So Long, Lilly and Theriot

By Chris Rewers on Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's difficult to judge a trade like the one the Cubs made ahead of Saturday's non-waiver trade deadline.

The Cubs sent pitcher Ted Lilly and second baseman Ryan Theriot to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for second baseman Blake DeWitt, and minor-league pitchers Kyle Smit and Brett Wallach.

Lilly and Theriot played central roles in a period of Cubs baseball that I will always look back on fondly. In 2007, the Cubs rebounded to win the NL Central after being nine games under .500 in June. In 2008, the Cubs won 97 games and treated their fans to the team's best regular season in my lifetime.

Lilly, who was 47-34 as a Cub, was consistent and reliable during his three-plus years with the team. He is one of those players whom I was unable to truly appreciate until I was able to see him perform on a regular basis. Lilly plays the game hard and puts winning ahead of personal accomplishment. He has impressed me with his competitiveness and his accountability. TRL never has an alibi.

And Ted's departing words to Cubs fans also demonstrated his class.

"Honestly, this is a tough concept to grab right now," Lilly said. "It's not something that I'm overly excited about, because ... I'm just going to miss a lot.

"Short of winning a World Series here, I couldn't have asked for a better experience in my career. I couldn't have asked for a better place to play, teammates to play with, fans to play for. All the way from the coaching staff to the front office. ...

"I really enjoyed my experience all the way around. I'm going to never forget the times that I had here."

I remember the first time that Theriot caught my attention. Denise and I went to Milwaukee to see the Cubs play the Brewers in Milwaukee on Aug. 10, 2006 - Mark Prior's last major league game. Theriot started that day at second base and I recall noting his deceptive diminutive height (he's the same height as me) as he played catch with a teammate in front of the Cubs dugout before the game. He had three hits that day (all singles, of course) and scored a pair of runs.

Theriot certainly has his flaws. He is a singles hitter who does not draw many walks and a careless baserunner. But Theriot plays the game hard and his installation by Lou Piniella as the team's starting shortstop early in the '07 season was a masterstroke by the Cubs skipper. The scrappy Theriot provided a spark that the Cubs desperately needed.

The value of DeWitt, Smit, and Wallach is unknown.

DeWitt, who turns 25 on Aug. 20, hails from Sikeston, a small town in Southeast Missouri, about 150 miles south of St. Louis and just west of I-55. It's difficult to draw conclusions from the small sample size of his major league career.

DeWitt made a splash when he was called up by the Dodgers in 2008. He won the third base job out of spring training and was hitting .325 by May 21, but a 2-for-21 slump followed and his average gradually was pulled by gravity. He was down to .254 in late July when he lost his starting role after the Dodgers acquired Casey Blake from Cleveland.

The left-handed hitting DeWitt, who this season is hitting .270 with an on-base percentage of .352 and one home run in 256 at-bats, can't hit lefties. He is just 10-for-45 (.222) against southpaws this season and likely will be platooned with Jeff Baker for the rest of this season.

But, as Gordon Wittenmyer pointed out. DeWitt is hitting .341 against the Cubs' NL Central opponents and .429 in 21 at-bats against first-place St. Louis. The Cubs have nine games left with the Cardinals this season. Let's see what the guy is made of.

As for Smit and Wallach, who knows? Minor-league success isn't necessarily an indication of future major-league success. But they bring solid resumes to the Cubs organization.

Smit, a 22-year-old right-handed reliever, was recently promoted to Double-A Chattanooga and has an 0.72 ERA in his last 10 outings.

The 21-year-old Wallach, a right-handed starter, was 6-0 with a 3.72 ERA with Great Lakes of the Class A Midwest League. He is the son of former major league third baseman Tim Wallach.

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