco.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.