Cubs general manager Jim Hendry refused to call it a salary dump, but the Cubs wound up saving a few bucks Tuesday.
As expected, they traded No. 5 starting pitcher Jason Marquis to the Colorado Rockies for onetime White Sox reliever Luis Vizcaino and cash considerations.
The Cubs will send $875,000 of Marquis' $9.875 million salary for this year to the Rockies. The 34-year-old Vizcaino will make $3.5 million in 2009. There is a $4 million team option for 2010 or a $500,000 buyout.
Marquis was 11-9 with a 4.53 ERA for the Cubs last year after going 12-9 in 2007. He was entering the final year of a backloaded contract worth $21 million over three years.
The Cubs needed to shed payroll to fill in other areas. Later this week, they'll announce they've signed switch-hitting outfielder Milton Bradley to a deal worth potentially $30 million over three years.
Hendry also would like to add another starting pitcher before spring training, and with the Cubs bumping up against their budget limits, players such as Marquis and infielder-outfielder Mark DeRosa ($5.5 million) were likely candidates to be traded.
Last week, the Cubs sent DeRosa to the Cleveland Indians for three pitching prospects.
"We don't call anything a salary dump," Hendry said. "We're no different than anybody else except maybe my buddy Brian Cashman (the Yankees' GM). We have a payroll. We have a fair payroll. We have one of the better payrolls in the game, and we still do.
"You follow the guidelines of the payroll, and that's what we're doing. We were very fortunate. We spent a lot of money in the last couple years, and it turned into two very outstanding regular seasons. At the same time, some of those contracts escalate. So I have no complaints."
In trying to sell Marquis, the Cubs pointed out that he had won 65 games over the last five years and had been to the postseason with the Braves, Cardinals and Cubs.
Even though Marquis has been a durable starter who takes the ball when called on, he was left off the Cardinals' postseason roster in 2006. He was on the Cubs' postseason roster in 2007 but did not pitch. He made 1 relief appearance in last year's playoffs.
Vizcaino, a righty, was 1-2 with a 5.28 ERA in 43 games for the Rockies last year. Right-handed batters hit just .170 against Vizcaino in 2008, but his WHIP (walks plus hits per 1 inning pitched) was a lackluster 1.46.
He pitched for the Sox in 2005 and also has pitched for Oakland, Milwaukee, Arizona and the Yankees.
"He's had a real solid career," Hendry said. "He had a couple of rough months last year. His situation is still very good against right-handed hitters. He adds to the inventory. He still throws very hard. He was real solid for four or five years and had a couple of bad months in Colorado, but also had some very good ones."
Hendry reiterated that he's still in the market for a starting pitcher to replace Marquis. Lefty Sean Marshall is the in-house candidate. The Cubs talked about signing veteran lefty Randy Johnson, but he chose the Giants.
With the Cubs' ownership transition apparently nearing a conclusion, there's still a chance Hendry could reopen talks with the Padres for ace righty Jake Peavy. Talks for Peavy broke down during the winter meetings.
"We're going to try to stay in business and try to keep working every day," Hendry said. "We're going to continue to look for pitching before we get to camp. At the same time, we feel good about Marshall. (Reliever Chad) Gaudin made 30-plus starts in '07 for Oakland and filled in for (Rich) Harden a lot when Rich had his (injury) troubles out there.
"You deal with what you have on the wall now until somebody else is added."