The High Cost of Mediocrity
Well, maybe it was just a case of misplaced faith on the part of Cubs fans. You see, our favorite GM Jim Hendry was supposed to have a big offseason this year. His team needed an overhaul, and he had the cash and pitching prospects to make it happen. Hendry’s task was pretty straight forward, he needed to obtain a leadoff man, sort out his middle infield situation, bolster the bullpen, and fill two outfield spots. It sounded like a daunting task, but Hendry also seemed to have a plan. First, he whet our appetites by signing(and overpaying for) Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry. Nice additions to the bullpen, but face it, these aren’t the sexy moves that would fix the offense. And besides, after the LaTroy Hawkins Experience, Cubs fans know not to get too excited about free agent relief pitchers. Obviously, this was Jim Hendry just clearing the simple jobs off his desk before he went for his big score: Rafael Furcal.
Oops. We all know what happened there. The Dodgers swooped in to sign Furcal. This left the Cubs up a creek without a paddle. Hendry bounced back by making a trade for Juan Pierre, but he was forced to overpay in prospects (consider that the Cubs traded 3 minor leaguers for Pierre, while the Red Sox traded 3 minor leaguers for Beckett, Lowell and Mota). Now there was a problem. Jim had planned on signing Furcal and then trading Todd Walker to fill the void in right field. But trading Walker would mean that the Cubs would have a starting middle infield consisting of light hitting rookie Ronny Cedeno and light hitting veteran Neifi Perez. There was still talk among the faithful that Hendry could pull off a deal for a right fielder, but now it would be tougher. With Walker off the table, and two of his better pitching prospects off to Florida, Hendry had considerably less clout in the trading market than he had expected. And with the outfield still unsettled, the Cubs felt they had to hang onto Corey Patterson.
I’m sure that Jim Hendry was working hard behind the scenes to aquire a right fielder. I’ll say that I was a little disappointed when Brad Wilkerson and Termel Sledge were traded to Texas. Rumors abounded that the Cubs had an interest in Jacque Jones, but this was written off as a ploy by the Cubs GM to get some leverage in the trade market. After all, trading is what Jim Hendry does best. Well, maybe not. You see, Manny Ramirez is still in Boston. Bobby Abreu remains in Philadelphia. Wilkerson and Kevin Mench are still in Texas. And Jacque Jones has signed a 3 year, $16 million deal to play right field for the Cubs. But hey, at least the Cubs savvy front office didn’t overpay.
You see, ever since Furcal signed with the Dodgers, Jim Hendry has been on the run. He hasn’t been proactive, he’s been reactive. And every move made has cost us a little more than it should have. Instead of being willing to pay the lump sum up front to make the team better, the Cubs are financing it right back into 4th place. Sure there’s still a chance that Hendry could pull off a deal for Miguel Tejada, but does anybody think that Hendry can do it, since he won’t be trading from a position of strength?
So in 2006, when you’re watching Jacque Jones strike out for the 120th time, think about how we’ve only got 2 more years of that. And when you see Neifi Perez batting 2nd and playing shortstop, well, we’ll only have to put up with that through 2007. Oh, and then look at the bench, and see that the Cubs are paying Corey Patterson $3 million or so to be pinch runner. Take it all in. And then just thank your lucky stars we didn’t overpay for Rafael Furcal.