In the first of what I hope is many moves by Jim Hendry this offseason, the Cubs announced that they had exercised the options on Todd Walker and Scott Williamson, but have declined the option on Burnitz. Rather than bashing Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker like many have done, including myself, I am going to try to look at the Cubs from an optimistic point of view, starting with this move.
I can’t be happier about this move. I like Todd Walker a lot and I think his play at 2b is very underrated by MLB as well as most Cub fans who were fine with the idea of the Cubs handing him his walking papers. He is a solid hitter that can hit in numerous spots in the order. A quick check on Baseball Reference has him most similar to Jose Vidro, who if I remember correctly was a guy that a lot of fans were craving. Walker is a career .290 hitter with a career .348 On Base %. Those are numbers that are very much what the Cubs need to be successful. He makes good contact and does not strike out a lot. In his 5 seasons in which he had at least 500 Ab’s, he has never struck out more than 85 times, and has drawn somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 walks in the process.
Some harp on Walker for his defense, but that is just foolish. He is a career .981 fielder at 2b, which is equal to the league average. No Range at 2b they say? his 4.37 range factor is higher than the 4.29 league average range factor, which makes him above average. Those fielding stats, coupled with his solid bat and small price tag make Todd Walker a gem of a player to have on this ball club and one I feel is vital to the Cubs being successful in 2006.
Before you get your panties in a bunch about Williamson, let me make my case for this guy. Before he busted himself up physically, he was an extremely dominant man out of the Cincinnattcinchingi pen. In his rookie year, he post 12 wins out of the pen, as well as 19 saves. His career ERA is slightly over 3 at 3.08. In 2004, while playing for Boston, he was having a great season before getting hurt. He even admits himself that last year, he tried to come back too soon. So, if that’s the case, we need to throw out the 2005 stats due to injury. If that’s the case, then Scott Williamson could be gold in 2006 as he comes back completely healthy. At 2 million, I think Scott is definitely worth the gamble to shore up a pathetic bullpen