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Thing To Do While Waiting For News
by Derek Smart
With the passing of the holidays and the impending January 8 deadline for teams to sign free agents who refused their offered arbitration, the rumor mills are starting to heat up once again. May as well take a moment to toodle around and see where the Cubs factor in.
The rumor from Monday's Daily Herald about the Cubs possibly pursuing Jeromy Burnitz made my stomach turn, and not just because he (or perhaps his parents) are apparently incapable of spelling his first name correctly.
Let's start with the fact that Burnitz will be 36 during the coming season, and his last good year that wasn't heavily park aided came in 2001, his final year in Milwaukee, when he posted a .251/.347/.504 line. There are now three seasons since that one, and while his season in Colorado last year was plenty good, and he actually posted an identical EQA to that 2001 season (.283), I'm still dubious of his ability to return to the form he sported at the tender age of 32.
He's also a big flyball hitter, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, let's take a look at where he'd fit among last year's Cubs.
I've put in last year's GB/FB, but I ranked them by career as it seems a more likely number for them to revert to, particularly for those who have been in the league longer. Looking at the list, Burnitz would be the most extreme flyballer on the club outside of Aramis Ramerez, and for those of you who remember the offensive frustration we all felt nearly every time the wind was blowing in at the Friendly Confines, just think of how much worse it could be with JerOmy in the lineup.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, Carlos Beltran comes in at 0.84 for 2004 and 1.27 career, and Magglio Ordonez at 1.45 in his few games last year and 1.34 all time. Both of those players seem like better fits for all sorts of reasons, but those career GB/FB numbers just add another data point for me.
Don't get me wrong, I could accept Burnitz as a fourth outfielder, but that's not the job he's looking for, and that's not how the Cubs would use him, so I say hands off, please.
It also appears that, according to the Sun-Times, the Cubs have made some sort of offer to Beltran. It's supposed to be in the 5-6 year range, and the article states that if the Cubs decided to get serious that they would at least come close to matching the 6 year, $90M deal that Drayton McLane denies the Astros made.
That's about as high as I would want them to go, and with the Mets reportedly willing to enter 9-digit territory, it's unlikely to be enough. I'd support offering more money over fewer years - say 5 at $90M, making the average yearly salary $18M - but going much higher in total dollars, or extending the length of the contract is getting into domains where I have little comfort. Thankfully, Jim Hendry seems to have similar feelings, so the chance that we'll see a patently ridiculous contract offer from 1060 W. Addison is remote at best.
Next, from the "Things I Made Up" division, we have this entry from Dave van Dyck in this morning's Tribune, in which he states that if the Cubs pursuit of Beltran comes up dry (which it certainly will if they continue to be, according to the article, "reluctant to offer a player a six-figure contract". Aren't typos fun!), that the ensuing bidding war for the services of Magglio Ordonez will heavily favor the Cuddly Bears.
Well, it might, as it certainly appears that Ordonez expressed an interest in staying in Chicago, but there has been absolutely no noise from the Cubs in this direction, and until there is I won't bother getting all worked up about it. I'd love to see an incentive-laden deal that brought Maggs to the North Side, maybe more than I'd like to see a deal for Beltran, but until I see a sourced report that the game is on, I'll have to assume that Burnitz is the target (I just trust Bruce Miles more on these things) and take measures to keep from throwing up in my own mouth.
And finally, from the Wacky Tobaccy Department, there's this report from ESPN's fantasy site that the Rockies are trying to deal Todd Helton to the Cubs for Sammy Sosa and Derrek Lee (thanks to Roy G. Biv for the link).
Now, I love Helton. He'd be a great addition to the Cubs, and if we were talking about this transaction purely from a talent standpoint, and with the assumption that the money freed up would go toward bringing Beltran on board, I could be persuaded to like this deal.
Of course, other factors enter into it, the biggest of which is Todd Helton's contract, which is going to make anything given to Beltran look like the wage of a line worker at your local Mickey D's. There are seven guaranteed years left on the thing according to Dugout Dollars, with the salary over that period totalling $114.7M, and an additional $4.6M buyout for that pesky $23M eighth year when Helton would be a rosy-cheeked 38.
If Jim Hendry isn't willing to take a speedy, powerful center fielder beyond his 33rd birthday or $90M, then what would persuade him to take a first baseman with a history of back problems beyond his 37th year for nearly $30M more? The answer, of course, is nothing. Barring a significant alteration of his contract which the players union would certainly never approve, or a huge wad of Colorado cash, which would negate most of what would make this deal attractive to the Rockies, this rumor, while a ton of fun, is a non-starter.