By Jim Callis
July 20, 2001
For the second time in two days, the Reds traded away a big league outfielder. The Cubs added Michael Tucker Friday to bolster their drive for the National League Central title, surrendering minor league righthanders Ben Shaffar and Chris Booker to do so. Chicago has the best record in the National League at 55-39, but ranks 11th in the league in scoring with 4.55 runs per game.
Tucker, a lefthanded hitter, should take over in left field while Rondell White is on the disabled list with a groin injury. When White returns, either he or Tucker could move to center field, a position from which the Cubs have gotten very little offense this season. Tucker, 30, isn’t enjoying his best season at the plate, batting just .242-7-30 in 86 games with Cincinnati. In 805 big league games since 1995, he has hit .260-76-281 for the Royals, Braves and Reds.
Cincinnati had a surplus of outfielders that allowed it to pick up a couple of potentially arms in this trade. Even after dealing Tucker and Alex Ochoa, who went to the Rockies on Thursday, the Reds still have a formidable outfield of slugging prospect Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr. and Dmitri Young.
Shaffar, 23, has a higher upside than Booker, projecting as a possible No. 3 starter in the majors. A sixth-round pick out of the University of Kentucky in 1999, he went 10-14, 5.27 in his first two seasons before blossoming this year at high Class A Daytona. Shaffar was 6-3, 2.81 with a Florida State League-leading 114 strikeouts in 103 innings. He went 5-1, 1.01 in his last eight starts with Daytona, including consecutive shutouts. He can reach the low 90s, but his fastball is more notable for its life than its velocity. He also has a tough splitter that enables him to rack up strikeouts. Shaffar will be assigned to high Class A Mudville.
Booker, 24, gained some brief notoriety in 2000 when he became the sixth minor leaguer ever to strike out five batters in one inning. He has a powerful arm and usually works at 95-96 mph with his fastball, though his secondary pitches need considerable work. He was a 20th-round pick in 1995 out of Monroe County High in Monroeville, Ala. Booker went 2-6, 4.33 with 76 strikeouts in 52 innings at Double-A West Tenn and will stay in the Southern League, transferring to Chattanooga.