The Week That Was....
The rest of the world might have been on holidays the last few weeks, but general managar Jim Hendry was busy shuffling the deck chairs on the Cubbie Titanic. Things happened at a rather fast and furious pace last week, so let's revisit with a more in-depth look. What you may have missed while in your drunken egg nog stupor...
Granted, this was before the holiday break, but it's not like I can let a Cubs move go without commenting. Gathright, as we all know by now, can jump over a car and he can also jump over a pitcher if needed. He'll also take a swing at Julian Taveraz which certainly warrants a +1 if this was Deadspin. We also know that Gathright grades at 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale for speed, one of those five tools that Corey Patterson supposedly possessed. A shame that scouting scale hasn't been revamped to include a sixth tool for "baseball IQ" or "can't layoff a breaking pitch".
Back to Gathright, we know he's fast, we know he can jump a car or player, but what he can't do is play baseball very well. He's a track star wearing a baseball uniform. The speed is fun and all when you're getting a .365 BABIP like he did in 2007, but when lady luck isn't on his side, he's a .265 hitter with a slugging percentage below his on-base percentage. When Ryan Theriot says you hit like a girl, you've got problems.
And as for his 80-grade speed, you'd think a guy so damn fast could steal at better than a 75% clip. While passable by the laws of baseball sabermetrics, when your only real benefit on the field is your wheels, he should be much closer to the 80% or higher range like Dave or Brian Roberts. Of course, speed also is beneficial in the field, but Gathright rates as below average by BP's fielding metric over his career.
I still contend that on a one year, $800K deal, he was brought in as no more than a backup plan and motivation for Felix Pie this spring training. I don't think that contract will keep the Cubs from cutting him if Pie can put together a nice spring training. If he does stick, we just hope Piniella uses him appropriately, which would be not much at all.
This one isn't official as word was they were waiting for Marquis to return from his vacation to make the final announcement. Assuming it does get done, the report is the Cubs take Vizcaino and his $3.5M 2009 contract and $500K 2010 buyout and give back Marquis and about a $1M to the Rockies.
On the player personnel side, the Cubs are definitely downgrading. For all the crap Marquis gets, he makes his starts and his ERA is right around the league average and provides the all important rotational stability. Is that worth $10M a year? Not at all and of course why the deal was made. The Cubs are up against it budget-wise and needed to shed some salary to try and fit their left-handed hitting corner outfielder into the budget. So if you have cheaper and likely better options on the club, such as Sean Marshall or Jeff Samardzija, you have to make the move.
If Vizcaino sticks with the team, the Cubs get a 34-year old reliever who can strike out hitters but has trouble finding the plate. Well that's nothing new, now is it? Yeah, he struggled with Colorado last year, but not in Colorado (3.81 ERA @ Coors, 7.21 on the road). His rather extreme righty/lefty splits have been noticed by some (.529 OPS against vs righties, 1.174 vs lefties last year), but they don't seem nearly as harsh when you look at the three-year splits (.683 vs righties vs. .820 vs lefties) or his career (.719 vs. lefties, .769 vs. righties). Our resident baseball genius, Arizona Phil, thinks the rather big shift over the last few seasons may be due to Vizcaino lowering his arm slot.
Straight up, the deal is definitely a loss for the Cubs, losing a solid but unexciting starting pitcher for a reliever usually doesn't make a lot of baseball sense, but we all know this move was made to cut salary and bring in a bat, most likely Milton Bradley. Plus, relievers are generally a volatile group, and when you get a guy that can strike out more than a batter an inning, there's always a chance you might catch him on the northside of a good season (see what I did there?).
Much like the Marquis for Vizcaino swap, this series of moves should be berated on the surface. Trading away a guy that could very easily have been the team MVP of a 97-win team usually doesn't make a lot of baseball sense either, especially when the Cubs just get prospects back, only one of which may have an impact in 2009. But of course, this deal was also done to help fulfill the Cubs 2009 offseason goal of getting left-handed. While I believe that plan is far too reactionary based off last year's playoffs, it's the Cubs plan nonetheless and they seem to be well on their way to accomplishing it. If and when the Cubs sign Milton Bradley, it's really not much more than a lateral move for the ballclub. DeRosa at 2b, Fukudome in RF and an Edmonds/Johnson CF platoon versus Bradley in RF and a Fontentot/Miles 2b platoon and Fukudome/Johnson CF platoon looks like just about the same production to me, with the added bonus that it does balance out the lineup.
Of course, I'm not exactly sure that Miles was the best choice to replace DeRosa as the official team roamer. Yeah, he can play short, second and third base and possibly even the outfield in a pinch (although less than 10 career games out there). The Cubs were previously rumored to be interested in Rich Aurilia if they did move DeRosa, and although he's 37 years old, he's shown a much better split versus left-handers last year (.903 OPS) and over the last 3 years(.899). Of course, you have to play defense as well and Aurilia looks to be on the decline, although it's always hard to get a good read with limited games at each position using any defensive metric. Miles on the other hand showed significant improvement last season. Miles does have the added benefit of being able to save the team if they're kidnapped by German terrorists in a high rise.
Some other news and notes...
- Reader "crunch" noticed that Amazon was running a huge sale on MLB replica jerseys. You can get some Alfonso Soriano jersey's for around $35, which is an nice little discount off the $90 or more you'd normally spend. If you are interested, feel free to go through our Amazon store, sends a few bucks our way without costing you anything extra.
- The steadily improving Fangraphs has been producing some real nice analysis of the Cubs offseason moves.There's Dempster's contract (expect something in the 3.90 ERA area next year), the pitchers received in the DeRosa trade and a great piece comparing Miles vs. Fontenot
- Latest Jake Peavy rumor - Kevin Hart, Josh Vitters, Welington Castillo and Jeff Stevens. I would still hate to lose Vitters in any deal, but that seems reasonably fair to me. Essentially it's a deal of Mark DeRosa, Hart, Vitters, Castillo for Peavy, Gaub and Archer.
- Finally, a hardy fuck you to every toy manufacturer on the planet. Let's package our products in such a way to ensure that the kid is bored before it's ever open. Oh here Cindy Lou, doesn't this doll look fun, would you like to play with it? Let Dad open it for you, just come back in a couple hours. I just need a pair of scissors, a screwdriver (I shit you not), and a few bandages to cover up the cuts from the razor-sharp plastic it's encased in. So if you've all been wondering where I've been the last week or two, it's been opening up my girls Christmas gifts while making the hydrogen peroxide companies rich.