Setup man Sean Marshall to be dealt to Reds; Bill Buckner joins minor-league staff
By GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com December 21, 2011 9:32PM
39. Bill Buckner (1977-84) -- Battled through injuries to hit .300 or better four times, including NL-leading .324 in 1980; Led NL in doubles in 1981-82; Hit .306 with 105 RBI in 1982.
Updated: January 23, 2012 11:05AM
They weren’t factors in the bidding for Japanese pitching star Yu Darvish and aren’t serious players in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes.
But the Cubs are quietly having a busy week, bringing back one of their .300 hitters, adding a former batting champ to the organization and getting close to trading setup man Sean Marshall for young Cincinnati Reds left-handed starter Travis Wood.
The biggest name involved is former All-Star Bill Buckner, who has agreed to rejoin the organization as a hitting instructor for Class A Boise (Idaho), where he lives.
A Cubs source confirmed the hiring of Buckner, who was briefly linked to coaching vacancies on Bobby Valentine’s staff in Boston and last coached in the big leagues with the White Sox in 1996 and ’97.
Buckner managed the independent Brockton (Mass.) Rox last season.
The Cubs announced all their minor-league managing, coaching and roving staff Wednesday, leaving only Buckner’s slot with a ‘‘TBD.’’
Meanwhile, the Cubs and Reds are nearing completion of a trade that would send Marshall — who team president Theo Epstein said earlier this month ‘‘might be the most valuable left-handed reliever in all of baseball’’ — to Cincinnati for Wood and a pair of prospects.
Wood took a two-hit shutout into the eighth inning against the Cubs in his major-league debut two seasons ago before walking the first two batters of the eighth and exiting. He won a 3-2 decision, then faced the Cubs twice more that year in Reds’ wins.
In 17 starts that rookie season, Wood went 5-4 with a 3.51 ERA and allowed barely a baserunner per inning. But the control pitcher without an overpowering fastball regressed during a 2011 season that included lengthy stints in the minors.
With starting pitching depth being the Cubs’ top priority, acquiring Wood doesn’t mean talks with free-agent pitchers such as Paul Maholm and Jeff Francis would stop, contrary to some reports.
Finally, the Cubs also reached agreement with popular, hard-nosed outfielder Reed Johnson on a one-year contract believed to be worth just over $1 million.
Johnson hit .309 with 28 extra-base hits in 246 at-bats of platoon duty in his second tour with the team last season.