Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Second (Base) to None

At one point during this season, the Cubs had five second basemen on their roster. The ironic thing was that none of them were very good. Todd Walker can hit, but he’s not a very good fielder. Neifi Perez can field, but he doesn’t offer much at the plate. The other three didn't hit or field very well.

Todd Walker is the Cubs best 2nd baseman, yet Dusty Baker insisted on playing Neifi Perez much more than he deserved. Such has been the Cubs first half in 2006. The question now is, what about next year? Here are the options:

Todd Walker – Right/Left, Age 33. Walker is signed through the 2006 season and will become a FA at the end of the year. He currently earns $2.5 million per year. Career offensive stats (through 2005 season): .290/.349/.437, 1256 hits in 1209 games, 101 HR, 521 RBI. 2006 offensive stats (through 7/3/06): .289/ .361/.376, 76 hits in 77 games, 3 HR, 33 RBI. Discussion: Cubs fans will never admit it, but it was Walker who stepped up when Derrick Lee injured his wrist and spent time on the DL. Everyone thought it would be ARam, but he faded into the woodwork. Walker moved over to play first base in DLee’s absence and did a good job in the field and with the bat. Even so, Cubs fans have never really taken to Walker. Neither have Dusty Baker or Jim Hendry. I’ve never understood that. It appears Walker will be playing elsewhere in 2007 (or before).

Other options:

Brian Roberts (Baltimore Orioles) – Right/Switch, Age 28. Roberts will become a FA at the conclusion of the 2006 season. He currently earns $3.075 million per year plus incentives. Career offensive stats (through 2005 season): .282/.348/.403, 652 hits in 588 games, 31 HR, 228 RBI. 2006 offensive stats (through 7/3/06): .316/.380/.412, 79 hits in 62 games, 1 HR, 33 RBI. Discussion: Nothing against Brian Roberts, but what do you get with him that you couldn’t get from Ronny Cedeno at 2nd? Roberts might be a slightly better hitter, but he costs significantly more and he’s five years older. Let’s move Cedeno over to 2nd and see how things work.

Jorge Cantu (Tampa Bay Devil Rays) – Right/Right, Age 24. Cantu is signed through the 2006 season, but will not become a FA at the end of the year because he will not have enough ML service time (1.079 years). He currently earns $327,000 per year. Career offensive numbers (through 2005 season): .288/.319/.478, 267 hits in 240 games, 34 HR, 160 RBI. 2006 offensive stats (through 7/3/06): .282/.326/.423, 44 hits in 40 games, 4 HR, 26 RBI. Discussion: Cantu is a cowboy, so I like him. His family owns an 8,645 acre ranch in Mexico and Cantu wants to work on the ranch full-time once he retires. Until then, he’s a very serviceable 2nd baseman. But is he better than Ronny Cedeno? If he is, he’s not significantly better. Again, I have to vote for Cedeno.

Mark Grudzielanek (Kansas City Royals) – Right/Right, Age 36. Grudzielanek is signed through the 2006 season with a vesting option for 2007. He currently earns $4 million per year and is scheduled to earn $3 million in 2007. Both years include incentives. Career offensive stats (through 2005 season): .287/.329/.391, 1695 hits in 1509 games, 77 HR, 527 RBI. 2006 offensive stats (through 7/3/06): .282/.319/.386, 84 hits in 73 games, 3 HR, 25 RBI. Discussion: Why can’t Grudz get any love? The guy played well for the Cubs and was rewarded by the club not picking up his option. He then went to St. Louis and played well, even helping them get to the WS, but he wasn't re-signed there either. He’s now in Kansas City, he’s playing well, and the Royals are rumored to be interested in trading him. What gives? In any case, Grudz brings a veteran presence to 2nd base, but there’s not a lot of upside with him. I like Grudz, but I think I’d still have to opt for Cedeno.

Discussion: I think Roberts, Cantu or Grudzielanek would all work well for the Cubs, but I don’t think any of them bring anything to the table that Ronny Cedeno doesn’t bring. Plus, Cedeno is a young, inexpensive player with a lot of upside.

If I were king, I would choose:

1) Ronny Cedeno
2) Jorge Cantu (I like his age)
3) Brian Roberts
4) Mark Grudzielanek

Any of these guys would do the job, but I think it would be good to have some youth at 2nd base to offset the veteran presence I am recommending at other positions.


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