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Robbing the Cubs

On August 31st, the Baltimore Orioles traded pitcher Steve Trachsel to the Chicago Cubs, who were in search of a veteran starter for the stretch run.

Through 25 starts and most of a season, 36-year old Steve Trachsel had been a hair above league average for a starting pitcher.  In spite of walking more batters than he struck out and allowing more than 1.5 baserunners per inning, his 6-8 record and 4.48 ERA threw up enough smoke that a team desperate for a starter might be tempted to make a waiver wire deal.

That's exactly what happened.  A loss to the Astros on the last day of August left the Cubs with a crystal clear view of the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals in the rear view mirror, and in spite of already having a solid rotation were tempted by a guy who was a mirror image of their own Jason Marquis in run prevention.  The only difference was that Marquis was eight years younger, had better stuff, and was still on the plus side of the walk-to-strikout ratio.

In return for the snail-paced, soft-tossing right hander, the Orioles plucked minor league pitcher Rocky Cherry and minor league third baseman Scott Moore.  Cherry was 27, and in nearly every sense was the definition of the AAAA pitcher.  Drafted out of Oklahoma in 2002, he'd actually dropped four rounds in the draft after being selected in the 10th round in '01 by Philadelphia, and progressed slowly through Chicago's farm system between moderate numbers and injuries.

Moore was the score.  At 22 he'd seen a cup of coffee with the Cubs in '06, but at 23 had spent his 2007 in Chicago's AAA affiliate.  Initially with the Tigers organization he was just another young third baseman who couldn't hit, but since coming to the Cubs had adapted to increased competition and, impressively, discovered power.  From 2005 to 2007 (age 21 to 23), Moore raked:

  AB    H  2B  HR   BB   SO   Avg   Obp   Slg
1250  344  78  61  158  360  .275  .357  .484

Neither Cherry or Moore saw a lot of time with the Orioles, but the Cubs found a way to give away four starts in September to Steve Trachsel.  The results were far from positive as he lasted just 17.1 innings and lost three, allowing nearly two runners an inning and posting an 8.31 September ERA.

On Saturday the Chicago Cubs declined their option on Steve Trachsel.  Give credit where credit is due:  the Cubs realized having Trachsel on their roster was a mistake and cut their losses.  At the same time it's impossible to not raise an eyebrow in curiosity at what was an astonishingly bad decision.  They made a trade they didn't have to make, they traded a legitimate prospect for a player who is clearly in the twilight of his career at a position that didn't have a need, and even if Trachsel had remained a league average starter the remainder of the season they still received minimal value in the swap. By declining Trachsel's option they essetially gave away chips for free.

In eleven days Scott Moore turns 24, and is a legitimate offensive prospect at third base.  He was acquired for a setting sun.  It's just too bad the Cubs weren't looking at Carlos Silva instead.