Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Back In The Loop, But Wishing I Weren't
2005-12-28 09:58
by Derek Smart

When last we met I was...oh, how should I say this...upset

I've calmed down a bit while spending a week in The Land That Babyproofing Forgot, but I'm not sure how much of that is exhaustion from repeatedly saving a defenseless cat from the clutches of perhaps the most relentless toddler on the planet, how much is resignation to an inescapable fate, and how much can be attributed to ketchup's natural mellowing agents.

Still, what with me bubbling over into a frothing rant at the Jones news, it's best that I was safely out of earshot as the Prior for Tejada rumors began to swirl.  I've had a couple of days to digest this possibility, and that being the case, I think I can speak with a little less vitriol on the subject than if I'd taken to keyboard with more immediacy, so here we go.

It is, quite simply, a win now strategy, and it makes one think that there must be some substantial pressure on Jim Hendry to make this thing work right this second or find another place of employment.  It's the only explanation I can think of, because even with Prior's injury history, there's simply too much potential there - really, if everything is harnessed, I don't think it's ridiculous to think he can be a once-in-a-generation type pitcher.

But I suppose that's part of why this is being proposed as well - the "ifs" inherent in Prior's career to date, which somewhat ironically, could be exactly what puts the kibosh on the whole thing, as the Orioles appear wary of his injury risk.

But in the end, from the Cub perspective, this potential deal comes from an opportunistic desperation with a hint of near-religious fervor - as if losing out on Rafael Furcal were some sort of ordained event meant to clear the way for this ray of light and hope that was Tejada's trade demand, with destiny revealing itself to Jim Hendry, showing him the path to glory that could only be attained by paying an incredibly steep price for a shortstop they should have been willing to pursue two years ago (that last bit's for Chuck).

Despite the offensive issues the Cubs face, I think it's a deal the organization would truly regret in the long term, especially since I don't think adding Tejada while subtracting Prior would make the team of championship quality, even with the theoretical addition of the talented but even more fragile Erik Bedard.

In fact, I find it hard to believe that the Cubs found prices for outfielders that could hit so outrageous that using Prior as a trading chit made more sense.  I don't know what it would have cost, but I'd be shocked if acquiring, say, Aubrey Huff and Julio Lugo would have been more expensive than what the combined price of Tejada and Jones would end up being in one of the proposed scenarios.

It is becoming more and more clear that the Cubs as an organization are being reactive and not proactive, which means they are not only failing to execute a plan, they simply don't have a plan to begin with.  After all the years and all the failures, you'd think we as a fan base would at least be owed that much.

2005-12-28 11:24:41
1.   Lefty
Well said. It does not inspire confidence when your GM sees one year of Alex Gonzalez v1.0 at $5.5 million as some sort of major obstacle.

I am a trader. The toughest thing is to move on from your losses. If Hendry makes the Tejada trade as presently constructed, he would be revealing himself to be at the mercy of factors beyond his control.

He has no plan. That seems mean-spirited and more critical than necessary. But I think it shows in the moves made over the past two years. Either we get lucky and win it, and that's fine by me, or Hendry is gone this year; also fine by me.

2005-12-28 11:57:50
2.   Todd S
Well...I think you could say just as easily that we're not privy to his plan, and when Tejada suddenly became available Hendry abandoned his plan to explore this new option. If that is the case, it is commendable.

(Theoretical question: Which is worse: having no plan or having a bad plan?)

This is not to say I'm a fan of the rumored Prior/Tejada swap. I'm not...but at least I get it. Let me echo Derek's sentiment that I'm very interested in knowing what Tampa is asking for Lugo and either Huff or Gathright. Right now. What are they asking? I mean, it's December 28th, and we're still staring straight down the barrell of 500 ABs from Neifi Perez in 2006. If you bat Neifi 8th and get production from all other lineup spots, this is a workable plan. But the Cubs just signed Jones to play RF, so that doesn't appear likely.

In other cheery news, James Click at Baseball Prospectus recently pointed out that based on WXRL (measure of bullpen performance), the Cubs had the least to gain by signing relievers than any other team in the majors. Hooray for Howry and Eyre and losing drat picks!

2005-12-28 12:58:02
3.   Tom
The deal I saw was Prior, and Korey AND Rich Hill. I'm kinda shocked that Prior alone isn't enough to get the deal done.

That being said, if it were Prior for Tejada straight up, I'd be okay with that. While Prior might be Cy Young, we already know that Tejada is pretty special.

Also, it is a lot easier to pick up a starting pitcher in free agency than it is to pick up a blue chip SS.

Don't get me wrong; I really like Prior. It's really easy to forget, though, that when he was coming up all we heard about were his "perfect mechanics" and how he'd never get hurt. He's been hurt a lot since his superb 2003 season.

2005-12-28 13:38:42
4.   aqc
Yes, Tom, but most of those injuries have little to do with flawed mechanics. They are not the chronic variety caused by such problems (See: Wood, Kerry).

This trade would force me to turn in my Cubs hat for it says to me the organization really doesn't get it and never will.

Tejada is 30, and while nice, I don't think it puts us over the top. Derek is right; Prior is a once-in-a-generation talent and only 25. There are perhaps four players I would want more than Mark Prior. In no particular order: Pujols, Cabrera, Santana and maybe Felix Hernandez. Plus, it's not particularly difficult to get that kind of offensive production from an outfielder, but we failed to do so.

Cedeño is a fine shortstop prospect. Plays wonderful D and hit .300 in his short stint in the majors. That's fine by me. We don't need that much offense. We need at least 90 starts from Wood, Prior and Zambrano. That will put this team into the playoffs. We limit the walks, homers and Koronka starts and we're fine.

And another thing, I'd rather have Rich Hill than Bedard, striaght up. This is a kid who led the minors in K's and still spent time in the bigs. Sure he's one dimensional, but he's not as bad as he's made out to be, especially if he improves that fastball. He's a little old (older than Prior and Zambrano, in fact), but he's a much better option than Bedard.

Don't let anyone tell you we don't have a wonderful pitching staff, 'cause we do. Zambrano, Prior, Wood, Williams and Maddux is pretty sweet. We have Lee and Ramirez, Barrett the highest VORP NL cathcer, Matt Murton and his high OBP and fantastic red hair, a fine bullpen, one of the better offensive second basemen, and that all-important Dusty-proof lead-off man who will utilize that tall Wrigley grass. Also, Corey as a bench player is pretty good (good D, can pinch-run, some power, lefty). Mabry, also a good bench guy. Neifi too and Macias is gone.

But I guess I'm delusional.

2005-12-28 14:24:56
5.   Tom
I don't like losing Rich Hill either.

Other than running into Marcus Giles, I'm not sure what has caused Prior's injuries. Most of the time, the Cubs haven't even been specific about what those injuries are.

I think this season will answer a lot of questions about Prior. If he plays a full season, I think we can put him back on the "once in a generation" track.

I like Prior. I'd like him to stay a Cub, and I'd like him to have a great career. But, I don't think the sky has fallen if they firmly glue Neifi into the bench and pick up Miggy.

2005-12-28 15:26:04
6.   aqc
Well, I can think of two other injuries: the achilles and Brad Hawpe. I'm not sure what caused the heel injury, but I'd like to believe it was not a mechanical problem.

See, I guess the fundamental disagreement here is that I don't believe 500 ABs of Neifi Perez dooms this team to another year out of the playoffs.

Let's put it this way. I believe:
Prior + Neifi and Cedeño at short
nets more wins for this team in 2006 than
Bedard + Tejada at short

And this doesn't include the age difference going forward or any B12 injections.

Also, am I the only one on the planet who thinks Perez will be used properly as a sub? I heard the Dusty interview on the Score and he said he understands Neifi is a bench guy. Neifi knows he's a bench guy. Everyone knows he's a bench guy. I guess last year down the stretch was frustrating, but I'm confident things have been worked out and Cedeño will start.

2005-12-28 16:47:27
7.   Todd S
#6 I doubt you're the only one on the planet, I just happen to disagree with you. Neifi will be a sub until Cedeno's first 5-game slump. Then Neifi will start, likely batting in the 2-hole.

I really hope I'm wrong about this, but I'm jaded by Dusty's history. I can see Mabry platooning with Murton by May as well.

(Just to be clear, I'm not rooting for either scenario to happen. But I'm skeptical Cedeno is going to be a .300 guy. Well, unless you're talking OBP.)

2005-12-29 02:45:23
8.   Poincare

Yes, I think you are the only one on the planet who thinks Perez will be used properly as a sub. Frankly, Neifi Perez sucks; it is rather difficult to use a player who sucks properly. Also, Dusty Baker is a fool. He has shown time and time again that he is foolish enough to do things like open last season with Burnitz hitting 5th in front of Derrick Lee (to "break up" the two right handed sluggers), bat Patterson and Perez 1-2 for a substantial period of time. I guarantee you if Derrick hadn't had such a huge year last season that the Cubs would open 2006 with Jacque Jones hitting 5th and Derrick Lee hitting 6th. I wish that idiot would pay attention to facts like Neifi Perez scoring a total of 54 runs last season in over 500 at-bats--the vast majority of them at the top of the order. Fifty-Four!!!

I was a big Dusty Baker fan when he played for the Dodgers. He was one of my favorite players from 1977-1984. When it comes to his managing, however, I am one of his most vocal critics. I am convinced that when it comes to making the right decisions about who should play, Dusty is the worst manager in baseball.

I hope I'm wrong about this, as I am a Cubs fan and Derrick Lee is one of my favorite players; but like Todd S. said, I am also jaded by Dusty's history.

2005-12-29 07:13:34
9.   The Real Neal

'Prior + Neifi and Cedeño at short
nets more wins for this team in 2006 than
Bedard + Tejada at short'

In 2005 going by Win Shares they netted about 3 less wins (8 win shares) than did Tejada and Bedard. I think Win Shares is a crappy stat, but pretty much any cross-positional stat is going to tell you that 162 games of Tejada is better than 25 starts from Prior.

The appeal that Tejada has can be described as reactionary. I think an ability to learn is a more apt description, though. In 2005 Hendry put too many eggs into his injury-prone player's baskets. The four main culprits- Wood, Garciaparra, Prior, Ramirez. He got rid of Nomar, and can't get rid of Wood. The appeal of having a shorstop who actually plays every- thus reducing the risk of the team floundering like it did in 2005 has to be pretty tempting.

I realize that you're stating your opinion on 2006 there, but being that Bedard has started more games than Prior over the last two seasons, the ascertion that Bedard is more injury prone isn't grounded in fact.

I think Hill is likely to follow the same career path as Juan Cruz and Mitre. He should have been traded to an organization that could use and develop him, but now he's just going to use up his options and get traded for a 5th outfielder or PTBN who turns out to be an A ball pitcher.

'Also, am I the only one on the planet who thinks Perez will be used properly as a sub?'

It's not that Dusty doesn't know what he is doing is wrong, it's just that he can't help himself. He's like a fat person when the desert tray rolls around. As soon as Cedeno puts up an 1 for 20, Dusty is grabbing at that slab of marble cake. Last year's cheesecake was Hollandsworth (with some Perez on top), this year it will be Perez.

2005-12-29 10:49:09
10.   Tom
I'm glad to see that Cubdom is more mixed on this subject than I initially heard through the media. From what I hear, the deal is dead though.

What I can't figure out is why the O's want Prior, instead of a grab-bag of prospects. I think if they are going to win, they are going to have to build a solid base of young talent. As much as fans hate it, a Marlins style fire sale (I think) helps them in the long run.

2005-12-29 11:28:16
11.   shuuto
"It is becoming more and more clear that the Cubs as an organization are being reactive and not proactive, which means they are not only failing to execute a plan, they simply don't have a plan to begin with."

This is so true, and I believe it goes back to last year and Sammy Sosa...

2006 was supposed to be Sosa's option year. I believe that all of Cubdom, fans and management alike, expected Sammy to be putting the cap on a HoF career next season. I'm sure some people even thought Sosa might still be productive after the '06 season, and he would be signed for a few years beyond that. Sosa is only 37. It wasn't unrealistic a few years ago to think that he could've been productive thru age 40. Simply put, RF was not supposed to be an issue until after the '06 season, if even then...

Of course, things went horribly wrong...

Sosa's career fell off a cliff, and he, literally, might be looking for work in Japan in '06. The Cubs, now a year removed from the Sosa debacle, still haven't got a clue as to what to do with RF. No real RF prospects in the minors. A few tepid trade rumours, but nothing serious. And now we're all stuck with three years of Jacque Jones and his inability to hit lefties. How bad is Jones against lefties? His career OPS against lefties is .616. Neifi's! is .723. Ouch! How's that for a sobering perspective? I'd feel a lot better about Jones if Hendry brought in someone to platoon him with. Eric Byrnes, who loves to hit lefties (career .862 OPS vs lefties), is just sitting out there in non-tendered land. Won't happen, though. Jones will play everyday. Dusty would, and probably will, platoon Murton before he'd platoon Jones. Can't platoon established players, you know...

I think Hendry did okay last year making the best of a bad situation. Burnitz wasn't much, but at least we were spared Sosa v.2005. It still doesn't excuse Hendry for not coming up with some sort of plan for this off-season. If there aren't any good FA's and trading for established RF talent is too costly, then why aren't the Cubs working on developing OF talent? There's Pie, who might be blocked if Hendry signs Pierre to an extension, but that's about it. I don't think the Cubs have another serious OF prospect in the organization. That's just inexcusable, but it shouldn't be surprising. The last regular position player the Cubs developed was Grace, I think? Regardless, it's been a while...

I just hope this isn't going to be the beginning of a long string of mediocre RF's for the Cubs. So far, the post-Sosa years are shaping up to be pretty ugly. Is RF going to become the new cursed possition of the Cubs, like 3B used to be before A-Ram showed up? It's sad how Sosa's departure is still affecting the Cubs. Would we even be discussing Prior for Tejada if Sosa was still producing and playing out his option in '06? Nope...

2005-12-31 13:09:28
12.   aqc
Real Neal:
"I realize that you're stating your opinion on 2006 there, but being that Bedard has started more games than Prior over the last two seasons, the ascertion that Bedard is more injury prone isn't grounded in fact."

You can disagree, but you can't say it isn't grounded in fact. Missing significant time last year due to a knee ligament is a fact. Already having had TJ surgery is a fact. And a two-game difference! You're joking, right? So you can take a single measure where the two essentially break even and assert that something isn't "grounded in fact"?

2005-12-31 14:29:02
13.   The Real Neal

Since becoming a pro here's a list of seasons where Mark Prior hasn't been hurt:

I don't know how you define injurty prone- but to me a player who never makes all his starts - for ankle, hamstring, elbow, elbow, or shoulder injuries is injury prone.

'So you can take a single measure where the two essentially break even and assert that something isn't "grounded in fact"?'

Yes. Not only can I do that, but I did do that. Do you have any facts that contradict that? As I understand it TJ surgeries are typically one and done, having had one previously doesn't pre-dispose you to having another.

If you think they're equally prone to injury I could agree. If you say that Bedard is more so- You haven't been following the Cubs since Prior came up. He always (read: every single year)get's hurt.

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