Cubs Deal Williamson To Padres

A disappointing 2006 campaign should yield a busy trade season for Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry, who made his first trade of the month on Sunday. Looking to bolster a bullpen that currently has a 3.68 ERA, the Padres acquired righthander Scott Williamson for two Midwest League pitchers, lefthander Fabian Jimenez and righthander Joel Santo.

Williamson has complained often this season about how he's been used by Dusty Baker, and his tenure with the Cubs has been rocky--he's had a 5.27 ERA in 48 games with the Cubs in 2005 and 2006. Hendry had signed Williamson before the 2005 season when Williamson was on the shelf with Tommy John surgery, hoping the righthander would return to 1999 Rookie of the Year form. Instead, he was oft-injured and ineffective, especially after returning from another elbow injury in June. Since then, Williamson has allowed nine earned runs on 14 hits in just eight innings. However, armed with a mid 90s fastball and inconsistent slider, the Padres were willing to take a chance that Williamson could turn things around with a change in scenery.

The price for Williamson seems small at the outset--two live, struggling low Class A arms. Prior to the season, the better prospect was Joel Santo, who has struggled in his second full season at Fort Wayne in 2006. The righthander had rustled feathers in the organization this season after complaining about a move to the bullpen and has left some questioning his work ethic. Santo, 22, has a fastball in the 89-91 range that touches 94, and also throws an inconsistent slider and change. The Dominican righthander was 4-11, 4.75 in the Midwest League in 2005, and in 20 games this season, is 6-6, 5.38.

The younger of the two pitchers is Fabian Jimenez, 19, who has improved in his return to Fort Wayne this season. The southpaw struggled mightily in 2005, going 4-11, 7.03 with 59 walks while striking out just 38 batters. This season, Jimenez has made baby steps, with 54 strikeouts and a 4.43 ERA in 87 innings. Jimenez is still battling inconsistency, as his delivery, command and velocity have all ebbed and flowed this season. While he normally throws in the 87-89 range, Jimenez' fastball has touched 92, while also sitting in the mid 80s often in 2005.