Cubs acquire catcher for Perez

Cubs acquire catcher for Perez

CHICAGO -- In Spring Training, Todd Walker, Jerry Hairston Jr., and Neifi Perez all were battling for the Cubs' starting second base job. Now, all three are gone.

The Cubs did their part to help Detroit now as well as help themselves in the future, dealing Perez to the Tigers on Sunday in exchange for Minor League catcher Chris Robinson.

The Tigers were looking for help in the infield after second baseman Placido Polanco separated his left shoulder on Aug. 15. Perez, 33, can play second, short and fill in at third if needed.

"It's a real good fit," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Sunday. "There wasn't much interaction with [Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski] and I about this until last night.

"It's no secret that when you're doing as well as they are and you lose an outstanding player like Polanco, we all know Dave Dombrowski was going to try to act quickly," Hendry said.

Hendry said they did not exchange names until Sunday. Perez and Tigers manager Jim Leyland were together in Colorado.

"Neifi did an outstanding job for us from the time we picked him up from the Giants," Hendry said. "He didn't get off to a great start this year, but has played well the last couple months."

Perez joined the Cubs as a Minor League free agent on Aug. 19, 2004, and batted .276 in 264 games with 51 doubles and 84 RBIs. This year, he was hitting .254.

"I think he's an ideal guy to plug in for the Tigers as they try to maintain their success," Hendry said of the American League Central Division leaders.

Cubs manager Dusty Baker had to leave the field during the national anthem Sunday to give Perez the news.

"He's happy to be going to a first-place team," Baker said, "but sad to leave the Cubs and Chicago.

"Neifi came to play," Baker said. "I know he was maligned some, but he came to play every day. He stayed ready, he worked hard. Neifi's an asset to any team. We hate to lose him."

The news was bittersweet for infielder Ryan Theriot, who is now the backup infielder.

"He's taught me so much in the short time I've been here," Theriot said of Perez. "I just sit and listen to him talk. It wasn't anything in particular, but the way he went about his business. One of the main things is he talked about a rookie's role and how to conduct yourself and right and wrong. It wasn't anything new, but it hit home. He's a great guy, great player."

It was difficult for Ronny Cedeno to deal with the news.

"When he got traded, I told him thanks for everything and that we'll miss him," Cedeno said. "For me, he's like a father. He's a happy guy, crazy. We're sad."

Cedeno began the year as the starting shortstop, but with the acquisition of Cesar Izturis, he moved to second. The Cubs were expected to call up infielder Freddie Bynum, who has been rehabbing at Triple-A Iowa from a blood clot in his right arm.

Besides the three infielders, the Cubs also have dealt Greg Maddux and Scott Williamson this year.

"I don't feel like it's a sign of us giving up," Cubs catcher Michael Barrett said of the Perez trade. "It's a sign of supply and demand. It's a business. When we have an opportunity to collect and get certain players for veteran players who might not be playing every day and maybe have more value to another team -- I'm certainly no GM -- but I think Jim is doing what's best for the organization.

"We're obviously going to miss Neifi, but at the same time he's going to a first-place team," Barrett said. "We wish him well and hope he has the opportunity to play in a World Series. We'd like to have him here doing that -- but you never know."

Robinson, 22, played at the University of Illinois, and was the Tigers' third-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. The catcher batted .288 with 22 doubles and 47 RBIs for Class A Lakeland this year, his second professional season.

"We're happy to get him," Hendry said. "It's a good fit for us. Not many people have catching up and down the system. He can help us in that regard."

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