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Sunday, March 3

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Cubs Mon Apr 23 2012

Cubs Trade Byrd For Chicago Native Bowden

Cubs_200.pngThe question wasn't if Marlon Byrd would be traded this season, it was a matter of when. Saturday's timing, however, was a bit of a surprise.

After starting in 3-for-43 slump that included 10 strikeouts and countless plate appearances where Byrd looked utterly lost, it was a bit of a shock that the Cubs were able to deal the veteran outfielder to the Boston Red Sox. Chicago received 25-year-old Winfield, IL native Michael Bowden in return, while also paying off nearly all of the remaining money left on Byrd's $6.5 million contract.

Bowden was designated for assignment by the Red Sox on April 15th (meaning they had ten days to trade, waive, or release him) to make room for OF Jason Repko, who was added to the roster after the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury to a shoulder injury. Boston's need for Marlon Byrd arose after Repko was forced out of Friday's game with the Yankees with a slightly separated shoulder, making the swap a matter of perfect timing.

Marlon Byrd & Michael Bowden.jpgBowden sports a career 5.61 ERA pitching mostly out of the Red Sox bullpen over the past five years, but he's had success as both a starter and reliever throughout his minor league career. He figures to stick in the bullpen for the Cubs unless he finds another pitch he can consistently rely on to get through a major league lineup a second and third time. One could hope he has success in the National League similar to recent AL imports like Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy, but I wouldn't expect it considering those guys had considerably more talent. Bowden will move right into the Cubs bullpen after Rodrigo Lopez was designated for assignment.

As for Byrd, his tenure as the Cubs centerfielder ends sadly. Following a trip to the All-Star game in 2010 (by hitting .293/.346/.429), he began 2011 on a similar pace before missing six weeks after being hit in the face with a pitch from current Boston closer Alfredo Aceves on May 21. He was never the same once he returned, batting just .255 with only 21 extra-base hits in 300 plate appearances over the final three months of the season while wearing additional protection over his left cheek.

For Byrd's sake, you can only hope a change in scenery along with being used like he was during his successful years in Texas (playing him all over the outfield and against the right pitchers) will get him back on track. He'll immediately join the outfield as a near every day starter while Carl Crawford and the aforementioned Ellsbury recover from their injuries.

With the everyday centerfield job open in Chicago, the gut reaction would be to call up top prospect Brett Jackson to take the reins, but Theo Epsten, Jed Hoyer, and Dale Sveum are all much smarter than that. Just by looking at Jackson's 21 Ks in 80 plate appearances at Iowa, even the craziest of Cubs fans itching to win games now know it's in the team's best interest to give the youngster more time in the minors. Sveum agrees.

"He's still striking out a little bit too much," Sveum said. "If he's striking out that much in Triple A, it's going to be that much more against big league pitching. The development part is big for everybody, and until you get those 500 at-bats in Triple A, it's something that Theo and everybody in the organization wants to impress on (prospects) is you're going to stay and play and develop."

Instead, speedster and fan favorite Tony Campana will split time with Reed Johnson in a likely platoon to keep the seat warm before a probable September call up for Jackson. But that will only happen if he can improve on his meager contact rate over the next few months.

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