I’ve had a couple of days to digest the New Year’s Eve roster shuffle, and I still don’t feel all that different from my instant react: the Cubs are a worse team now than they were at the start of the week.
Now, there’s a good reason for that, something local coverage doesn’t seem to have noticed (Paul Sullivan theorizing about Miles being the new leadoff hitter was the high of missing-the-point-ness, and a bad idea better left unsaid) but seems to have been grasped nationally. It goes kinda like this:
+3.5mil = DeRosa ($5.5) -> Miles ($2.0)
+5.0mil = Jason Marquis ($9.0) -> Viscano ($3 + $1mil to take Marquis)
+2.0mil = Henry Blanco ($2.8; free agency) -> Paul Bako (>$1mil; strongly rumored but not announced)
10.5mil freed up, just about enough for the first year of Milton Bradley’s contract.
This is really all this was: they liked DeRosa, but he was expendable because he didn’t find time to learn how to switch hit in between playing six positions, and they could cut costs there to use it elsewhere. I hate the move because I like DeRosa, but I understand having to do it in a fixed budget situation. The players acquired are pretty meaningless; two unremarkable A ball pitchers and a possible situational lefty don’t amount to all that much.
Except – how are the Cubs in a topped out budget situation? They seemed to do pretty okay in ticket sales, merchandise and the like last year. While the economy is down, the revenues generated by the Chicago National League Ballclub are going in the other direction. Even with the new contract for Dempster (and all of the other escalating contracts that Hendry always backloads), the cupboard shouldn’t be empty.
It’s the ownership. Or lack of one. Or lack of one that’s not bankrupt and afraid of disaster striking the Cubs and having to cover the losses. The Cubs should easily be able to cover all they’re liable for in future contracts, but when other business under the envelope are worried about existing in the near future, they’re probably hesitant to take chances.
I really don’t there’d be the same problem with a new owner. The economy would still be bad, but the owner would’ve just gotten this team, be dealing with a questioning public (who have only been told about Mark Cuban’s interest in the team and might be less than trusting of anyone not named Cuban at this point) and not looking to make his first big impression by restricting money spent on the team. Nor would they want to send one of the more popular players out the door for magic beans – owning a major sports franchise is too much of an ego stroke to do that, at the start
What I’m trying to say is I think Mark DeRosa is a Cleveland Indian, and Aaron Miles is a regrettable Chicago Cub, because the sale has taken so long. If this hadn’t been dragged out, they find that extra $3.5 million. All along, we’ve been told the sale isn’t affecting things, it’s business as usual, but this a clear sign of the club being harmed because this sale is taking forever. I hope they’re everyone’s finally not wrong when they say it’ll be over before the season starts, because I’m ready for it.
As for the actual player acquired here…
When I was talking about this on Wednesday, I compared Aaron Miles to Neifi Perez, a horrible accusation. Miles has 20 more points of Average and 30 more points of On Base for his career, so he’s a slightly better Neifi Perez when hitting and apparently a worse one fielding. It’s a much more nuanced way of saying he’s still not any good.
The goal for second base in 2008 has to be a right/left platoon. It’s kinda funny, given all the second baseman who’ve been around this decade that I can’t think of any times where the Cubs have done one before at that position, but Fontenot has always been extremely better versus right hand pitchers. If you’re getting him the starting job, you’re getting a guy who will perform pretty good most of the time (defensive metrics rate his fielding pretty good too; I didn’t see it as better than average but I’ll go with it) but must have a partner to face lefties.
Miles vs Lefties
Miles is a black hole of power versus lefties. He does walk far more often from that side, but he’s average at best. This is not a guy you need to pay $2 mil for two years – average middle infielders who can hit right handlers are a plentiful resource and there’s nothing special about Miles that requires him locked you. If Miles doesn’t want to take your 1 year offer, there are still plenty of Willie Bloomquist around to be the 25th man instead.
I’d rather just gamble on AAAA/questionable guy (or, more likely, a few of them in Spring Training and see who pans out) than sign them, but this is a case where they pay more to play it safe before trading DeRosa, where safe as comfortably bad. Most any AB Miles gets is going to be a wasted one.