It seems weird somehow to see that Greg Maddux has been traded. Sure, I'm aware that he's a middling 40-something pitcher this season who played for a team going nowhere fast but, still, he's Greg Maddux! And of the two players the Dodgers acquired Monday he was the one who came without the price tag of a highly regarded prospect. And he came along with $2 million of cash.
The Dodgers sent superflous infielder Cesar Izturis to Chicago for the esteemed Maddux and the aforementioned cash. What makes a Gold Glove winning shortstop superflous you ask? Well for the Dodgers it was a trade that netted them Julio Lugo from Tampa Bay. Or was it the signing of Rafael Furcal over the winter? Or the already Dodger blue Jeff Kent? Or Wilson Betemit, the utilityman picked up from the Braves over the weekend? At any rate the Dodgers were set at the infield positions and presume they've strengthened their rotation with Maddux and their somewhat anemic lineup with the dynamic Lugo, no matter what positions he ends up playing for them.
The Devil Rays, in their neverending quest to hold rights to every member of Baseball America's Top 100 Prospect List, receive Joel Guzman and Sergio Pedroza. Guzman is 6'6" and was a shortstop until this season's run on infielders and now has experience playing left, first and third as well. He didn't do much in 11 games with the Dodgers but the 21-year-old was hitting .297 with 11 homers and 55 RBI in AAA. Baseball America calls him "one of the game's toolsiest prospects" and ranked 26th on their previously mentioned list. Pedroza is a Cal-Fullerton graduate playing in High-A ball right now. The Rays figure to promote superprospect and former #1 overall pick B.J. Upton to replace Lugo, although they could go for the recently acquired Ben Zobrist too and are now even more laden with potential gold for a future that can't come soon enough.
In Wrigleyville, one hopes that Izturis finally ends Dusty Baker's bizarre Neifi Perez fetish but, Dusty being Dusty, Perez's name is likely not yet gone from Cub lineup cards. It's not like there's much else better than even Neifi anyway. Rookie Ronny Cedeno figures to move to second base to accomodate (a move made possible by Todd Walker's trade to San Diego) Izturis's excellent glove and somewhat iffy bat. He's still recovering from Tommy John surgery so the move probably has at least an eye and a half on next year for the dead Cubs.
The Dodgers are still alive in the up-for-grabs NL West despite their .476 winning percentage and Lugo will give the offense a major shot in the arm. He sports a .308/.373/.498 line with 12 home runs and 18 steals in 73 games. He'll fill in for the injured Kent to start and then likely move to third although with Nomar Garciaparra joining Kent on the DL there's probably a chance he moves to third and Betemit plays first. Either way both new infielders improve a lacking offense as the Dodgers try to push past the Padres, D-Backs, Giants and Rockies.
Maddux isn't what he once was, obviously, but he's better than Aaron Sele or Brett Tomko and considerably more experienced than the rookie Chad Billingsley. At 9-11, 4.67 ERA for the year Maddux hasn't capitalized on his whizbanging 5-0 start but the change in venue from the glum Chicago atmosphere to his native Southern California could bring a renewed sharpness to Maddux's still-impressive movement and control.