The December 3rd trade which saw fan favorite Jake Fox traded along with Aaron Miles to Oakland for RHPs Jerry Gray and Ronny Morla with LF Matthew Spencer was met with mixed reactions. The Cub fans that viewed the trade in a negative light viewed the trade as weakening the team heading in 2010 where the Cub fans that viewed it in a positive light viewed the trade as getting rid of Miles bad contract and Jake Fox who is viewed more as a DH and getting three players back with one having a role on the 2010 team. I agree with the latter when it comes to this trade.
There are a few factors when it comes to this trade and why I believe that this trade will make the 2010 team better. The Hendry years have had its fill of good trades i.e. A-Ram and bad trades i.e. Juan Pierre. This trade, potentially, can go down as one of the better trades. A look into the trade itself. The Cubs came off the 08 season being swept by the Dodgers and was looking to upgrade the bench. Aaron Miles has had a very solid career as a 2B with Colorado and St. Louis, but Hendry signed him for above market value. Hendry was banking on Miles history and was willing to spend more to get him thinking that Miles could give the Cubs a back-up to Fontenot and something solid coming off the bench. Jake Fox was brought up and gave the Cubs a solid season hitting .259 with 11 HRs and 44 RBIs. Fox didn’t really have a position on the Cubs and his defense left him basically a DH on the team. So, with that in mind, Hendry decided that he could package him with Miles to Oakland shedding Miles’s contract. In return, Hendry received a reliever that could contribute to the 2010 team and two prospects.
The trade helps the team in more ways than one. The bigger reason is that the Cubs got rid of two players that were not going to be in the plans in 2010. The Cubs can look for two players to fill out the bench or carry an extra pitcher for the bullpen. The trade helped put an end to the disaster of the 08 offseason which saw Kevin Gregg, Miles, and Bradley brought in. The trade did bring what was probably deemed impossible was that the Cubs acquired five prospects for two players that were negatives on the team and drew the ire from the fans.
Another aspect of this trade is that Jake Fox’s trade ceiling was probably never going to be as high as it was after the season. With Fox’s age (27) he was probably never going to show any significant improvement that would justify keeping him. Steve Stone has a pearl of wisdom, “It’s better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late.” This little adage was perfect when referring to Jake Fox. The Cubs have had a history of hanging on to their “can’t miss” prospects i.e. Pie, Rich Hill, Corey Patterson. It’s ironic considering that Pie and Hill were rumored to be headed to Baltimore for Brian Roberts a couple years back, but wound up in Baltimore for less than what they could have gotten. Instead, Hendry decided to trade Fox before Fox had a chance of bottoming out.
The trade did help with getting some depth in the pen. Smart baseball minds will argue that you could never have too many quality relievers. With the addition of Gray, Hendry now has some depth in the pen that will allow him to deal someone like Caridad, Berg, Stevens, Gaub or whoever to use in a trade. The wildcard in this trade is Matthew Spencer who could play a role much like Jake Fox did in the 2009 season, but seems to play better defense than Fox. In addition, Spencer is only 23 and was one of the players that Philadelphia traded to Oakland for Joe Blanton. In 2009, Spencer did hit 19 HRs while hitting .289. Of the 539 plate appearances, he struck out 90 times.
Time will tell on this trade, but both teams got what they want. The Fox trade was one that had to be made and could loom large in the 2010 season.