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Cubs Sign Todd Walker

Now here's one that caught all of us by surprise.

Walker, who played 2B for the Red Sox last year and hit .283 with 13 HR, 85 RBI, 92 runs scored, and 38 doubles, was rumored to be coming here before the Cubs re-signed Mark Grudzielanek to play second base.

Today, the Cubs signed Walker, a left-handed hitter -- something this squad badly needs -- to a one-year deal for a reported $1.75 million.

Supposedly, this will be to be a backup. He's never really done that in his major league career except for the 2000 season, which he split between the Rockies and Twins. He's a .290 lifetime hitter, will draw a walk now and again, and has decent power (more doubles-power than homer-power, though).

I smell another deal in Hendry-land. Could it be that the Cubs could ship Mark Grudzielanek (who is supposedly unhappy with his pay cut), Michael Barrett and some sort of pitching prospect to the Pirates and wind up with Jason Kendall? Kendall's contract is back-loaded, so the difference in 2004 between his deal and the combined contracts of Grudzielanek and Barrett is only $4 million. Creative financing could get this deal done.

I've always liked Walker -- he is yet another former #1 draft pick (of the Twins in 1994, and Dan Lichtenstein reminded me today that Kent Mercker can be added to this list; he was chosen #1 by the Braves in 1986) who has not totally fulfilled his promise. He will be 31 in May; perhaps he still will.

The list I posted Sunday of the #1 picks who will be on the 2004 Cubs (now up to ten with the additions of Mercker and Walker) just shows you what a crapshoot the #1 pick can be.

There are players who have had long, solid careers like Alou; there are budding stars like Lee; there are guys who have been decent but not stars like Goodwin and Remlinger; there are "maybes" like Barrett -- and then there are superstars and potential superstars such as Prior, Wood and (we still hope) Patterson.

Of the ten, take note that apart from Alou, the best of the group were all original Cub draftees, which says a great deal about the direction of the organization in the last decade, and a direction in which the franchise seems to be continuing.

We may be standing on the precipice of Cub greatness we have never seen. Here's what Walker himself said:

"I passed up a few starting jobs already to play for this team. I want to be a part of what I was part of last year and that's a team that hasn't won a World Series in a while. The fans want that so badly and as a player, there's nothing more fun than that."

And when was the last time you heard anyone say that about playing for the CUBS?