Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Keystone Caper?
2005-07-29 07:42
by Derek Smart

Beyond congratulating Jerome Williams for holding down the fort despite being off his game, there's little about yesterday's contest worth commenting on. It was, for the most part, a lackluster effort at a time of year when such things are luxuries that cannot be afforded, and for the sake of my own sanity, I'd just as soon pretend it never happened.

Luckily, there are other things to discuss, as rumors have begun to surface that Jim Hendry has stuck his nose in the middle of the Alfonso Soriano sweepstakes.

The Cubs are after someone to boost their production in left field, which as we all know, has been less than stellar all season. The Reds appear to have closed their doors to any suitors interested in some of their outfield overflow, and even if they hadn't, Dan O'Brien was putting himself up there with Chuck LaMar (holder of the Golden Key of Huff-lepuff) as a GM who prefers dealing as a high-end retail store to getting down and bartering with the plebeians.

As we've all seen before, one of the positive qualities Jim Hendry brings to the table is the ability to walk away when a trade partner wants too much, then turn around and get creative to fill the need. Such is the case here, as the Cubs are supposedly only interested in Soriano if they can get assurances that he would be amenable to playing in left, which is where they would need him most.

Mention has been made of two other possibilities: that Todd Walker could be included in the deal somehow, and that since the Mets are unrepentantly panting after Soriano, a three-way deal could be swung that would get the Mets their man while sending Cliff Floyd to the Cubs. This seems like as good a time as any to go over a few numbers:


Above is a quick glance at what some of the various protagonists have achieved thus far in 2005. Several things jump out at me, the first of which is how foolish including Todd Walker in a deal for Soriano would be. Their EQAs are essentially the same, but Walker's edge in OBP trumps Soriano's power boost, particularly on a team like the Cubs that is so starved for baserunners.

Add in that, had they equivalent playing time, Walker's defense would actually make him a smidge more valuable this year (chew on that for a while and see how it tastes), and you've supplied me with plenty of reason why Soriano should only be a Cub if he's willing to abandon the infield.

And something does need to happen with left field, since Hollandsworth is still getting most of the starts, and has been, as we can see in the table, abysmal by any standards, but particularly when thinking about corner outfield spots. Soriano would definitely be an upgrade in that respect, but while you would be getting a tremendous power boost, you'd still be punting OBP, which is something I'm not sure the Cubs can afford.

That's what makes a three-way deal that nets Cliff Floyd so appealing. Granted, he has been a substantial injury risk over his entire career, and even this year he's been dealing with various small maladies that may contribute to what is, when one looks at his month by month numbers this season, a profound tendency toward streakiness.

Yet, his relative patience, solid power numbers, and left-handedness (which would allow continued balance in the lineup, and the possibility of shifting Jeromy Burnitz a little farther down the line) are distinct marks in his favor. He's also under contract for next year, and while the injury bug could always resurface, bear in mind that's exactly what Jody Gerut was procured for.

We'll have to wait and see what sort of treasure is being asked of the Cubs, assuming a deal even gets done, but this certainly bears watching as, one way or the other, there's a distinct chance the team could make itself better by the weekend.

2005-07-29 07:46:00
1.   cmat
Yeah, Floyd seems like a perfect fit for the cubs.
2005-07-29 08:32:56
2.   Dutch
FYI - Walker is batting .296 (not .269); a simple transposition, but thought I'd mention it...
2005-07-29 08:42:45
3.   Derek Smart
Thanks for the heads up. I hosed a couple of things in my haste, actually, but I think I got them all fixed.
2005-07-29 10:08:35
4.   Lefty
It's actually a little worse. Soriano is 29 years old, the 'correction' taking place when Soriano was traded to the Rangers.
2005-07-29 10:13:54
5.   Derek Smart
Fixed. I got the ages while I was getting the EQA and WARP1 stuff from BP, and it looks like they haven't updated his age there. When I double and triple checked after your comment, everyone else has him at 29. Looks like I'm having a hell of a day! ;)
2005-07-29 13:05:56
6.   rynox
What is WARP, anyways? TIA
2005-07-29 13:19:52
7.   Derek Smart
Sorry, rynox, I ususally link to a glossary with those type of stats. WARP1 is a Baseball Prospectus stat. Here's a quickie definition:

"Wins Above Replacement Player, level 1. The number of wins this player contributed, above what a replacement level hitter, fielder, and pitcher would have done, with adjustments only for within the season."

In other words, it's a stat that encompasses all of a player's contributions on the field - hitting, fielding, pitching - and expresses it as the number of actual victories that contribution is worth versus that of a standardized level: Replacement Level.

Here's a very quick and dirty definition of Replacement Level, taken from Keith Woolner's much more extensive essay explaining VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) found here (

"Replacement level is the expected level of performance the average team can obtain if it needs to replace a starting player at minimal cost."

I'll do a truly lousy job if I try to go in depth with Replacement Level, but very quickly, it isn't supposed to be average, it's a decent amount below average - the reason being that when you have to, say, replace Aramis Rameriez in your lineup, you aren't likely to be able to find a league average player to do so. You'll probably wind up with, say, Jose Macias, who over the course of his career, has been as close to begin right at Replacement Level as you're likely to find.

Anyway, I think I answered your question, or at least answered a lot of stuff around it. ;)

2005-07-29 14:58:10
8.   rynox
Thanks, but...ehh, it sounds rather abstract.
2005-07-30 09:14:15
9.   Tom
Steve Stone said on PTI yesterday that there was a Manny for Aram deal in the works. I was horrified.
2005-07-30 19:41:37
10.   Whitebacon
Fantastic stuff, Derek.
2005-07-31 00:12:31
11.   Sandus
Keep in mind that the ball sails out of that park in Arlington, which may inflate Soriano's numbers a little.
2005-07-31 08:47:33
12.   Derek Smart
True, Sandus, but remember that Wrigley is an absolute haven for right-handed home run hitters. A quick comparison:

From 2002-2004, The Ballpark at Arlington had a home run park factor of 124 for right handers.

Over the same period, Wrigley's home run park factor for right handers was 137.

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