Cubs deal Barrett to Padres
Chicago gets catcher Bowen, Minor Leaguer in return
ARLINGTON -- Catcher Michael Barrett, in the headlines this month for dugout skirmishes, was traded by the Cubs to the Padres on Wednesday for catcher Rob Bowen and a Minor League player.
Barrett was expected in San Diego on Wednesday night when the Padres play host to the Orioles. Bowen, who was hitting .268 with eight doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs in 30 games with the Padres, was expected to join the Cubs in Arlington, where they were taking on the Rangers in Interleague Play.
"It was an honor for me to put on a Chicago Cubs uniform, and I want to personally thank Jim Hendry, the Cubs organization and all the Cub fans for making the past four years so special," Barrett said in a statement. "At the same time, I'm very excited to go to San Diego and do everything that I can to help the Padres win the NL West."
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Barrett's arguments this month with pitchers Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill had nothing to do with the deal.
"The Rich Hill situation, that's normal Major League Baseball every night," Hendry said of an animated discussion in the Wrigley Field dugout June 12. "It happened to be seen and blown out of proportions. Truthfully, the fight [with Zambrano] had nothing to do with it.
"We just felt we were trying to shore up the position in a different fashion," Hendry said. "That's not to be critical of Michael. We felt it was time to shuffle the deck, and felt Rob has a chance to be with us for awhile. We thought it was a good chance to take."
The Padres have the best ERA in the National League, and Barrett will be reunited with Greg Maddux, who was his teammate in Chicago. Barrett also is close friends with San Diego pitcher Jake Peavy, the league's ERA leader.
"I think it's a very good fit for him," Hendry said of Barrett going to the Padres. "He'll be a good compliment to [Josh] Bard. He's familiar with [Maddux], and I think that'll be a plus for him. I think he'll go there and play well and swing the bat well and help the Padres. He's a terrific guy. I'll be rooting for him all the time when he's not playing against us."
Besides Bowen, the Cubs also received Minor League outfielder Kyler Burke. Barrett was making $4.5 million this year, and the Cubs will pay $1.5 million of the $2.5 million remaining on his deal.
On June 1, Barrett and Zambrano were involved in a skirmish in the dugout at Wrigley Field. The argument had continued into the clubhouse, where the two had a fight, and Barrett ended up with six stitches in his lip. Both players compared the incident to a fight between brothers, and made up the day after the incident.
On June 12, Barrett was seen talking to Hill in the dugout after the lefty gave up an RBI single to Seattle pitcher Jarrod Washburn. The Cubs lost the game in the 13th inning when Barrett missed tagging Jose Vidro because he couldn't get his glove on a relay throw from right fielder Jacque Jones.
"The way I know him and the way he is with his teammates, I think he wanted to do so well every day and win so badly at times that maybe his emotional reactions weren't the way you'd like," Hendry said of Barrett. "It's certainly not a bad trait in life when you're trying too hard to win and trying too hard for your teammates.
"I think all of us thought he might take one more step forward and be close to an All-Star caliber player," Hendry said. "I think this will be good time for him to have a change of scenery."
The right-handed-hitting Barrett, who won a Silver Slugger award in 2005, also was in the headlines in May 2006 when he threw a punch at White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski after a collision at home plate in an Interleague game.
Hendry said none of the Cubs pitchers had ever complained about having Barrett behind the plate.
"Michael had a few bad days," Hendry said. "No pitcher has ever come to me and said, 'Gee, I don't want Michael Barrett catching me.' I don't think I'd respond too well to that request anyhow."
Koyie Hill has been matched up with Zambrano in three starts since the June 1 incident, and the right-hander has given up three earned runs over 23 2/3 innings (1.14 ERA). Hill, who also has caught for the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, could be moved into the starting role. Hendry said he'll leave that decision to Cubs manager Lou Piniella.
"We just felt like we needed to make a change," Hendry said. "We're happy to have Rob. We're happy with the job Koyie Hill has done."
Hill has a 1.75 ERA in his seven games, while Barrett had compiled a 4.17 ERA in his 52 games behind the plate. Last Friday, Ted Lilly gave up one run over eight innings in the Cubs' 4-1 win over the San Diego Padres. Barrett handled the game well.
"Some of the stuff I see [about Barrett] is crazy," Lilly said after the game. "I think as a pitching staff, we have confidence in Michael. Look around the league, and I can't think of guys I'd rather have and even some guys who have reputations of being great defensive catchers. For me, and a lot of other guys on the staff, we like having Michael back there."
Henry Blanco, the Cubs' backup catcher, has been sidelined since May 31 because of a herniated disc in his neck. He has received three cortisone shots, and is dealing with a lot of pain, Hendry said.
"We'll just have to play Henry by ear," Hendry said. "If Bowen and Hill can do the job, we're capable of going with them. [Geovany] Soto is playing extremely well in Triple-A."
Barrett, 30, was behind the plate Tuesday night in the Cubs' 5-4 win over the Texas Rangers, and was batting .256 this season with nine homers and 29 RBIs. He can be a free agent after this season. The Cubs' lineup loses a big bat.
"I think when we get Aramis [Ramirez] back, and with the guys we have, we're capable of scoring a lot of runs," Hendry said. "Michael was a good hitter for us the last three and a half years. Right now, our priority would be playing great defense behind the plate and getting other things going and swinging well."
Bowen has played with the Twins and Padres, and was a second-round pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft.
Burke, 19, was selected by the Padres in the supplemental round of the 2006 Draft. He batted .459 with 20 homers and 58 RBIs in 45 games as a senior at Ooltewah High School in Tennessee in 2006. He was batting .211 in 62 games with the Fort Wayne Wizards with one homer and 21 RBIs.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.