and that thud you heard was a window to 2006 success closing. brian giles took a mere three-year contract for $30 million to stay in his hometown.
giles would have filled a lot of holes on this cub team. we need a rightfielder, we need a lefty bat with some pop to hit between lee and ramirez, and we need on-base percentage too. giles managed to slug .483 last year despite playing half his games at monstrous petco -- he slugged .545 on the road. he also drew a league-high 119 walks in working an NL-third-best .423 obp. just for fun, he also stole 13 bags.
giles isn't ancient -- he'll turn 35 in january -- it just seems like he is because he kicked the cubs' ass for so many years in pittsburgh. he's been remarkably durable over the breadth of his career. his reputation is that of a hard worker. this is a player that could have been reasonably pitched a four- or five-year offer by the cubs to steal him away. hendry apparently didn't see fit to do that.
was that a mistake? time will tell -- but what is for sure is that it's time to start worrying about right field. surveying the free agent crop, the best remaining fit for the cubs is probably jacque jones -- who is at least a lefthanded bat with 20-homer power. i say this full well knowing that jones would only add to this team's desperate on-base percentage problem, and that he can't hit in the middle of any good order.
second-best might be juan encarnacion -- a righty with a career .316 obp and less power than jones. reggie sanders and rondell white are in play, but both would have to be handcuffed to a good fourth outfielder because john mabry, jerry hairston and/or jose macias can't play 80 games for this team in right with the expectation of winning. (moreover, both are right-handed and neither can play a decent right field.) richard hidalgo can play right -- but why in the hell would you want him, after two straight years of a klownlike sub-.300 obp?
and what else is there? how about bringing back the burnitzalypse? laugh if you like, but you might consider crying -- he now has to be considered a legitimate target for hendry. or maybe you'd prefer brining back a desteroidal matt lawton? or how about a deboomboxed sammy sosa?
folks, i hate to bring all this up, but on december 1 it looks very much like the cupboard is bare in right field. hendry has now been put in the position, by neglecting to bid up giles, of having to swing a trade to fill the sheffield corner. kevin mench has already been whispered, but he's hardly a perfect fit and is drawing heavy interest from the suddenly free-wheeling blue jays.
there is a hope, though -- aubrey huff. tampa knows that it probably can't afford huff when his contract comes up after this year, and it's been speculated that he can be pried loose for pitching. he's coming off a down year, but that's all the more reason to bargain for him while his value is lower -- the guy is 28 and has compiled 2798 at-bats with a .342 obp and .478 slugging. moreover, his prior remarkable consistency -- from 2002 to 2004, the man was almost mechanical in his regularity at .310/.360/.520 -- is indication that a return to form isn't far off.
it may take some favored prospects, but as this page has argued, the cubs are in a closing window of opportunity while they have a solid assembled core of lee, ramirez, prior, zambrano and barrett under contract. with nearly a century of futility weighing down on the heads of a failing front office which had been reduced to trading in nostalgia, one would hope that some kind of pressure is building even on the detached, limp, unresponsive stuffed shirts that scrabble and quibble about dollars and cents between 1060 west addison and 435 north michigan, even if only out of greed and envy for the money they could clearly make.
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