Northside Archives – Jeff Blauser
On December 09, 1997 the Chicago Cubs signed shortstop Jeff Blauser to a free agent contract. Signed to a two year deal worth $8.4 million Blauser was supposed to be the answer to the Cubs woes at shortstop. With Ryne Sandberg out of the picture the Cubs needed a power bat in the middle of the infield. They certainly weren’t going to get that from second baseman Mickey Morandini. That’s why general manager Ed Lynch went after the Atlanta Braves all-star. It was a move that proved to be a day late and a dollar short.
The Jeff Blauser who donned the Cubbie blue was not the same Jeff Blauser who had touted Braves threads for the beginning of his career. A 4.8 WAR player with Atlanta in 1997, Blauser put up a WAR of -0.6 in 1998. You read that right, the hard hitting shortstop wasn’t able to hit much of anything in 1998 and posted a WAR in the negatives. His slash line was an extremely unappealing .219/.340/.299. The California native remained a stout fielder, but his bat was why the Cubs acquired him and his bat failed so much that when the playoffs began Blauser found himself on the bench relegated to a pinch hitting role.
1999 was supposed to be a bounce back year for Blauser, but it turned out to be much more of the same. His slash line of .240/.347/.420 showed slight improvement. Now a platoon infielder, Blauser’s power numbers remained the same, with a slight uptick in home runs but an equal down tick in doubles. His WAR did jump to 0.8, but that’s nowhere near the type of player the Cubs thought they were getting in the former all-star shortstop. It’s not surprising then that following the 1998 season the Cubs released Blauser and he retired from professional baseball.
Blauser is just one of many failed free agent signings the Cubs have managed to produce throughout the years. His failures remained especially troubling throughout the years because they helped to push the narrative of Cubs big time free agent signings falling flat on their respective faces. 2017 is not 1999 though, or 2004, or 2009. Recent success has made it easier to forget the transgressions of the past. But man, just a quick look at Jeff Blauser’s stats with the Cubs leaves an aura of pain that is hard to move beyond.