Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
by alex ciepley
You've got your guys in the lineup, your pitching staff, and the bench warmers. The New York Boston War of 2004 provided a brief glimpse into how a good bench can help provide you with a small edge. Boston used theirs effectively, running out baserunners, platoon players, and defensive specialists. Meanwhile, Joe Torre forgot he had a bench. Sometimes benches are overemphasized, but there's no reason to have a crappy one. The Cubs' bench could use some improvement.
Paul Bako Greg Maddux inflicts his own unique type of sadism on his teammates by insisting on at least one zero bat on the roster to catch him. Will Bako be back? Much may depend on how much credence the guys upstairs pay to Mark Prior's Bakoriffic ERA of 0.83 (in six starts with the catcher). Lemme tell ya, they should pay none. Six games is likely just a coincidence. Four of those games came in September, which is the only month of the season when Prior was healthy. You don't re-sign Bako because Prior finally found his release point.
At any rate, the situation is this: Bako made $865K last year, and now he's a free agent. The Cubs have a decision to make, but I'll invoke Nancy Reagan on this one: Just Say No.
DuBois (pronounced "one of DuBois, not one of de girls") followed up an extraordinary 2003 AFL performance with a great year in AAA. He's under 35, so he's not one of Dusty's boys, which led him to not being played at all down the stretch. Oh, until that last game, which turned out quite nicely.
Will DuBois be given a shot at a starting role on the club? If by "shot", you mean 3 games or so in Spring Training before his manager writes him off, sure. It should be noted that ZiPS sees DuBois putting up a line of 272/345/500 next year, much better than Alou (265/329/462) and about the same as Sosa (255/346/518). As with all projections, there are grains of salt at play here, but I think it's clear that Jason should be considered for a starting role.
If nothing else, it seems extraordinarily likely he'll be given a role as a right-handed bat off the bench. He can play both outfield corners and first base -- none of them well, which sounds a lot like a few other guys on this list.
Boy, that worked out well. You re-sign a washed up, no-hit, 85-year-old outfielder, and you expect him to be of use? You had Vince Coleman as a coach... was there really any difference between the two? Tom Goodwin and his $650K-waste-o-money butt is a free agent. See ya, buddy, you won't be coming 'round here no more.
Acquired as a Hollandsworth replacement for the stretch run, Grieve had another of his now-typical high OBP / low SLG years. Grieve is a sad, sad fielder. There's no getting around that fact, and it seems he's most suited to the bench on a team like Boston or his original club, Oakland. That said, he's a free agent who is unlikely to be back, but it would be fine if the Cubs re-signed him. Chances are good he'll outperform Hollandsworth offensively both next year and beyond, seeing as this is just about the first year in their careers he hasn't done so.
Hollandsworth was, without doubt, miraculous for the 2004 Cubs until he got injured. This was also entirely unexpected. Other than some super-inflated numbers he put up in Coors Field a few years back, he has been nothing more than an adequate fourth outfielder his entire career. He's a free agent, and I'm going to guess that his performance this year will tempt the Cubbies to bring him back for another turn on the bench. Be warned. Hollandsworth has his uses, and he's a fine pinch-hitter, but the numbers he put up last year were way out of character. Expect a repeat performance and you're sure to be disappointed.
Jose Macias Jose Macias plays a lot of positions. He has a tiny bit of speed, he doesn't strike out more than Corey Patterson, and he's really short. These are the only nice things I can say about a guy who wasted 194 at-bats while putting up a line of 268/292/376. There were a couple memorable games he had this year, but overall he was just horrid. Macias is not a utility infielder; he is someone you cut from your AA farm club.
Macias made $750K last year, and the Cubs maintain the rights to him for next year. He's also arbitration eligible, and you'd think he'd have a shot, somehow, of pushing $1M if he goes to court. It will be an interesting test of the front office to see if they're blinded by Macias' "versatility" and Dusty's clear loyalty to the dude. Hopefully they'll do the right thing and non-tender him.
Martinez was, in 2003, a valuable bench player. He played the infield positions adequately, and gave you solid if unspectacular production off the bench. He fell apart this year, however, and provided little reason for the Cubs to keep him around next. He's a free agent.
A late-season pickup and potential free agent, Neifi stunned the gods, the United Nations, the citizens of Turkmenistan, and the baseball world by hitting 371/400/548 in a Cubs uniform. He even walked three times!
Look, these things happen. You are lucky when they happen to you when your team is in a pennant race. But these things do not continue to happen. Lighting, meet bottle. Now go toss yourself into the sea.
I'm mortified that he's going to be re-signed this year to fill a Macias-Martinez role on the team. Perez is an excellent fielder, but his offensive detriments cannot be overstated. According to Lee Sinins' Runs Created Above Average, Neifi Perez is the fifth-worse offensive player since 1950 (2000 PA min). He will take the title of Worst Hitter, Last 50 Years, sometime around May of next year.
He is awful, awful, awful. And if he's a Cub next year, there will be much gnashing of teeth.