Thursday, February 03, 2005

the new cub outfield

let's talk a little bit about deflating expectations. for all the hopes and fears about magglio, the cubs are now stuck with jeromy burnitz on an everyday level -- and managed to actually lose money in the process.

yep, lose money. as news comes out, it is being confirmed that the cubs are paying $12mm of sammy's $17mm due in 2005, as well as hairston's $2.5mm, as well as burnitz's $5mm, as well as $3.5mm in severance and the $4.5mm 2006 buyout (now assignment bonus) -- a total of $27.5mm.

had they kept sammy, they'd have paid him $17mm and $4.5mm to buy him out of 2006 -- a total of $21.5mm. uh-huh. a net $6mm loss -- for a massive talent downgrade. how's that for motivation?

i hate to revisit covered ground, but the cubs are faced with trying to replace alou and sosa for a team that, whatever you can say about its pitching, chalked up 89 wins and third place in the NL central -- in doing so, scoring a very middle-of-the-pack 789 runs.

what has been lost?

alou: .293, 106 R, 39 HR, 106 RBI, 78 XBH, .557 SLG
sammy: .253, 69 R, 35 HR, 80 RBI, 56 XBH, .517 SLG

poor jerry hairston has all the makings of miggy cairo, and would on a good team be the second guy off the bench -- which is hopefully the role he is assigned, despite the team's pride. so, in reality, this burden now falls to burnitz and todd hollandsworth.

burnitz's numbers away from coors in 2004, projected over his actual at-bats:

.244, 26 HR, 54 XBH, 84 RBI, 134 K, 58 BB, .327 OBP, .448 SLG

his split year in 2003:

.239, 31 HR, 53 XBH, 77 RBI, 112 K, 35 BB, .299 OBP, .487 SLG

his 2002 year:

.215, 19 HR, 34 XBH, 54 RBI, 135 K, 58 BB, .311 OBP, .365 SLG

i think it is hard to overestimate the disastrous falloff in talent between sosa and burnitz. sammy had a weird year in 2004 to be sure -- arguably just a one-off in a hall-of-fame career -- but this is a man who averaged 41 homers over these same three seasons and was reliable to get on base at a .340-.360 clip. even last season, his OBP was better than any of the lines above for burnitz. burnitz will remind a lot of folks of tawd hundley in pretty short order, i think.

into the other corner goes hollandsworth -- who has in the last three years accumulated 139 hits. alou slapped 176 hits in 2004 alone. hollandsworth hasn't reached 300 at-bats in any year since 1996, and has never hit more the 12 -- twelve -- home runs in any year.

i say this all to clear the sleep from the eyes of many cub fans who watched hollandsworth hit .318 over 148 at-bats last year and think he can do that for 600 at-bats this year. a catagorical prediction from yours truly: it will not happen. hollandsworth will not play for at least half the year, and he will disappoint in the games he does play.

these two will flank corey patterson, in all likelihood, rounding out what has suddenly become the sorriest outfield in the entire NL.

there's no two ways about this one folks -- forget what the stupid punditry of chicago sports has to say about their new favorite punching bag in a slow time of year for chicago sports news. the cubs were utterly raped in this one, providing a capstone to what has been a catastrophic offseason that saw sosa, alou, clement, mercker and grudzielanek leave to be replaced with stephen randolph, hairston and burnitz.

UPDATE: as was pointed out in the comments, the most recent information looks like the cubs will pay not $12mm but $8.15mm of sammy's $17mm 2005 salary -- changing the total outlays post-trade to $23.65mm. the cubs loss versus their pretrade commitments is then $2.15mm, and not $6mm.

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