Seattle hardly knew ye, Aaron Heilman. The Cubs swapped Garrett Olson (also his second time traded this offseason) and Ronny Cedeno for Heilman on Wednesday. Strictly in baseball terms, this deal isn’t much more than a blip on the radar, unless, of course, Heilman goes on to become the 25-win starter he thinks he can be. The Cubs, for the record, are undecided as to whether he’ll start or relieve.
As a Mets fan, I should note that I would not be surprised in the least if Heilman did in fact reach such heights — not because I think he’s good enough, but because I wouldn’t be an average pessimistic Mets fan if I didn’t at least have the seeds of Heilman developing into an ace starter with another team planted in my mind. But, with all apologies to homepage editor DC — a Notre Dame alum and devout eternal Mets optimist — I, for one, didn’t mind seeing Heilman shipped out the first time around and don’t expect much from him in Chicago.
Countless are the times I saw Mr. Sourpuss sulk off the mound after surrendering an untimely home run in relief. The least timely of those came in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS when he coughed up the gopherball to none other than (Choose Your) Molina — not exactly Albert Pujols.
By some scouts’ accounts, Heilman is a two-pitch, high-injury-risk hurler. Once he was converted to a reliever, the Mets were steadfast in their belief that he wouldn’t be able to pitch more than 100 or so innings without sustaining injury. One would think the jump from middle reliever to starter would be a tough one for any pitcher four years into his relief career. Most organizations prefer to bump their pitchers up in innings pitched by increments of 20 or 30 per season so as to minimize the chance of injury. That would mean Heilman would be on track to pitch about 100 frames in 2009 after tossing 76 in 2008.
But most importantly, Heilman provides MLB.com editorial producers with unparalleled dejection shots, an important aspect of postgame production. It’s easy to pick out pictures for the winning club’s site: A home run or group celebration shot will suffice. But the losing squad’s site is always tricky, and Heilman never failed in supplying those priceless hangdog shots. Enjoy him, Cubs.
One-time can’t-miss prospect Felix Pie’s frustrating tenure with the Cubs came to a close Sunday, as the outfielder was dealt to the Orioles for left-hander Garrett Olson. Although this hardly qualifies as a blockbuster, I think there are a couple interesting points to consider.
In regards to which team “wins” this trade, it’s certainly a wash in terms of performance thus far for each player — they’ve been equally terrible — but the Orioles probably have the edge based solely on potential upside. O’s president of baseball operations (formerly of the Cubs) Andy MacPhail is aware that his team is a long way from contention with the newly anointed powerhouse Rays, steady Blue Jays, and dominant Yankees and Red Sox, and thus is rebuilding the dormant Baltimore franchise accordingly. Why not take a risk on a young (this will be Pie’s age 24 season) prospect with high upside? Pie will likely join Adam Jones and Nick Markakis in the outfield, with Luke Scott slotting in at DH and Aubrey Huff playing first base.
Curiously, the Cubs felt Pie didn’t fit into their plans after the signing of free-agent outfielder Joey Gathright. Pie likely could have provided the same production as Gathright (who will be a fourth outfielder) with the chance of still developing into a better player.
As for Olson, MacPhail’s willingness to part with him despite the O’s thinness at the position might tell us all we need to know. In his story, O’s beat reporter Spencer Fordin says Olson could be flipped again this offseason:
Olson, a former second-round Draft pick, may not be long for Chicago.
Rumors have consistently pointed the Cubs toward a trade with San Diego
for ace Jake Peavy, and the Padres reportedly covet young pitching.
That could mean that Olson, a native of Fresno, Calif., could end up
traded twice and living a whole lot closer to home.
If so, this deal would make a heck of a lot more sense for the Cubbies. If not, their strange offseason continues.
Perhaps I’m being tough on Olson, but I had the misfortune of producing this miserable doubleheader in 2008. In Game 2 of that twin bill, Olson lasted two-thirds of a frame before being yanked. Doubleheaders are hard enough to produce for their sheer length; 8 1/3 innings of relief tends to extend games.