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Thursday, July 30, 2009
Grabow helps Cubs' pen; Hart still useful arm


The Pittsburgh Pirates are at it again. But hey, while their fans will probably recognize the names being sent elsewhere and won't know who is joining the organization, don't assume it's a bad trade. I like the Wednesday deal for them in which the longtime starting middle infield was moved out West, as well as the Lastings Milledge trade a month ago. Dealing John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny to the Cubs for Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio and Josh Harrison also makes sense. Patience is a virtue, and the Pirates are moving salary for young players with upside.

The Cubs pick up a very good left-handed set-up man in Grabow, who probably will be asked to help out in the seventh inning, because Carlos Marmol is the eighth-inning guy. Grabow certainly isn't likely to figure into the saves picture. Kevin Gregg has a strong hold on the role and is performing well. Marmol is destroying left-handed hitters to the tune of a .115 batting average, but Grabow can help Angel Guzman and Jeff Samardzija earlier in games, and his acquisition means Sean Marshall is freed up to start, which could be needed now that Hart's rotation spot is open until Ted Lilly returns.

Gorzelanny was doing very well at Triple-A Indianapolis, resurrecting his career with a 2.48 ERA in 15 starts, but figures to head straight to the Cubs' farm club in Iowa rather than Wrigley Field. He is left-handed, though, and could pitch in the majors later in the season in the bullpen, or he could force his way into the rotation. Like Ian Snell, who was dealt Wednesday, he was good a few years back when he won 14 games, but probably needed a new start somewhere else.

Hart will get to keep starting, which could be good news after his last two outings, when he really cut down on the walks. Hart's outing Thursday was his second consecutive strong performance -- he was dealt right after the game -- as he went six innings in each and walked a total of three hitters. Hart made four starts for the Cubs, and in the first two he walked five hitters in each. He has not been a strikeout pitcher in the majors, nor has he been terribly unhittable, so it's hard to project that 2.60 ERA (which was 2.08 before Thursday) to stay that low, but the Pirates likely will give him Virgil Vasquez's spot in the rotation and see what he does. Hart is 26, and it's been rumored that the Padres wanted him in the Jake Peavy trade talks. His ultimate role could be starter or reliever, but in NL-only leagues, he does have value. He probably had a bit more value with the Cubs, but with the Pirates, he doesn't figure to be bumped out of the rotation.

Likewise, Ascanio could end up in a number of roles as well. Who knows, he could supplant Matt Capps as closer at some point, since he did pick up double-digit saves in the minors in both 2007 and 2008, and he is a hard thrower. Oh, and Capps hasn't pitched very well. This season, the Cubs used Ascanio as a starter at Iowa, and he excelled, posting a strong strikeout rate and giving up only one home run in 12 starts. As for Josh Harrison, he's speedy infielder playing in Class-A ball. A sixth-round pick in the 2008 draft, the 22-year-old is likely a few years away.