I’ve seen a lot of rumors about the Cubs looking into acquiring Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts, as well as a lot of comments on various Cubs blogs supporting the idea. After thinking about it for some time, I still can’t figure it out: unless the Cubs could acquire Roberts without giving up Pie or Hill, why on Earth would they make this trade?

Roberts is good, no doubt. But here’s the thing: he’s not that much better than Mark DeRosa, and he will cost more money than DeRosa plus prospects. For a team seemingly intent on spending as much money as possible, the bump in salary is negligible; the prospects are not. If the Cubs give up either Hill, who is probably their second-best starter, super-cheap, and still not at his peak, or Pie, who should be their starting center fielder for years to come (or at least for this year), is super-cheap, and is definitely not at his peak yet, to improve the team by a small amount at second base, I will be quite pissed. Now, if the Cubs could somehow get Erik Bedard back in that deal, I’d be willing to part with Hill, but that’s unlikely.

Don’t believe me that Roberts is not that much better than DeRosa? Check this out:

2006 (both in AL):

Roberts: .286/.347/.410, 96 OPS+, 10 HR, 55 BB, 66 K, 50/57 SB/SBA

DeRosa: .296/.357/.456, 108 OPS+, 12 HR, 44 BB, 102 K, 4/8 SB/SBA

Career:

Roberts: .281/.351/.409, 101 OPS+, 186/233 SB/SBA
DeRosa: .278/.341/.408, 92 OPS+, 12/25 SB/SBA

Roberts is undoubtedly better, especially when it comes to stealing bases, but he’s simply not that much better. The difference in production between the two simply doesn’t warrant giving up either Pie or Hill, and certainly not both of them. Don’t do it, Jim! (Unless, of course, you can get Bedard, too, or you don’t have to give up Pie or Hill.)

Now, I am quite excited about Fukudome, and some may see a measure of inconsistency in my attitudes towards him and towards the proposed Roberts trade: after all, isn’t it true that Fukudome will likely not be that much better than a Murton/Jones or Murton/Fuld or Murton/whatever platoon in RF, at a significantly greater cost? The answer is yes, but the differences between the two situations are:

1) Fukudome may be significantly better than a Murton/whatever platoon, whereas we’ve seen enough of Roberts and DeRosa in the big leagues to know that the likelihood of Roberts outperforming DeRosa by a lot over the next couple years is small.

2) Fukudome costs money, but Roberts costs players who may be/are so good that replacing them will weaken the team more than adding Roberts strengthens it. Unless Fukudome gets hurt or just sucks, the Cubs will improve with his addition; they may have paid dearly for that improvement, but it’s still an improvement. Replacing Hill with Gallagher or Marshall or whoever might hurt the Cubs more than replacing DeRosa with Roberts would help them, and you would sacrifice the most valuable thing in major league baseball: above-average production from cheap, young players.

A commenter at Baseball Think Factory said that he wouldn’t trade Hill for Roberts straight-up. I agree.

EDIT: I feel I should add two things:

1) There’s a rumor that the Cubs offered the Orioles Patterson, Murton, Gallagher, and Guzman for Roberts.  That’s a lot of prospects; even though neither Hill nor Pie is in that deal, I think it’s bad for the Cubs.

2) If Roberts can play SS, then I’d be more willing to consider a trade like the one mentioned above.  I still wouldn’t part with Pie or Hill, though.

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