MIAMI – Jeff Baker was there when the Cubs’ last window closed. And he was still there when they started over – just long enough to be traded away in the first wave of departing veterans in 2012.
So what does the Miami Marlins utility man tell teammates who might wind up traded to Chicago now that the Cubs look like potential buyers for the first time since Baker was one of the guys acquired near the 2009 deadline?
“You’re in a good spot,” he said. “Trades are part of the business. It can always happen. But if someone did get traded and you got a chance to play over there, obviously, I wouldn’t tell them to be too bummed out about it.
“I always tell guys when you get a chance to go to Chicago, run [to it].”
As the calendar turns to June, the Cubs are keeping one eye on the potential trade market even as they keep one eye on next week’s draft.
And with all the dysfunction in Miami from the owner’s box to the manager’s office – where GM Dan Jennings has served double duty as a struggling manager since the unpopular firing of Mike Redmond – the Marlins are looking more like sellers every week.
Baker knows the drill as well as anyone, though he wouldn’t comment on the Marlins’ disarray or his own desire to return to Chicago if the Cubs sought him as much-needed bench help.
The Cubs still have business on the field to take care of over at least the next week to persuade the front office to get aggressive enough to try to acquire somebody like Baker, much less priority target Ben Zobrist of the Athletics – or a starting pitcher such as Miami’s Dan Haren (5-2, 3.03), who’s on a one-year ($10 million) contract.
After a 2-3 homestand against contenders Washington and Kansas City, the Cubs were just 5-7 over the last two weeks, heading into Miami, with bullpen and fielding flaws apparent.
After Miami, the Cubs go to Washington for four more against the Nationals, followed by two against contender Detroit.
“I’ve said all along, I really believe we can play with anybody,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m not trying to sell anybody a bill of goods.”
If the front office is waiting for the team to prove it’s good enough to spend young player capital and payroll to add for a playoff push, Maddon seems to think that end of the process is a slam dunk.
May didn’t offer the most optimistic numbers. The 14-14 month included a six-game winning streak, but it also included a pair of series losses to the worst team in baseball (Milwaukee), another to a mediocre Arizona team, and a minus-14 run differential.
“We’re going to keep getting better; I believe that,” Maddon said. I think you’re seeing that already with some of the at-bats. I think the tougher pitching we’ve faced, the better we’re going to get quicker.”
Whether it shows over the next two weeks, Baker said he sees it coming.
“When I got traded in ’12, you could kind of see the foundation and the blueprint of what was happening,” he said. “They have the talent, they’re building it from the ground up, and they’re going to be impressive for a long, long time.
“All the stuff that they said they were going to do, they’re doing,” he added, standing in a Marlins clubhouse where the same could not be said. “It’s cool to see from the outside.”