Saturday, January 29, 2005

it just don't add up!

with the sosa-hairston deal -- that even SOUNDS like a joke -- all but done, it's time to settle into some analysis. cub fans, you may want to go get a cold one out of the fridge.

the upshot is that the cubs found themselves into a terrible corner -- whether it was a player revolt or simply another pre-emptive PR hack job ordered from on high or both or neither -- and must have felt they had no way out except to take the best possible deal.

unfortunately, when everyone knows you have to sell, you aren't going to get much for bids. welcome into the fold, jerry hairston.

WHAT THE CUBS LOSE: an declining right fielder, sure -- but one who declined to a .517 slugging percentage. i won't sit here and tell you 2004 was a golden sammy year, nor will i suggest that sammy is only 36. but sammy had a bad year with some injury weirdness -- and if he rebounds to even the midpoint of 2003 and 2004 for the orioles (where he'll hit cleanup), he will put out 60 extra base hits, approach 100 rbi, and score 85 runs. it should not be overlooked that only sheffield, guerrero and burnitz hit more taters playing right in the majors even in a bad 2004 for sammy, in which he still offensively compared favorably to the likes of jacques jones, richard hidalgo, jermaine dye, shawn green and others. and they'll pay most of his remaining salary -- having waived the 2006 option, sammy's a free agent after 2005.

so let's put sammy in perspective -- the cubs are losing a *big* bat. you can argue that, with ramirez and lee around, they can afford to lose some power and strikeouts.

WHAT THE CUBS GET: a second-tier leadoff hitter with a featherweight bat and two aging prospects. hairston might get on against both righties and lefties well enough, but speed is a problem -- the kid stole 13 and was caught for 8.

here's the bigger issue: hairston's best year was 2004, by far -- a year in which he played only 86 games. the only year he played the whole lot was 2001, in which he hit .233 with an obp of .305, stole 29 and was caught for 11. he also committed 19 errors at second sack that season -- he's not a great glove. but he can bunt.

if you buy that the hairston the cubs got is the one who hit .289 over the last two years, he's a viable everyday player who could even hit leadoff. however, his last two years have been spent behind brian roberts. this should be a warning. i think he's essentially a utility player who can't unseat walker at second or patterson in center. any way you look at it, depending on hairston would be a major gamble.

it seems to me that the two kids involved had better be spectacular prospects for this to look anything but a bad deal made under tough (and almost entirely self-inflicted) circumstances for the cubs. dave crouthers (a 26 y/o low-90s rhsp) and mike fontenot (25 y/o lefthand hitting infielder) don't seem to rise to that level.

moreover, the cubs now have a gaping hole in right which must be filled. so terrible is this deal that there almost *must* be a rightfielder in the works (as many others suspect).

THE FINAL ANALYSIS: the cubs apparently felt compelled to get rid of sammy -- and were fleeced pretty well, as things look now. time will tell, and probably there's another iron in hendry's fire.

but the odds of sammy having three more productive years are a lot higher than hairston and one of the kids becoming really solid everyday players. as i see it, if you make this deal at a probable loss, you have to make another at a probable gain to come even. given that the entire world now knows that the cubs *need* a body in right, the chances of that happening are pretty low. the cubs are rumored to have been in contact with jeromy burnitz -- and all i can say is that he would not be a probable gain.

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