On the same day they placed Mark Prior on the disabled list for what is expected to be 6-8 weeks with an elbow fracture, the Cubs did a little housecleaning as well.
They dealt much-maligned LaTroy Hawkins to the Giants on Saturday for a pair of former first-round picks, right-handers Jerome Williams and David Aardsma. Chicago also kicked in cash to cover most of what remained of Hawkins' $3.5 million salary for this season.
Hawkins, 32, had been frequently booed at Wrigley Field this season, with four saves and four losses as the Cubs closer. Signed before the 2004 season to a three-year, $11 million contract after establishing himself as one of the best setup men in baseball with the Twins, Hawkins struggled after being pressed into the closer role in Chicago.
Armed with a low-to-mid 90s fastball and plus slider, Hawkins can be effective, particularly against right-handers. He can be prone to getting his pitches up in the zone. Hawkins is expected to be used as a set-up man in the Giants bullpen.
In 21 games this season, he's 1-4 with a 3.32 ERA, allowing 18 hits and four home runs over 19 innings, striking out 13 and walking seven. A 1991 seventh-round pick by Minnesota, Hawkins has a career record of 50-65 with a 4.80 ERA. He has 73 saves in 464 games.
Williams, 23, was ranked as the Giants' No. 1 prospect in 2001-02, but has struggled this season while recovering from elbow surgery that limited him to just 22 games last season.
While he broke camp in the big leagues, he was sent down to Triple-A Fresno after going 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA in four games for the Giants. Things have gotten even worse for him in the Pacific Coast League, as he's gone 1-4 with a 9.39 ERA in his first six starts for the Grizzlies, allowing 47 hits in 31 innings while walking more (17) than he has struck out (15).
When healthy, Williams has command of a low-90s fastball that he uses to set up a very good changeup. He has yet to find a consistent third pitch however, with both his curveball and slider lacking the depth or command to be a consistent out pitch. Williams' conditioning also has come into question. A 1999 supplemental first-round pick out of a Honolulu high school, Williams has a career major league record of 17-14 with a 3.93 ERA in 47 games. He's expected to report to Triple-A Iowa as he continues to attempt to refine his stuff.
Aardsma, 23, was the Giants' first-round pick in 2003 after serving as the closer for Rice's national championship squad that year. He reached the majors in 2004, but went 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in 11 games, allowing 20 hits and 10 walks in just 11 innings. Put in the rotation at Double-A Norwich this season in order to get him more innings and allow him to work on his secondary pitches, Aardsma has gone 6-2 with a 2.93 ERA in nine games, allowing 44 hits over 46 innings while walking 13 and striking out 30.
He has struggled with his mechanics over the last year, and his fastball is now more often in the low 90s as opposed to the 93-97 mph range he showed in college. His slider also has become inconsistent, dropping in terms of both velocity and bite. Aardsma likely will be returned to the bullpen in the Cubs' system, and could be used in the major leagues as early as this year to shore up a mediocre relief corps in Chicago.