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Bye, Bye, Burnie
by Derek Smart
According to the Tribune today, the Cubs won't be picking up their $7M option on Jeromy Burnitz, and as further confirmation, he shows up among the folks mentioned in this ESPN.com article as having filed for free agency.
I'll admit to a bit of surprise, partly because the free agent market is so thin, but mostly because my pessimism as at a level where I don't expect the organization to make good decisions, so opting to pass on a deal that only makes sense if one places a lot of stock in convenience is a somewhat unexpected positive.
Signing Burnitz wasn't the apocalyptic move I envisioned, and in many ways he was a refreshing presence, always working hard, playing a good right field, and just generally keeping a low profile. After years of what seemed at times to be the exact opposite, a season where we weren't subjected to all the little trials that came as the price of production was something of a relief.
Still, with his .322 OBP and his declining power, even though he had his utility last year when considering the club's Sosa-induced financial situation and what was available for purchase at the time, he was more like two parts problem, one part solution, and that's a lousy ratio for the kind of price tag he came with for 2006.
Of course, it's still technically possible for Burnitz to be a Cub - the mere fact of his option being declined and the subsequent declaration of free agency
doesn't obviate signing him to a less onerous deal - but I'd be unwilling to wager on his return. Now the job becomes finding his replacement, and while cutting these ties was the absolutely correct thing to do, that doesn't make the task at hand any less difficult.