Originally posted: January 9, 2008
Looking like a high price for Roberts
By Phil Rogers
On hold over much of the last month, the Brian Roberts talks are on again between the Cubs and Baltimore Orioles. This deal is almost certainly going to happen -- the only question is when and how much is it going to cost the Cubs.
The feeling among major league executives is soon, and a lot. Don't be surprised if the trade is finalized later this week -- perhaps even Wednesday -- and the deal includes pitchers Sean Marshall, Sean Gallagher and Ronny Cedeno.
Roberts, one of maybe 10 legitimate leadoff hitters in the big leagues, is a valuable commodity. That's why the Orioles have been insisting the Cubs sweeten their offer from the one made at the winter meetings in Nashville -- believed to be built around Gallagher and outfielder Matt Murton. The addition of Marshall into the package would make it easier for Andy MacPhail to pull off the deal that has been occupying the majority of his time in rebuilding the Orioles -- trading lefty Erik Bedard (most likely to Seattle) for a package of young talent.
With Ryan Dempster moving to the starting rotation, the Cubs can arguably afford to give up on Marshall, who compiled an impressive 3.92 ERA in 103 innings last season. But having already non-tendered Mark Prior and expressed a willingness to include Gallagher in this deal, the addition of Marshall to the package would further erode the depth of starting pitching in the system.
Jason Marquis and Dempster project as the most likely 4-5 starters for Lou Piniella. If Marshall and Gallagher were both traded to Baltimore, the cast behind them would be headed by Kevin Hart, the fragile Angel Guzman and unproven prospects Donald Veal, Jeff Samardzija, Adam Harben and Jose Ascanio. There are still some serviceable free-agent pitchers on the market, including Josh Fogg, Livan Hernandez, Bartolo Colon, Kyle Lohse and Jason Jennings.
If the Cubs get Roberts (.377 on-base percentage and 50 stolen bases last season), Piniella will shuffle the batting order, likely dropping Alfonso Soriano from first to third. It could look like this: Roberts, Ryan Theriot, Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Derrek Lee, Geovany Soto and Felix Pie. Because of Fukudome's penchant for getting on base, he could hit as high as second, although that would leave the right-handed-hitting Soriano, Lee and Ramirez hitting next to each other.
The presence of both Roberts and Fukudome would make it uncertain how to use Mark DeRosa, who was third on the team with 72 RBIs last season (two more than Soriano). He most likely would be groomed as a super sub at every position, including shortstop and center field. It would also be possible to look at Roberts at shortstop in spring training -- he hasn't played there much since his rookie season in 2001 -- with the possibility of DeRosa remaining the second baseman and Theriot becoming the top sub.