LaTroy Hawkins and the Trade
There is a universal sentiment amongst us members of LB that getting rid of LaTroy was a wise thing to do on Hendry's part, and albeit rather belatedly, I wanted to know and write more about the men we received in return from sunny San Francisco. For a while this mysterious duo were known to the world as "two top pitching prospects", but it was high time that this veil was lifted and their identities exposed. Whether or not they turn out to be mini-Hawkins is another matter, but for the time being, I present to you MegaHawkins.
Jerome Williams, SP/RP
Jerome "Honeymoon" Williams has been in the majors since roughly 2003, seeing 43 starts over the 2003 and 2004 seasons as a 4th or 5th starter in the rotation. This season was penciled in to be more of the same, although a rough start scared the organization into moving him to the minors (a LaTroy-esque 0-2, 6.48 ERA in 3 starts).
With a fastball in the low-90s and a slider that does the pitch's name justice, Williams' rookie season in 2003 was impressive - 7-5 in 22 starts, 3.30 ERA, 49 BB, 88 K in 131 IP. The offseason saw the beginning of the end for him and San Fran, as he put on weight and didn't keep up any kind of workout regimen. At 6-3 and 246 lbs, he struggled with injury through 2004, eventually succumbing in July to elbow surgery needed to remove bone chips and a bone spur in his throwing arm.
He has reasonable talent - with the hit-heavy Giants, control problems with his fastball have largely gone unpunished, but it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table. Hendry is a (sporadically) smart guy, and understood the need for more versatility with his pitching staff at large, and Williams can definitely contribute in the controlled fashion that guys like Dempster, Novoa, Ohman and Wellemeyer have done this season. If used correctly, and that falls on Dusty's toothpicked shoulders, Williams can give them enough to ease through this tricky mid-season rotation-light period.
The Giants were expecting 10-to-15 wins this season, and the Cubs should well expect the same, depending on whether he becomes that 5th starter (Look closely at Leicester's start this week, as the success/failure of that will go a long way to making that decision)
EDIT: Leicester isn't starting as I previously discovered, instead Iowa Cub John Koronka will take Prior's place in the rotation on Thursday.
David Aardsma, RP
"The Big Save", or "First Major League Listed Alphabetically", Aardsma joins a long line of unknown quantities in the bullpen. Man of mystery and little major league experience, the career saves leader at Rice University (including their National Championship-winning campaign in 2003 -- transferred to Texas after a freshman year with LB staffers' alma mater Penn State!) begins his Chicago journey side-by-side with Williams in the minor leagues.
He has been comfortable there since being the Giants' top pick in the 2003 draft, recording a 7-6 record with 19 saves and an honorable 2.81 ERA in 62 appearances at AAA-Fresno.
In the majors, he's functioned in a middle relief role, and showed nowhere near that control: 1-0, 6.75 ERA, 1 BSV in 11 games (20 H, 8 ER, 10 BB, 5 K in 10 2/3 IP, BAA .417, WHIP 2.81)
He has an definite upside to him, given his collegiate and minor-league experience, and like with most specific situation-only relievers in the Cubs bullpen, he could enjoy some success in limited outings and steady development.