Cubs to Sign Jim Edmonds?

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Worst-case scenario, the Cubs spend $289,000 this season on veteran center fielder Jim Edmonds. Which, come to think of it, also describes the best-case scenario.

Unless something goes terribly wrong, the Cubs are poised to make their first key in-season addition of 2008 tonight when they sign Edmonds a few hours after he clears waivers. They're expected to announce the move after their game tonight, when young center fielder Felix Pie will be returned to Class AAA Iowa.

If he stays for the rest of the season, Edmonds will earn that entire prorated share of the major-league minimum salary. Staying that long also means Edmonds turned out to be a good fit with the Cubs. If he flops, he won't last long enough to see much more than a few thousand dollars -- money the Cubs certainly can gamble with at this stage of the season -- and he buys time until power-hitting, lefty-swinging Micah Hoffpauir gets a little more seasoning at Class AAA Iowa.

On face value, adding Edmonds, who turns 38 on June 27, does seem like a head-scratcher.

By all accounts, Edmonds is done -- at least judging from his play in 26 games with the San Diego Padres. He hit .178 and had more strikeouts (24) than hits (16) in 90 at-bats. Early scouting reports indicated the man who had a strained calf much worse than the one that put Alfonso Soriano on the shelf for two weeks had no range left in center. And there were whispers he was a clubhouse cancer in San Diego, helping to expedite his exit.

But from the Cubs' perspective, this is a no-brainer.

Let's tackle the hitting first.

This is the biggest risk for the Cubs. Scouts agree Edmonds has lost some bat speed. Keep in mind, he strained his calf on March 6, missed six weeks, then joined the Padres six games into the season without having played a full game in center. A rehabilitation assignment longer than two days at Class A Lake Elsinore would have been a better call for Edmonds. If his offensive woes continue in Chicago, the experiment ends.

As for the defense, Cubs scouts watched Edmonds during the Padres' visit to Atlanta last week and believe his range was improving. Insiders feel Edmonds came back too soon from the right calf strain. He won eight Gold Gloves in center from 1997 to 2005, but now is no match for Pie. But Pie needs to work on his hitting by playing every day, and he will get that chance at Iowa. It's a good trade at this point for the Cubs.

Now for the personality issue. When the Padres cut ties with Edmonds over the weekend -- putting the waiver process in motion -- his San Diego teammates nearly applauded. Edmonds' biggest crime was being aloof -- something that won't matter in a tight-knit Cubs clubhouse.

And, yes, when he played for the Cardinals, he represented all that is wrong with the Cubs' No. 1 rival. He had a knack for getting under the skin of Cubs fans and players. But A.J. Pierzynski was the same kind of pest to the White Sox during his days with the Minnesota Twins and became a, well, less-hated figure once inside the home clubhouse on the South Side.

Should the deal go through, as expected, Edmonds could be in uniform for the Cubs for their series finale Thursday against the Padres.

It's a low-risk gamble. Pie isn't offering much offensively. Reed Johnson isn't suited for playing center every day. If Edmonds can give him an occasional rest, that should keep Johnson fresh for the stretch run. If Edmonds is a bust, look for Kosuke Fukudome, who has approved such a move, to get more time in center to give Johnson the occasional break. And Hoffpauir, who knocked in all five runs for Iowa on Tuesday and has nine RBI in his last two games, becomes the extra left-handed bat off the bench.

Remember, this isn't the time to make a major trade. The market might loosen up in early June. By then, the Cubs will have a good feel on what they have in Edmonds.

If he's a bust -- or becomes a clubhouse issue -- Edmonds will be cut loose. If he sticks, that only means good things for the Cubs.,C ... 14.article

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