Cubs acquire Monroe for player to be named

SAN FRANCISCO -- Craig Monroe quickly found himself back in a pennant race Thursday when the Detroit Tigers traded the slumping outfielder and cash to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named.

Despite hitting only .222 before Detroit designated him for assignment last Friday, Monroe was productive against left-handed pitching. That's how Cubs manager Lou Piniella plans to use him.

"I think it gives us a good balance," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "It was just one of those situations where you couldn't pass up a guy who has already been there and helped lead a club to the postseason. We've had our ups and downs against lefties. It gives Lou some options here that we didn't have before by just adding one good batter against left-handed pitching."

Monroe is hitting. 302 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 102 at-bats against lefties. The NL Central-leading Cubs are just 12-19 against lefties and are batting 20 points lower as a team than against right-handers.

Monroe is versatile, too, having played all three outfield positions.

"The teams that we're playing here all have left-handed starters in their rotation," Piniella said. "He's a valuable addition. He gives us more experience. This guy has been in postseason, hit five home runs last year in the postseason, played in the World Series. It's a good move by Jim to get us that bat."

After helping the Tigers reach the World Series last year for the first time since 1984, Monroe struggled in 2007 and lost his job to Marcus Thames. Monroe had 11 homers and 55 RBIs in 99 games before being replaced by highly-touted prospect Cameron Maybin.

The Cubs will send a player to Detroit by Oct. 15. Detroit is close in the AL Central and wild-card races.

Monroe is scheduled to join his new team Friday night at Arizona. The Cubs designated outfielder Buck Coats to make room for Monroe on the 40-man roster. They will have to make an additional move before activating him Friday.

Monroe batted .255 with 28 homers and 92 RBIs last year and then tied a franchise record by hitting five home runs in the postseason. He also tied for second among AL outfielders with 12 assists.

"He was one of our big guys last year," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I'm really happy for him. He's in the thick of a pennant race. He's going to a good ballpark. With his power, he's going to be out on Waveland Avenue."

Monroe signed a one-year contract for $4,775,000 in the offseason, getting a raise from
$2.8 million.

The Cubs are also looking to get a boost soon with the return of All-Star outfielder Alfonso Soriano, who has been out since Aug. 6 with a strained right quadriceps.

Soriano looked good running in the outfield before Wednesday's game and is expected back around Sept. 1 -- about 10 days earlier than the Cubs originally expected.

Piniella didn't even rule out an earlier return, maybe for the Cubs' three-game series next week against second-place Milwaukee. Soriano is batting .297 with 18 homers and 42 RBIs this season.

"He's amazing," Piniella said. "You see him running around out there and you think he's one of your regulars instead of someone who is on the DL. But we have to be very careful. One more problem and he's out for the year and we can't afford that. We're going to be as cautious as we can. We're not going to rush this thing to the point where by rushing him he can sustain another injury."