Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
Juan, We Hardly Knew Ye
Looks like the long running saga of Juan Cruz is over, at least in a Cub uniform. According to the announcers on the Oakland feed of today's Cub vs. A's tilt, a deal has gone down with the Braves sending Cruz and lefty Steve Smyth to Atlanta, while the Cubs get back minor league lefty Andy Pratt and minor league infielder Richard Lewis.
This trade is simpler than it appears at first. Richard Lewis is a banjo hitting infielder who, in his first taste of AA at age 23 last year, hit a scintillating .239/.305/.341 in 460 at bats. I can't find any note of what position he plays, but with that hitting line, does it matter? The Braves get Steve Smyth, and if you're not already familiar with his worth, last year, at age 25, saw him sport a 5.23 ERA at Iowa in 130.2 innings, with 143 H, 16 HR, 72 BB, and 98 SO.
So, this boils down to an old-fashioned challenge trade of pitching prospects, Cruz vs. Pratt. We already have a pretty good idea of what Cruz brings to the table, so what about our new guy? Well, he looks pretty solid. As a 24 year old in AAA last year, he put up a 3.40 ERA in 156 innings, with 146 H, 10 HR, 77 BB, and 161 SO. The trouble I see is the walk rate, at nearly four and a half per nine.
I've yet to see or hear any information on how the Cubs intend to use Pratt, but my assumption would be that he would be given an opportunity to win a bullpen spot, or even the temporary fifth starter's job.
This deal could work out alright, but my initial impression is disappointment. I had thought it would be possible to package Cruz in a mid-season deal to get some needed reinforcements, but perhaps the frustration of watching Juan constantly implode was more than Jim Hendry could bear, and he dealt him before he lost value. I'll be looking for what the motivation was as more information becomes available, but for now, consider me unimpressed.
UPDATE:Here's the link to the press release from the Cubs. No new information here, except for a rundown of some of the spring stats for the players.