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Heilman Keeps Jet Setting, Heads to Cubs

Well, the Chicago Cubs finally landed Aaron Heilman, swapping the recently acquired Garrett Olson (from the Orioles for Felix Pie) and shortstop Ronny Cedeno, both of whom were players without options and whom had only decent -- at best -- shots at making Chicago's major league roster.

For the Mariners, the deal seems like a no-brainer. The M's need arms to fight for a back-end spot in the rotation, and Olson fills that need. And in adding Cedeno, they get a guy who could turn out to be a steal, if he can beat out Yuniesky Betancourt for the team's shortstop spot. If he can't? Well, then Seattle still created competition where there was none, and Betancourt can only improve for that.

From a Chicago standpoint, things seem a bit murkier. Sure, both Cedeno and Felix Pie -- the outfield prospect the Cubs moved to land Olson -- were out of options, but according to Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald, Heilman will get a crack at the Chicago starting rotation. Of course, that begs the following question: Are the Cubs really sure that Heilman is going to be a better option than Olson at the back-end of their rotation?

I don't think they're sure of that at all, which is why, the more you read the tea leaves, the more it seems possible that Heilman still isn't at his final destination. Now that the Cubs' future ownership situation is settled, practically ever writer within a short flight of the Chicago metro area (read: the U.S.) expects trade talks with the San Diego Padres about their ace, Jake Peavy, to heat back up. For what it's worth, you can watch ESPN's Buster Olney pontificate on that exact subject in a video right here.Olson was long considered a key part of any deal for Peavy, with San Diego angling to get him from Baltimore in an original package as part of a three-team deal.

But what if the Padres wanted Heilman, instead? It's not such a stretch. Throughout the process of earlier Peavy talks, San Diego insisted that it wanted major league talent and top prospects as part of any package for Peavy. Chicago may still have some of the prospects, but they've been reluctant to include any of their significant everyday players. By adding Heilman they may have just given themselves the flexibility to do just that, and Heilman might be one of the guys headed the other way.

Think about it: Heilman has campaigned endlessly to get a chance to start somewhere. He's all but openly said he'll go anywhere if he gets a chance to start games. From the look of Chicago's rotation heading into Spring Training, he'd get that, but that assumed the Cubs don't add anyone else.

So what happens if you suddenly add Jake Peavy to the mix? Here's how the Cubs rotation would shake out then, in no particular order:

  1. Carlos Zambrano
  2. Jake Peavy
  3. Rich Harden
  4. Ryan Dempster
  5. Ted Lilly

Where does that leave Heilman? For all practical purposes, it puts him right back out in the bullpen, where he doesn't want to be. Instead, the Cubs could ship Heilman back out to the West Coast, where there'd be no doubt that he'd at least get a chance to earn a rotation spot with the expectedly-woeful Padres.

Will it happen? That's anyone's guess, but it sure is fun to consider. It also would create a heck of a unique offseason for Heilman; one where he'd be part of three separate trades. There may be another player who's been shipped three times in one offseason in the past, but if there is, we sure can't put our finger on who it is.

By Cameron Smith  |  January 28, 2009; 7:05 PM ET
Categories:  Cubs , Mariners , Padres  
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Next: Bruce and Baseball


"that begs the following question"
How does that beg the question? Seems like it asks it, not avoids it.

Posted by: CEvansJr | January 30, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

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