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Next Year is Here
by Derek Smart
The changing of the guard. Taking out the trash. The purge. Whatever you want to call it, the process that began with this weekend's dealing of the disappointing Matt Lawton to the Yankees continued last night as Todd Hollandsworth was sent to Atlanta in exchange for two A-ball pitchers, Angelo Burrows and Todd Blackford.
As is the case with many of these type of trades, the interest that's generated for me has less to do with the prospects acquired than it does with the impact on the team's plans for the immediate future.
For the Cubs, the combination of space created on their 40-man roster by these two deals and the extra space on the regular roster created by Kerry Wood's move to the DL in anticipation of his shoulder surgery on Wednesday make it possible to do two very positive things: bring Matt Murton back up, and finally add Jermaine Van Buren to the 40-man and give him the look he's deserved for a while.
I'd anticipate seeing a lot of Murton down the stretch as the organization tries to figure out if they can count on him to capably man the post next season (I think the answer will be 'yes'), as well as seeing Van Buren in some high pressure situations out of the pen, testing him for what, if his 1.98 ERA and 65/22 K/BB ratio in 54.2 AAA innings are any indication, could be a very prominent role with the Cub relief corps next year.
Think of this as the beginning of preparations for next season, as that's what it really is: an opportunity to see exactly where the holes are and what issues need to take priority this winter. That said, I don't think we're done with deals yet, and what goes down over the next couple of days will tell us a lot about what Jim Hendry is thinking.