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Trade analysis: Cubs land Grabow, Gorzelanny

Jul 30, 2009, 1:45 PM EST

Cubs acquire LHP John Grabow and LHP Tom Gorzelanny from the Pirates for RHP Kevin Hart, RHP Jose Ascanio and INF-OF Josh Harrison.
In Grabow, the Cubs get the lefty reliever they craved, but it will up to Lou Piniella to use him correctly. Grabow is no specialist, and he didn’t become a quality pitcher until the Pirates figured that out. Lefties have actually hit .270 off him in his career, compared to .254 for righties. His ERA is up this year, but that’s entirely due to a rough stretch in early May. He’s been rock solid for 2 1/2 months now, and he should be a fine sixth- and seventh-inning guy for the Cubs.
The Pirates soured on Gorzelanny a year ago and refused to give him another opportunity this year, even though he had a 2.48 ERA and an 85/30 K/BB ratio in 87 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis. He was actually up for a time in May, but it was to pitch in relief, even though he had never done that before. They didn’t even give him a few appearances in Triple-A to see how it would work out. It was a bizarre experiment, and he went right back down after allowing five runs in 8 2/3 innings. Since then, he had a 1.17 ERA in eight starts for Indianapolis. The Cubs figure to bring him to the majors as Hart’s replacement in the rotation, though that will only last until Ted Lilly returns. Perhaps he’ll be tried again as a reliever then.
Money isn’t a major issue in the deal. Grabow is making $2.3 million and will be a free agent at season’s end. He’ll likely be a Type B free agent, and the Cubs figure to offer him arbitration, allowing them to gain a supplemental first-round pick if he leaves. Because of all of the time Gorzelanny has spent in the minors, he still won’t be eligible for arbitration at season’s end, meaning the Cubs will control his rights for four more years.
Hart’s Cubs career was interesting, if nothing else. Upon debuting in Sept. 2007, he pitched so well that he claimed a spot on the postseason roster. That made him close to a lock for the 2008 roster and he earned his spot with a strong spring, only to struggle in April and spend most of the rest of the year in the minors. He seemed like a forgotten man in the system only a couple of months ago, yet injuries gave him another chance and he had gone 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA in four starts since entering the rotation. He learned of the trade just a few minutes after beating the Astros today. I’m not sure the changeup is there to make him a quality starter for the long term, but he should be pretty useful, even if it’s just in middle relief. The Pirates will likely give him Virgil Vasquez’s spot in the rotation.
Ascanio was a reliever for almost his entire career until the Cubs tried him as a starter in Triple-A this year. He proved to be one of the PCL’s best starters early on, though his ERA faded to 3.16 before he was called up. He had a 3.52 ERA in 14 relief appearances for the Cubs. He has the pure stuff to close in the majors, but his command has always held him back. The Pirates should be happy if he turns into a useful seventh-inning guy.
Harrison was a sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati last year. He was hitting .327/.372/.464 with five homers and 26 steals in 373 at-bats for low Single-A Peoria and high-A Dayton. As a second baseman, he’d be interesting. The Cubs, though, had been using him more in left field and at third base lately. He’s not going to be a starting outfielder, and he’ll probably need to show he can handle infield chores if he’s going to make it as a utilityman.
I liked the Jack Wilson and the Freddy Sanchez deals, but the Pirates don’t seem to make out as well here. Besides giving up the one established major leaguer, their also parting with the player with the most upside in Gorzelanny. Hart fits into the same class as Ross Ohlendorf and Charlie Morton, leaving me wondering just how many No. 4 starters they think they’re going to need next year.

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