No Gerut-tee [Of A Good Deal]

When the Cubs acquired Jody Gerut just a fortnight ago, I wrote that...
With so many similar hitters to Gerut, it's difficult to see just exactly where he fits in right now. I suspect though that Gerut will replace Ben Grieve on the major league roster with immediate effect, thereby effectively ending his Cub career, and that we won't see Adam Greenberg again this season either. Dusty will probably use Gerut in a straight platoon with Jerry Hairston as the centre fielder and leadoff hitter, which, despite Hairston's reverse splits, is probably the right way to go. It would not surprise me if, having become an irrelevance, Hairy were then traded before the deadline... And, finally, if Gerut performs, particularly with regard to his power returning, this could mean the end for Corey Patterson in Chicago. For such a seemingly minor move, this trade could end up having some pretty major long-term ramifications. We will see.
That all fell down from the "Dusty will probably..." bit onwards, perhaps because the great man's allergic to "the right way to go". Gerut made just two starts for the Cubs in his shortest of tenures, neither in centre field, where he didn't play an inning for the Cubs. And the second of those starts was cut short by the trade. Otherwise, he was limited to occasional pinch-hitting and late-inning defensive work in left field. In all, he went 1-for-14 as a Cub, with a double, two walks and three strikeouts, and a single run scored. It was Gerut himself that became the irrelevance, not Hairston, and Gerut that quickly found himself traded. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons for that is that it's not been hard to see where Gerut's power has gone. His swing right now consists of a real downward chop on the ball, and groundballs have a nasty habit of not going over the fences. Without power, and with an enormous platoon split, in the long-term Gerut is highly unlikely to amount to anything as a starting major league outfielder. It may be that the Cubs have seen enough to think that Gerut's power may not be coming back any time soon, and that it's time to move him now before other teams come to the same conclusion. Whether or not the Cubs would be right in such an assessment of course remains to be seen. Whatever, it turns out the trade of Dubois for Gerut will have no long-term ramifications at all. Instead, it's this new trade, for Matt Lawton, that holds potentially interesting implications... Whichever way Hendry tried to spin it in the press conference, this trade is a rental. Matt Lawton is entering the final months of a four year deal that's paying him $7.5m this year. And when this season is done, Lawton, whose contract includes no options, will file for free agency. With Lawton turning 34 in November, and doubtless looking for a multi-year deal all the same, this being a rental or not, it's probably best left that way. But it is a rental. And that says much for the Cubs' attitude towards this season, it says that they still clearly think they can make the playoffs. But this team right now stands at just 53-52 and is very much flawed, as this lousy homestand against lousy Western opposition has demonstrated. Nomar, Wood and Williamson, who Hendry is viewing as mid-season pickups, will not change that, promoting Van Buren won't either, and neither will Matt Lawton, whose simply not an impact ballplayer. The Cubs' best hope now is to be less flawed than their competitors in the wild card race. A four game margin certainly isn't insurmountable. But with the Astros and the way that they've been playing of late, let's just say that the Cubs are being a bit more optimistic than I care for. Either that or they viewed Gerut as having so little value to them that any return, even just a short-term one, was worth it. So, Matt Lawton. Well, make no mistake about it, Lawton is a good hitter. He no longer hits for average as he did at his peak in Minnesota, for his strikeout totals have been escalating, but he draws an excellent number of walks and thus gets on base at a great rate of which Derrek Lee will approve. Furthermore, unlike your prototypical leadoff man, Lawton's far from a slap hitter, consistently hitting 15 home runs a year and owning a slugging percentage a good 150 points higher than his average. In Wrigley, that could even jump a little, for he's spent his years mostly in ballparks pretty favourable to pitching. Though with age he's declining, Lawton is right now is a better hitter than Gerut, and a better hitter than Jason Dubois too. He's also better than Hollandsworth and Hairston, and, interestingly, Lawton at his 2000 best looks rather similar to Matt Murton's upside, the stolen bases aside. That said, Lawton possesses this split...
AVGOBPSLG
First Half (Career).279.376.445
Second Half (Career).254.363.387
First Half (2005).275.379.457
Hmm. Just as with Gerut, it's also unclear where exactly Lawton fits in to the outfield mix defensively. Suggestions that Lawton play centre field are perhaps off the mark, for he's not played a single inning in centre since 2000. Even then, he played just 21 innings there that year, and just 20 in 1999. You have to go all the way back to 1998 to find Lawton playing centre field with any regularity. ESPN's scouting report suggests it's not just been the lack of the opportunity that's been holding him back...
Lawton covered more ground last year [2004] following knee surgery, but remained a defensive liability in left and right field. He covered the gap decently, but any ball hit over his head or toward the line was an adventure. He underwent a serious operation on his right shoulder after the 2002 season and runners have been taking liberties against him ever since.
In other words, he's better than Jerry Hairston out there. Then again, so was Jody Gerut, and so is Jeromy Burnitz, and yet Dusty has been showing a lot of loyalty towards a player in Hairston whose complaints he apparently has no time for. Whether Hairy's escapades in centre continue then, I hardly dare predict. I'll just say that my outfield this year would be Murton, Burnitz and Lawton from left to right, that even that isn't a great outfield, obviously, and that I can picture Dusty choosing to run out far worse combinations. Ultimately, I don't think this is a great trade for either team. Lawton I don't think takes us to the playoffs, he shouldn't be re-signed thereafter, and Gerut probably won't ever do much for the Pirates, or any other team, without a power stroke. Even with the risk that Gerut refinds that though, and I think it's a considerable risk, a few months of Matt Lawton is probably worth that should it put us over the top. The trouble is I don't think it does, especially not if Lawton lives up to that second half split, and so it's all a bit, well, futile. Futile and squanderous, for in a few months we'll most probably have nothing to show for Lawton (as offering arbitration to secure compensation draft picks would be a dangerous ploy). But, once again, we'll have to wait and see...
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Comments

Tripe like that Scoop Jackson article does more to set back racial equality in this country than the freaking klan. Ugh.

16 pitchers also means no more awful double switches biting us in the butt again

maybe that is why Dusty doesn't come out to argue with the Umps and/or Tony LaRussa when we get bad calls

...it's embarrassing to run out to complain when Tony pulls your pants down around your ankles.

Andrew--"I just can't see what you see in Gerut. He is a defensive stud, I understand. But he also has 1) major injury issues that he's still coping with 2) a terrible time hitting lefties not to mention 3) a downward swing that needs some serious adjustment even if he 4) rediscovers the power (which at its peak was adequate at best) that he lost."

I believe that 1, 3 and 4 are one and the same. I think he's made adjustments to his swing because he's injured, that those adjustments have led to him hitting a lot of groundballs and low line drives, and that that's sapped him of his power. Of course, that's extremely concerning, and as I wrote in my piece, "Gerut probably won't ever do much for the Pirates, or any other team, without a power stroke". But Jody is a clever kid, and he knows this, and has shown himself capable of making this exact adjustment in the past - in the minor leagues, he used to be very much the hitter that he's gone back to being now, for whatever reason, but he realized that major league outfielders need to hit for power, and so made changes that resulted in his rookie year. Once he's fully healthy again, I wouldn't put repeating the feat past him. And as long as there's a chance Gerut can refind his power stroke, he has value.

2 isn't that big a problem. Left-handers get easily the bigger half of the platoon, because there are more right-handed pitchers than lefties. Also, there are an awful lot of left-handed hitters, better hitters than Gerut, that can't hit left-handers. Eric Chavez has a career .244/.308/.401 line against lefties. Trot Nixon weighs in at .216/.304/.331. While platooning Chavez because of his defence and the fact he's a talisman is impractical, with Jody Gerut, that shouldn't be too big a problem. You just need a clever manager to exploit the split. The Cubs don't have one, and that's the bigger problem.

What do I see in Gerut? Right now I see Hairston with defence and a big platoon split. That's not particularly valuable, though it's still more valuable than Hairston, who in centre field is giving away more runs than he's contributing at the plate. He's a liability, and he shouldn't be in the lineup unless he's shifted to a less important defensive position.

But I'm really not sure that Gerut can't get back to where he used to be, hitting for more power. He's got the tools to hit for average long-term, and on top of that he draws a healthy number of walks. If his power returns, combine that with good defence in centre field and you have a flat out valuable player. It is, of course, a big and crucial if.

Where on earth does this argument that Gerut isn't or can't be a centre fielder come from? While it's true that Gerut has played mostly right field in his pro career, he grew up a centre fielder, played centre field in college, he has the tools to play centre field. His speed isn't overwhelming, but he gets superb reads off the bat, he can go left, right and back on the ball, he's not immune to the stellar diving catch, and he's got a strong and accurate arm. And he's comfortable in centre field, by his own admission. The reason he's not played centre field much in his pro career isn't so much because he's not capable of it, but because he's spent most of his career playingalongside very fine defensive players like Milton Bradley, Coco Crisp, Grady Sizemore, Alex Escobar, Ryan Church...

Scoop Jackson is an assbag, and his playing the race card is beneath contempt. Cubs fans are not idiots. We can see for ourselves what Baker has done, and is doing, with this team. We don't need Jay Mariotti -- a person held in far lower regard in this town than Baker -- to lead us by the nose and goad us into hating the Dustbuster.

Manny Trillo's knee-jerk obsequious support of Baker on TCR regardless of circumstances is hugely annoying. But give Manny his due -- he's never played the race card when sparring with TCR's Baker naysayers.

I absolutely despise people who inject race into a debate as an ad hominem method of impugning the arguments of their adversaries. It's unethical, and it's disgusting. Race is a touchy enough issue in America without some mendacious lowlife manipulating it for his own rhetorical ends.

[Deleted - irrelevance, insultory tone]

OMG! IT WAS A JOKE!!!! GET IT?!?!?! He's complaining about ad hominum attacks and then I try to discount his post by posting an ad hominum attack?!?!?!?!?!?! IT WAS A JOKE!!!!! I do not think that Greg is a Communist and I have no problem with his post. Are you that sensitive?

The only question left to ask will be this: If it were Bobby Cox and not Dusty Baker, would I have ever had to write this column?

From Scoop....

Well Cox would have the club in first place. He consistently has teams of various talent...sometimes has a team dismantled from the prior year and consistently wins the division...You are right Scoop...for different reasons, you wouldn't need to write you racist article if Cox was the manager.

He went on to say the team has lost Wood, Prior, Patterson etc...

Why did he leave out the fact that Dusty didn't ever tell him to chance his swing...to actually coach him--provide the guidance so he could refine his tools and be productive--one reason, Dusty doesn't know how.

He said Dusty had to put up with Sosa's situation etc...maybe an effective manager would have managed Sosa effectively...the knife cuts both ways Scoop.

I don't see black when I see Baker...I see a 4 million dollar a year manager sitting in 3rd place 2 games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers....I'm ready for a chance--white, black, yellow or green I really don't care.

Yes, Chad, I'm that sensitive. If you make one more derogatory comment about the shade of my lipstick, I'll have no choice but to storm off in a hissy-fit. So there...

well it doesn't say much for gerut's ability in CF if he's only been on one team and you already mentioned 5 guys who are better in center than he is.

It speaks for his arm more than anything, Chris. Look at Ichiro, for instance. Do you not think he could play centre?

Chad: Dasvendanya, tovarish! ;-)

John, I just think that there are too many "ifs" in your assessment of Gerut. I can name any number of players who could turn their careers around and be much better than their career trends indicate if they were to change this or alter that. But the fact of the matter is, it doesn't happen all that often -- especially to third-year major-leaguers with established career trends.

The numbers he's posted to date since he broke into the bigs -- and my (admittedly limited) exposure to Gerut -- just don't lead me to have anything close to the positive assessment of Gerut's career curve that you have.

I KNEW IT!

John Hill,

A couple things you don't seem to be getting about Gerut.

1. Maybe the Pirates said 'We want Gerut, we're not going to take Hollandsworth or Murton'.
2. Gerut is not a kid- he's 27.
3. Greg Maddux probably played 'centre' in High School, but that doesn't mean you can trot him out there in the major leagues. You're pontificating as if you've got a vast knowledge of Gerut's merits in center field, when in-fact, you've never even seen him play it. (An aside- I'll spell the Krickett positions correctly, if you would kindly do the same for Baseball).
4. You seem to be thinking the Cubs are the A's. The Cubs aren't the A's- The minimum payroll they're going to have is probably $65 million. There's no need to load your team with 800k players who might turn out to be good when you have that kind of payroll.

Gerut's not only 27, he turns 28 early next month.

I don't mind John's anglicized spelling. The way I look at it, Americans are generally poor spellers even within their own conventions of orthography. Why should we bash John for spelling properly within his own?

Ichiro?!? Ichiro might be the best defensive right fielder since Clemente...Jody Gerut ain't no Ichiro and he'll never win a gold glove.

Gregory--"I just think that there are too many "ifs" in your assessment of Gerut. I can name any number of players who could turn their careers around and be much better than their career trends indicate if they were to change this or alter that."

Just out of interest, are you an Austin Kearns fan?

How many "ifs" are there? I count three. Stay healthy, rediscover power stroke, manager capable of using a platoon properly. Too many? Hmm. If the third one's an "if" too far, then the person we should get rid of is Dusty - there seem to be too many players leaving town because they're incompatible with Dusty.

My argument, really, boils down to this -- I think the "if" of us making the playoffs (even with Lawton, Garciaparra, Wood, Williamson and, possibly, Van Buren) is bigger than the "if" of Jody Gerut reblossoming. And Baseball Prospectus puts our chances of making the playoffs at 8.2%.

Not all "ifs" are created equal, John. And the "if" of Gerut rediscovering what was a fairly decent-but-not-tremendous power stroke to begin with is not one of the more likely "ifs" around, particularly since his swing indicates that he's not looking to lift the ball anymore.

Nor is the risk/reward the same when you're comparing the "if" of the Cubs making the 2005 playoffs with the "if" of Gerut blossoming into something other than a dime-a-dozen ML outfielder. The first is vastly greater than the second, because the first is, after all, what a team plays for. The individual success of a particular player is secondary.

Besides, I still haven't seen you rebut the point regarding Gerut's utility to the Pirates. So much of what you've been saying is predicated upon Gerut playing CF for the Bucs. It's becoming increasingly apparent that the CF of the present -- and of the future -- for Pittsburgh is Chris Duffy. That either puts Gerut in a backup CF role, or it has him competing with younger, stronger players for the RF spot (Jason Bay has clearly established himself as the team's big bat in LF) such as Restovich or Sadler or with top prospect Nate McLouth.

Real Neal--"Maybe the Pirates said 'We want Gerut, we're not going to take Hollandsworth or Murton'."

Maybe they did. No, I'm sure they did as far as Hollandsworth goes. My guess though is that they'd rather have had Murton than Gerut. I'd rather have Murton than Gerut, even if there's not a huge amount in it. Murton at least isn't going to be a super two at the end of the year.

But what does all that change? The Cubs didn't need to make a deal for Lawton. If they thought the price too steep, they could have easily walked away.

Real Neal--"Gerut is not a kid- he's 27."

Indeed. But he's only that old yet so inexperienced at the major league level because he was, in effect, set back an entire two years in the minor leagues with a double knee surgery. That of course represents a problem, especially when combined with the surgery he's now had on his other knee and the torn labrum he suffered at the end of 2003. Serious injury so far has ruined his career, and you may end up in a few years being able to do away with the "so far has" bit. You may not. I think the chances are good enough that it's worth taking the risk to find out...

Real Neal--"Greg Maddux probably played 'centre' in High School, but that doesn't mean you can trot him out there in the major leagues. You're pontificating as if you've got a vast knowledge of Gerut's merits in center field, when in-fact, you've never even seen him play it."

My guess would be that Greg Maddux probably played "pitcher" in High School.

I've never seen Ryan Harvey play either. And I know he's got an absolute cannon for an arm, has enormous power and can't hit a breaking ball to save his life. Secondary sources.

Real Neal--"I'll spell the Krickett positions correctly, if you would kindly do the same for Baseball"

If...

Football = Soccer

...then we have a deal.

Real Neal--"There's no need to load your team with 800k players who might turn out to be good when you have that kind of payroll."

But what, there's a need to load your team with $7.5m players that are overrated (because Lawton haemoraghes most of his offensive value away, but people have a terrible habit of looking just at offence when they judge a player) and thus probably won't take you to the playoffs anyway?

Having payroll isn't an excuse to spend it inefficiently.

Gregory--"Not all "ifs" are created equal, John. And the "if" of Gerut rediscovering what was a fairly decent-but-not-tremendous power stroke to begin with is not one of the more likely "ifs" around, particularly since his swing indicates that he's not looking to lift the ball anymore."

Particularly nothing. The reason he's not hitting for power is precisely because of his swing. Groundballs don't go over the fences. If he changes his swing, and gets and stays healthy, the power you'd think should return.

Maybe you don't think the "if" of Gerut managing to do that is too great. Personally, I think it's a lot bigger than 8.2%. A lot bigger. If I had to put a number of in, 25%, 30%? I dunno. Not great odds all the same.

Gregory--"Nor is the risk/reward the same when you're comparing the "if" of the Cubs making the 2005 playoffs with the "if" of Gerut blossoming into something other than a dime-a-dozen ML outfielder. The first is vastly greater than the second, because the first is, after all, what a team plays for. The individual success of a particular player is secondary."

The individual success of a particular player of course is a means towards the end of reaching the playoffs, so it's not really that secondary at all. Rather, it's a bit of a prerequisite.

And I still think, even when taking into account the rewards, if I had money to gamble, or whatever, I'd put it on Gerut reblossoming as opposed to Lawton being the difference between playoff baseball and "Wait 'Til Next Year".

Sorry, I don't really know that much about the Pirates and their system, so where Gerut fits in for them then, I don't know. I don't really care either. I hate the Pirates. One of the few teams in the game that I really just can't stand.

You're presuming that he's going to change his swing back to what it was during his rookie season. Yes, it could be that his injuries (particularly the torn labrum rather than the torn ACL) have led him to alter his swing. But it may very well be that he's been told by coaches that line drives are his forte rather than the long ball, or that he's arrived at that conclusion himself. And if that's so (and I see no evidence to the contrary here), then your odds drop from 25% or 30% down to zero.

Yes, individual success is a prerequisite for team success. But in baseball, the individual components of team success are quite limited. To quote the old adage, it takes at least nine players to win a ballgame. Derrek Lee couldn't get on base in front of himself during the first three months of the year, nor could he start a game on the mound or come in out of the pen. That aside, there's a certain amount of circularity to your argument now. You've admitted from the get-go that Gerut's value to the Cubs this season was not much more than nil. In other words, there's no prerequisite involved in his flourishing in a Cubs uniform in terms of the team's overall success. Neither is Lawton's flourishing mandatory, for that matter, but his chances of playing a key role in a Cubs wild-card drive is certainly bigger than was Gerut's. Hence, the trade.

I think that the gamble Hendry took was more than worth it. The success of the team in the here-and-now is paramount, and as long as a reasonable chance of success exists (and even though I disagree with BP on the Cubs' chances, I'd still take 8.2% as "reasonable") it's incumbent upon Hendry as GM to maximize those chances. He did so without sacrificing either an irreplaceable part in the Cubs' present, or a part projected to be a mainstay in their future. Felix Pie, Matt Murton, and Rich Hill clearly fit the definition of the latter much more than Jody Gerut ever did.

Hey, the Cubs are a resource-rich team in terms of their being able to retool on the fly every year. They have the financial resources to make adjustments that other teams such as the Pirates cannot make (a fact that will be even more true next year when the contract of the albatross-turned-Oriole expires). They can rent potential free agents and deem once-talented-but-now-damaged platoon players to be expendable. Kudos to Jim Hendry for understanding that the Cubs have that sort of latitude, and for making use of it. The fact that he traded Gerut to an NL Central rival that needs better players but isn't likely to make sufficient use of Gerut in the long run makes the trade even better.

I cannot see for the life of me why you've come to this conclusion that Gerut is irrepairable and therefore completely worthless. And if the Cubs are so resource-rich, why are we using a second baseman as our center fielder?

You think the Cubs have a shot at the postseason. I don't. There's the difference. I don't see either why we have to go on and on about the merits of Gerut when it simply boils down to that.

As long as Gerut has any long-term value whatsoever, giving him up for something that's going to change nothing in the short term, and that's my opinion of Lawton, just isn't a good move.

John Hill,

Have you got any statistics to back up your claim of Lawton playing bad defense?

As to your ascertation that the Cubs have no chance to make the playoffs... Which team in front of them is so good that they can't catch?

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