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by Derek Smart
There are some thoughts, ideas, and rumor-esque rumblings rolling about regarding possible short-term patches related to Derrek Lee's absence, and now seems like as good a time as any to swish a couple around our collective mouths to see just how bad they taste.
Carlos Pena - Right now, he's with the Yankees' AAA affiliate in Columbus, but if he's not up with the big club by May 2 he becomes a free agent, and according to the New York Post, would likely sign with the Cubs.
I mention this first because the idea's been around the longest, being the most obvious due to Pena's impending availability, and if the Cubs are looking for cheap, he's certainly it. Bringing him along wouldn't be a horrible move, but neither would it have much impact. For one thing, he's left-handed, and if the club really wanted to play a low-average, low-on-base, moderate-power lefty at first, they've already got John Mabry lolling about.
Certainly, Pena's defense would be better, and that should be a consideration, but I don't think he's enough of an upgrade over what's on the roster - or different enough, for that matter - to really add much of value. Acquiring him wouldn't be a horrible thing, it would just be an awful lot like treading water.
Tony Clark - This is an interesting proposition. Clark has a no-trade clause, but he said yesterday that he'd be willing to waive it if a deal would help the D-Backs remain competitive. He's passable defensively, and he's a switch-hitter (his splits being basically even when it comes to average and OBP, although most of his power comes from the left side), which could be a boon both now and once Lee makes his way back to the lineup.
There is an issue, though, which is expense. Not his salary - although the Cubs would be on the hook for a total of around $2M through next year - so much as what it would cost to acquire him. There's nothing like being over a proverbial barrel to make you vulnerable to price gouging, and I'd have to believe that since Arizona has no particular need to deal Clark that they'd be looking to get something beyond reasonable in return. If not, though, he'd be an interesting choice.
Jeff Conine - ugghhhhh..... His name got floated in the Sun-Times today, although it's unclear how much of that is coming from Mike Kiley, and how much is from the Cubs' brass. What does appear to be from the organization, however, is this idea that preceded the horrid uttering of The Barbarian's name:
Hendry wants to acquire a right-handed hitter who could play first base against some lefties and serve as a backup outfielder if he's versatile enough.
What intrigues me there is the possibility, slight though it may be, that the organization has recognized something we all knew coming into this year: Jacque Jones is helpless against lefties, and all the port-sided batting practice in the world won't change that fact.
Of course, the other possibility is that they've all decided that since he's gone 1-18 against lefties in the early going that Todd Walker needs to take a seat when they're on the hill, an idea which I might have supported in the past, but which I'll have to vehemently rail against in the present, especially since from what I've seen Walker's been more a victim of horrible luck of late than anything else.
In any case, the idea of adding a right-hander with some pop who can play both first and the outfield is an exceedingly sound one - I've advocated for quite some time the idea of having power on the bench from both sides of the plate - but I'll say right now that Conine ain't that guy. The Cubs are clearly not enamored with Michael Restovich either, despite his theoretically fitting the mold, so a deal would have to go down for the club to feel like they'd accomplished that goal.
You can't replace Lee, that much has been clear from the start, but the Cubs appear to be ready to try to make some marginal gains over what they've already got in house, which seems sensible. Whether these options are the best ones, however, is a topic open for debate, so fire away, good people.