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One More Piece Of The Puzzle

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The most significant thing that happened to the Cubs yesterday likely occurred after the ballclub systematically dismantled the Reds 9-4 for their seventh win in their last eight games.

Lefthanded-hitting outfielder Jody Gerut was acquired from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Jason Dubois.

I'm very happy about this, because I think that Gerut is a major talent waiting to break out, and was stuck in a logjam of outfielders in Cleveland. But the happiest people about this deal (other than Jody Gerut and his own family) are two friends of mine:

Dave and Brian.

See, Jody Gerut is a Chicago-area native who is a close friend of Brian's and particularly Brian's brother Kevin. Their mom told me once that Jody practically "grew up in their house".

I'm going to give Brian a call today to see if any of them have talked to Jody yet -- somehow, I doubt it, because the Indians played at home last night, beating the Royals in a rain-shortened game 6-2, in which Gerut was the DH and went 2-for-3 with a RBI. That's one of the reasons the Indians dealt him -- they had a too-crowded outfield, and with the emergence of Grady Sizemore this year, Jody became expendable. He'll turn 28 in September, which isn't old, but is no longer "young".

I've always thought that Gerut would hit well in Wrigley Field. He had a very good rookie year (.279/.336/.494 with 22 HR), then regressed last year and late in the year suffered a severe knee injury which has taken away a lot of his speed. But he'll draw a walk, doesn't strike out too much, and hits lefthanded. He also has a .845 lifetime OPS in day games (.749 in night games), yet another reason he ought to be well-suited to become a Cub.

Either Matt Murton or Ben Grieve will likely be sent to Iowa to free up a roster spot for Jody. It's also possible that at last, the 12th pitcher spot will be eliminated and Sergio Mitre will return to Iowa to start every fifth day -- maybe showcasing him for a future trade. If it's a position player removed, it would make more sense to send Grieve down, because then Gerut and Murton could be platooned -- and from the Gerut standpoint this makes a lot of sense. His career splits are .198/.292/.292 against lefties, and .293/.356/.498 against righthanders, with a lot more power (29 HR in 781 career AB vs. righthanded pitching). Perhaps it's not the best thing for Murton's development to be a platoon player, but IF -- and yes, that's a big if, considering what Dusty Baker did to Dubois -- Baker sticks to this platoon, it could be very productive.

Finally, this frees up Todd Hollandsworth to be a pinch-hitter, fourth outfielder, and occasionally spell Derrek Lee at 1B. Lee says this when people say he's tired:

That's just the way I look. I keep hearing that I look tired. I'm not tired.
Sure, Derrek, but you faded in September last year. Take a day off once in a while.

Kudos to Jim Hendry for this trade -- and my hope is that this isn't his last deal of this month.

Here's what Gerut had to say when informed of the deal:

I'm shocked. I grew up a White Sox fan but I'm going to have to get over that. It's great. It's an unbelievable franchise with a great ballpark.
Oh, he'll get over that Sox fan thing pretty fast, trust me, after Brian and Kevin and the third brother, Jake, have a word with him! I would expect him in uniform tonight, as all he had to do is take the short hop crossing the state of Ohio. Interestingly, Gerut wore uniform #9 for the Indians -- the number Henry Blanco just gave up. I'd expect Gerut to get that uniform number. If so, he would be the first non-catcher to wear #9 since Damon Buford, and the only one prior to that over the last thirty years was Joe Wallis.

I learn this from Kasey Ignarski's terrific All-Time Cubs Uniform Number Page, a fascinating resource.

As far as last night's ballgame is concerned, it went pretty much as expected. The Reds' new ballpark is a launching pad, particularly on sticky summer nights like last night, and the Cubs came out in the first inning with the "back-to-back jacks" that are promoted in a WGN Radio contest. Todd Walker and Lee did it in the first, and then Lee and Aramis Ramirez again in the third. I'd complain here about four of the five homers being solo shots, but that's not fair to a team that had eighteen hits. Every starter (including pitcher Jerome Williams) had at least one hit, and everyone except Williams, Jeromy Burnitz and Neifi Perez had at least two. Murton had four, but with Gerut's arrival will probably sit tonight against right-handed starter Luke Hudson.

Meanwhile, Williams didn't throw that well numbers-wise (4 ER in 6.2 IP), but it was well enough to win on a day when the Cubs were ahead 7-1 in the fourth inning, and he was pretty well gassed after throwing 104 pitches in the sultry southern Ohio summer.

This win was necessary -- and I use that word because these are the teams, the Reds and Pirates, and also the Giants coming up at home (SF's having a pretty bad year), that you must absolutely dominate in order to be considered a serious contender. The Braves moved within half a game of the Nationals last night in the NL East by beating the Giants themselves while Washington lost to Colorado at home, and I believe that eventually the Nats will fall through the wild-card pack. This is the Cubs' chance, the next couple of weeks when they play all bad teams (except for the series at St. Louis), to establish themselves as serious contenders. The Gerut deal is, I believe, only step one.

Step two is getting some bullpen help. It may become available at no cost -- Scott Williamson is nearly ready for a rehab assignment and could be in the majors in three weeks or so.

I'd also consider taking a flyer on Shingo Takatsu, who was DFA'd by the White Sox yesterday. Yeah, he's been pretty bad this year, but he was very effective in 2004, and if the Cubs can wait out the DFA period, they could have him for nothing. Why not? Try him out for a week or two; if he sucks, just cut him.

I trust Jim Hendry's not done making deals. There's one more thing that happened last night that gave me an idea. In the Yankees-Rangers game, Bernie Williams, who has been as good a defensive CF in his career as anyone, dropped an easy fly ball which led to three Texas runs. The Yankees wound up winning anyway 11-10, but I wonder if they'd be interested in Corey Patterson, and what they might have to offer in return.

Just a thought. That ought to get something started here. Go at it!