Cubs deal Patterson to Baltimore

Cubs deal Patterson to Baltimore

CHICAGO -- It was time for Corey Patterson to find a new home.

The Chicago Cubs on Monday dealt the center fielder to the Baltimore Orioles for two Minor League players, shortstop Nate Spears and left-handed pitcher Carlos Perez.

Patterson is coming off a disappointing season in which he batted .215, and included a one-month stint in the Minor Leagues to try to get his swing back. When the Cubs traded for center fielder Juan Pierre and then signed Jacque Jones to play right, Patterson became the odd man out.

"For the good of the ballclub and for his best interest, I think it's good for him," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Monday in announcing the deal. "He and I had a nice chat, and I think the world of him. It's unfortunate it went down this path, but it's something we had to do."

Patterson, 26, was the Cubs' first-round pick in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft, and reached the Major Leagues in September 2000. His best season was 2003, when he batted .298 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs, but that year was cut short by a knee injury suffered July 6.

Despite his ability to make Gold Glove-caliber plays in center, Patterson's struggles at the plate -- and his high strikeouts -- made him a target of the fans at Wrigley Field. The Cubs had talked about possibly keeping Patterson, but Hendry said he didn't think the center fielder would benefit in a limited role.

"I don't think it would be a good fit for him to be a bench player here after what happened last year," Hendry said.

The Cubs had tried Patterson in the leadoff spot, but he struggled there, hitting .211 in 2005. Adding Pierre filled that hole in the lineup.

"We focused on trying to get Pierre. That was our goal when the season ended," Hendry said. "At times, we talked about possibly putting Corey in a package to get a Major League player. Once we went the Pierre route, some of the things we were working on really weren't there with Corey in it."

One of those things was a possible trade with the Orioles for superstar shortstop Miguel Tejada, who now has told Baltimore he wants to stay.

"When a quality player becomes available, it's my job to look into it," Hendry said. "It was just a matter of, you're talking about one of the top three, four players in the game who might be available, and we certainly jumped in to see if it was possible."

Patterson has plenty of potential, and the Cubs coaching staff devoted a lot of time and energy into trying to get him right. He went to Mesa, Ariz., four days after the 2005 regular season ended on his own to work with Minor League hitting coach Von Joshua, but he chose not to play winter ball this offseason. What went wrong with Patterson's career?

"I wish I had that answer," Hendry said. "Hopefully, he had that one bad year and he'll get back on track. I think he was moving forward to a quality situation in '03 until he got hurt. In '04, except for the last month, it was a credible year.

"I think it was a case that he got off to a bad start last year and it snowballed, and he lost confidence for awhile and it happens," Hendry said. "The bigger the stakes and the bigger the market, the higher the stakes are for the player to succeed, and when they don't, sometimes it's hard to stop."

In a conference call with reporters Monday, Patterson was asked to sum up his Cubs career.

"I thought I played well with the Cubs, other than 2005," he said. "I just got in a little rut, and before I knew it, I couldn't get out of it. One day, try this, and try that, and I never really could put anything together, and I didn't stick with it on a consistent basis. The years prior to '05 I thought I played well. Last year, I had a bump in the road and couldn't overcome it.

"The [Cubs] had to make changes," Patterson said. "I have no hard feelings toward Chicago. They did what they had to do. At the same time, I'm very excited to come over to Baltimore -- and am happy they showed interest in me -- and come in with a new attitude, a new approach, and be consistent."

Hendry has known Patterson since he was 17 years old.

"We have a good, honest relationship," Hendry said. "He knows I have to do what's best for the Cubs. He felt [the Orioles were] a club that would give him a chance to get a fresh start and give him a chance to succeed. We had a nice chat. I'm sure we'll stay in touch. I'll be rooting for him to do well."

As for the players acquired in the deal, Spears batted .294 with six home runs and 43 RBIs in 112 games for Class A Frederick in 2005, his third pro season. He was the Orioles' fifth-round pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft.

Perez, signed by the Orioles as a non-drafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1999, was 11-8 with a 4.28 ERA in 27 starts for Class A Delmarva last year.

"We have outstanding reports on Spears as a quality everyday player down the road, and Carlos Perez was converted from a reliever to a starter, and we had him from 92- to 95-[mph]," Hendry said. "[Perez] has to learn to pitch better and his other pitches have to come. We felt like we got two good players and obviously, it's a situation where Baltimore gets a chance to take a gamble on a kid who has a lot of upside if it works."

Patterson's younger brother, Eric, is still in the Cubs organization. He led the Midwest League with a .333 batting average and hit 13 home runs with 71 RBIs and 40 stolen bases in 110 games.

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 15. Are the Cubs set for 2006?

"I think we have enough," Hendry said of his lineup. "Right now, we have three second basemen [in Jerry Hairston, Neifi Perez and Todd Walker]. There will be some things to earn in front of Dusty [Baker] and have him and the staff make some decisions there. We think athletically and position-player-wise, we have enough to start with. We'll continue to look and try to get better."

The Cubs' rotation also is set for now with Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch and Jerome Williams. Kerry Wood, who is coming off arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, has started throwing in Mesa.

"There's no sense trying to put a track on it or a date," Hendry said of Wood. "All indications are that he's coming along well, he's enthusiastic, he's really into his work. It's too early to tell what a time frame would be. He hasn't gotten on the hill and done a bullpen yet."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.