Showing posts with label Alfonso Soriano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alfonso Soriano. Show all posts

Friday, August 1, 2014

Top five deadline deals for the Cubs since 2000

The Cubs have been both buyers and sellers over the last decade and a half. While neither reinforcements nor rebuilding pieces have yielded a World Series title like it did for the White Sox in 2005, they have at times put the franchise in better position to win.

Here are the best moves the Cubs have made at the deadline since 2000:

5. July 26, 2013: Traded Alfonso Soriano and cash to the New York Yankees. Received Corey Black.

The Cubs and many of their fans have accepted the sorry state of the team as the repercussions of a bloated payroll spent on an aging team that never got over the hump in the late 00s. Nobody represented this comeuppance like Soriano, who was signed to an eight-year, $136 million contract before the 2007 season to help push the team over the top.

It's been easy to complain about that contract as the Cubs look to be headed to a fifth straight season with at least 87 losses. Considering how fast the rest of the team aged just as fast around Soriano, trying to exploit their window to win really might have been the best decision by team management, even though it all ended when the Cubs agreed to pay the Yankees most of what was left on Soriano's deal that runs through this year.

Black won't ever help the Cubs, so Soriano yielded no future pieces. But by getting rid of him and the excuse his contract had become for why the team can't afford to go bigger on the free agent market, or can't assemble a team on a reasonable budget, the management team of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer is back on the clock. Their rebuilding plan will either start to pay dividends, or the next guys in charged will be asked to improve the team, hopefully without a big Soriano-like contract signed under Epstein and Hoyer in an attempt to save their jobs.

4. July 31, 2000: Traded Scott Downs to the Montreal Expos. Received Rondell White.

The Cubs were below .500 when they pulled the trigger to land White, who predictably got hurt less than a month later. He'd also live up to the nickname Ron-DL playing only 95 games the next year, but White was pretty good (.310/.374/.515) when he played and was part of the reason the Cubs went from 65-97 to 88-74 the next year, missing the playoffs by only five games. For the cost of a future lefty specialist like Downs, that's pretty good.

3. July 27, 2001: Traded a player to be named later and Manny Aybar to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Received Fred McGriff. The Cubs sent Jason Smith (August 6, 2001) to the Rays to complete the trade.

Despite his initial refusal to join the team, McGriff did eventually come north the Chicago to bat .282/.353/.559 with 12 home runs as the Cubs stayed in the NL Central race. The only condition was that his new team pick up a $6.5 million option for the next season. That would have been a no-brainer anyway, so the Cubs flexed their pocketbook to make it happen.

That option ended up being a great deal for the Cubs as McGriff hit .273/.353/.502 in what was the last fine season of a long and very good career. It could have only worked out better if the Cubs had been able to spin McGriff off at the 2002 deadline as the team was careening towards another 90-plus loss season.

2. July 5, 2014: Traded Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija to the Oakland Athletics. Received Billy McKinney, Addison Russell, Dan Straily and player to be named.

It's maybe way too early to rank this deal this highly. All of the prospects going the Cubs' way could become busts, leaving them with nothing for one of the best pitchers on the market this summer in Samardzija and a solid complimentary arm in Hammel.

This deal also happened a bit early in the year for some to consider it a true deadline trade, but that's one of the reasons I liked this move for the Cubs. By striking so early, they might have gotten a better package of talent than any other team got for pitchers that I think are much more talented than Samardzija and Hammel.

Time will tell if this deal really belongs here, but credit Cubs management for striking decisively.

1. July 23, 2003: Traded a player to be named later, Matt Bruback and Jose Hernandez to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Received Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez and cash. The Cubs sent Bobby Hill (August 15, 2003) to the Pirates to complete the trade.

The Cubs traded what looked like a plate full of leftovers for a guy in Ramirez who had struggled in Pittsburgh, but was talented enough to become the meat of Chicago's lineup for the rest of the decade. Ramirez was arguably one of the best third basemen of his era, batting .294/.356/.531 and playing for five winning Cubs teams, including three playoff squads.

Don't discount Lofton, either, an underrated player who went on a tear for the Cubs (.327/.381/.471) as they squeezed into the playoffs that year and were maybe only one tragic play (or magic if you're a Marlins fan) from going to the World Series.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An unapologetic defense of Adam Dunn

With baseball's non-waiver trade deadline looming, the days of Adam Dunn in a White Sox uniform are likely short. The slugger will probably be shipped to a team in need of a left-handed power bat.

It wasn't that long ago that there was an open debate over which Chicago baseball player had the most disastrous contract: Dunn and his four-year, $56 million pact or Alfonso Soriano and the eight-year, $136 million contract the Cubs handed out.

I don't think it ever merited that much debate. Soriano made more per year on a contract twice as long. And now with the benefit of more hindsight as both contracts are nearly off the books there's this to consider -- the Sox got exactly what they should have expected from Dunn when they signed him.

How would this contract look if Dunn's career performance looked like this the last four years?

Year 1: .229/.363/.435
Year 2: .219/.320/.442
Year 3: .204/.333/.468
Year 4: .159/.292/.277

Coming off a .260/.356/.537 batting line in Washington the year before, this looks like a hitter who lost a chunk of batting average and power but was still a decent hitter the first season. Year 2 is a disappointment with the power still missing and some of the strike zone control now gone along with it. The third year looks like a rebound with the power coming back, even though all of the on-base percentage didn't. The final year looks like the end of the line for a designated hitter who can't make contact, can't hit for power and can't get on base as a result.

Should the Sox or anyone else have expected more from a 31-year-old slugger who even in his prime struggled to make contact? That looks like a completely typical aging pattern for Dunn's type of player.

The only peculiar thing about that career arc is that it's the opposite of how Dunn's year-to-year performance in a Sox uniform played out.

Obviously there are circumstances around these numbers to account for. This year might be Dunn's best year with the Sox, despite being three years older. Of course, this is also the first year the Sox have acknowledged Dunn's struggles against left-handed pitchers and have aggressively limited his exposure to them. And if Dunn had really batted .159 with no power in the final year of his contract, there's probably no way he'd have gotten nearly 500 plate appearances to try to right the ship.

The Sox would have benefited in this alternate universe where Dunn's seasons are reversed. The 2011 season, when the team was as close as three games back for the division lead as late as July 30, perhaps unfolds differently if Dunn and Alex Rios aren't both posting disastrous seasons.

Dunn wouldn't have been as good as he actually was in 2012, so maybe that Sox team spends more of the season chasing rather than leading before falling off in the end. In the backwards timeline, Dunn has a resurgent season that probably can't save the 2013 team that is forced to rebuild, but maybe he's dealt for better talent than he's likely to fetch in the real world this week and the Sox avoid the disastrous final year and a half of his contract.

None of that happened because baseball is a funny game that doesn't care about typical aging and performance patterns. As it is, this isn't the end of the road for Dunn's career. He should draw some interest on the trade market, and if he's willing to accept that teams will want to platoon him to keep him away from lefties, he can probably play for several more years, likely making at least $5 million per year doing it.

If the Sox do say goodbye to Dunn this week, they shouldn't feel like they got cheated.

Friday, December 13, 2013

More Cubs/Sox Rule 5 Draft Fun!

The word "fun" really deserves any derisive quotation marks you would throw around it. At least when talking about the Rule 5 Draft results for both Chicago teams.

Too be fair, it's been tougher to mine talent from this draft since MLB changed the rules for who is eligible before the 2006 draft. Organizations now get another full season to decide if a guy might be Johan Santana (taken by the Marlins from the Astros in 1999, then immediately traded to the Twins) or Andrew Sisco (taken by the Royals from the Cubs in 2004, a year later traded to the White Sox, perhaps soon toiling in an independent league near you!).

The idea of transforming under-appreciated, or maybe under-developed talent remains tantalizing, even if the pool of talent is diminished. And maybe you must be an optimist to think players unloved enough by their current organization to be left of the 40-man roster can be useful for your big league team the entire season.

So what was have the White Sox and Cubs hoped for then gotten from the Rule 5 Draft in recent years?

The Cubs have taken many more chances on guys in the draft. That's probably partly because the Cubs have had more "rebuilding" rosters, and because for some reason the Sox didn't look at guys like Andy Gonzalez, Lance Broadway, Jack Egbert or Donny Lucy and think, "Huh, maybe we could do better?"

Results since the rule changes:

Angel Sanchez (2012): Taken by the White Sox from the Angels.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Here's a middle infield with a slick glove, maybe he can make enough contact to be as good as Alcides Escobar!"
How He Worked Out: Sanchez appeared in one game and went hitless in both plate appearances. He got hurt, went on a rehab assignment to the minors, and was offered back to the Angels when the rehab was over. The Angels said no thanks, so he went back to Charlotte. Then the White Sox said no thanks when they released him.
Impact For Sox: Meh. He might have been better than Andy Gonzalez. That still probably makes him less good than an ideal utility infielder.

Hector Rondon (2012): Taken by the Cubs from the Indians.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Here's a right-hander who strikes guys out and doesn't walk many guys! He could be a setup man or closer!"
How He Worked Out: Rondon did stick with the Cubs last season, though with a low-90s fastball, he wasn't able to keep his strikeouts quite as high, or the walk totals quite as low as he did in the lower levels of the minors.
Impact For Cubs: That Rondon might be part of the closer discussion for the Northsiders next year says more about the Cubs bullpen than Rondon's ability. He is still around, and still back-end bullpen filler until he can start getting more pitches past big league hitters.

Lendy Castillo (2011): Taken by the Cubs from the Phillies.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Here's another solid bullpen piece! He doesn't walk many guys, give up many hits or home runs!"
How He Worked Out: During his 16-inning stint with the Cubs, Castillo walked or gave up a hit to almost half the batters he faced. He wasn't returned to the Phillies, but he continued to get battered around in the minors, his walks and home-runs allowed both rocketing upward.
Impact For Cubs: The hit Castillo gave up to pitcher Mark Buehrle could make it onto a Buehrle career retrospective DVD. Maybe if it's a box set.

Mason Tobin (2010): Taken by the Cubs from the Angels, sold to the Rangers.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "The Cubs make a few bucks! We can apply it to payroll!"
How He Worked Out: He hasn't worked out for anyone.
Impact For Cubs: Whatever the Cubs made probably went to Alfonso Soriano's contract.

Mike Parisi (2009): Taken by the Cubs from the Cardinals.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Here's a guy with a little big league experience!"
How He Worked Out: Parisi's experience with the Cardinals was getting blown up for for an ERA over 8.00 for a couple months and 23 innings the year before. It remains his only experience.
Impact For Cubs: Zip.

Jim Henderson (2006): Taken by Cubs from the Nationals.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Here's a guy who really turned the corner in the minors last year after converting from starting to relieving!"
How He Worked Out: Henderson needed more work, but did toil a couple more years for the Cubs in the minors before they released him.
Impact For Cubs: None until the Brewers picked him up. Now he sports a career 2.98 ERA for them with 31 saves -- including seven against the Cubs.

Josh Hamilton (2006): Taken by Cubs from Rays, sold to the Reds.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Something for nothing!"
How He Worked Out: The Cubs got basically nothing for 2010 AL MVP.
Impact For Cubs: Fortunately the Reds also didn't think much of Hamilton, shipping him to the Rangers for what they hoped was pitching help. At least Cubs fans didn't have to see much of Hamilton while wondering what would have happened if they'd just kept him instead of signing Soriano.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Yankees are even worse than I thought

I wrote yesterday that it doesn't look like New York will be making the playoffs this season. After watching the Yankees' performance the last two days at U.S. Cellular Field, I'm 100 percent convinced that team does NOT have a late-season push in them.

Check out the lineup New York was fielding last night: 37-year-old Alfonso Soriano batting second; 38-year-old Alex Rodriguez batting third; 34-year-old Vernon Wells (pictured) batting fifth; Jayson Nix, a lifetime .218 hitter, batting sixth; Eduardo Nunez batting seventh; 26-year-old rookie David Adams hitting eighth; and some catcher named Austin Romine batting ninth.

Wow. That list is full of has-beens and never-will-bes. Cleanup hitter Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in the game, and leadoff hitter Brett Gardner is a respectable player. Anybody else in that lineup you'd want on your team? I don't think so.

Even without his best command, White Sox ace Chris Sale limited that crummy lineup to one run on five hits over 7.1 innings in Chicago's 3-2 victory. And, the one run the Yankees scored off Sale was gifted to them after the Sox middle infielders failed to turn a routine double-play ball off the bat of Soriano in the first inning.

New York's high-water mark for this season was May 25, when it had a 30-18 record. Since that day, the Yankees have gone 27-37. Among American League teams, only the White Sox (19-45) and Houston Astros (23-40) have been worse over that same time frame.

The Yankees enter Wednesday's play at 57-55, in fourth place in the American League East, 10.5 games behind first-place Boston. I'll go ahead and write it: New York is toast for this year.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Alfonso Soriano headed back to the Yankees, reports say

Reports indicate the Cubs will soon be sending veteran outfielder Alfonso Soriano back to the team he started with -- the New York Yankees.

The Cubs will be receiving 21-year-old right-hander Corey Black in the trade. Black, who has been pitching at Class-A Tampa, is 3-8 with a 4.25 ERA in 19 starts this season. Never heard of him before today. I'm sure the Cubs will be sending him to either Kane County or Daytona soon enough.

The trade is reportedly awaiting the approval of MLB commissioner Bud Selig. Soriano, 37, is owed $24.5 million on his contract which runs through the end of the 2014 season. Reports indicate the Cubs will send $17.7 million to the Yankees as part of the deal. That seems like a lot, but hey, it's sunk cost at this point and the Cubs are actually saving about $7 million. Best of all, they make Soriano go away and open up a spot in their outfield for a younger player who might be part of their future plans.

Soriano waived his 10-and-5 rights to accept the deal. In many ways, this is the official end of the Jim Hendry Era for the Cubs. Soriano was the last player on the roster with full no-trade rights.

As GM, Hendry handed out no-trade clauses like candy. Derrek Lee, Aramis RamirezRyan Dempster, Carlos Marmol, Soriano, they were all exceedingly hard to get rid of, in part, because they had no-trade protection in their contracts.

The new regime on the North Side isn't big on handing out no-trade clauses, and they'd be wise to keep it that way. Now that Soriano is gone, any player on the Cubs roster can be traded at any time without their consent. That's obviously a more favorable situation for management.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's time for the White Sox to trade Matt Thornton

Let's get right to the point of today's blog entry: There is no way Matt Thornton should be back with the White Sox in 2014.

Thornton is already overpaid this season. He's making $5.5 million. The White Sox hold a $6 million option on him for next year with a $1 million buyout. 

It would be insanity to pick up that option.

Thornton is being paid like a closer, but at this stage of his career, he's nothing more than a situational left-handed reliever. Just check out his lefty-righty slash line for this year:

vs. left-handers: .176/.236/.629
vs. right-handers: .333/.429/.866

Thornton looks like a pitcher who no longer trusts his stuff against right-handed batters. Case in point, Monday night's game against the Cubs. Thornton entered the game in the eighth inning of a 2-2 tie. He retired the left-handed batting Anthony Rizzo, then started picking at the corners of the plate against a pair of right-handed hitters.

It's difficult to walk the free-swinging Alfonso Soriano, but Thornton managed to do it on four pitches. He then fell behind 3-and-1 to switch-batting Dioner Navarro before giving up a single. Then, the left-handed Luis "Boom Boom Valbuena, who inexplicably owns the Sox, punked Thornton for a two-run double that gave the Cubs a 4-2 lead. That ended Thornton's night, and he took the loss as the North Siders went on to an 8-2 victory.

Thornton is 36 years old, and he's been in steady decline over the last four years. His numbers reflect that. Take a look at the statistics below. In particular, pay attention to the rising ERA and declining strikeout rate.

ERA
2010: 2.67
2011: 3.32
2012: 3.46
2013: 4.00

Ks per 9 IP
2010: 12.0
2011: 9.5
2012: 7.3
2013: 6.7

WHIP
2010: 1.005
2011: 1.358
2012: 1.231
2013: 1.296

Hits per 9 IP
2010: 6.1
2011: 9.1
2012: 8.7
2013: 8.3

HR per 9 IP
2010: 0.4
2011: 0.5
2012: 0.6
2013: 1.3

You can see the problem. Thornton doesn't miss as many bats these days. He gives up more hits and home runs than he did in the past. His ERA climbs each year as a result. It's nothing to be ashamed about. It's just reality for an aging pitcher who has made 60 or more appearances for 7 seven straight seasons. Soon, it will become 8 straight seasons.

There's no reason for the White Sox to waste $6 million on this declining pitcher for next season. Thornton is still useful as a situational left-hander, but you can find guys to fill that particular role for much less money.

There are rumors the Boston Red Sox are interested in Thornton's services for the rest of this year. If I'm White Sox GM Rick Hahn, I'm pulling the trigger on that deal.

Thornton's subtraction from the Sox roster will not hurt the team now or in the future. Thornton has done a nice job for the Sox through the years, but his best days are past and it is time for a change -- for both the player and the team.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Worst contract: Alfonso Soriano or Adam Dunn?

It only took 14 games. For those of you who had April 18 in the betting pool on when Alfonso Soriano would collect his first RBI of the season, congratulations, you win.

Soriano's home run off Texas right-hander Alexi Ogando in the bottom of the third inning of Thursday's 6-2 Cubs win was the first contribution the erstwhile left fielder has made to the North Siders' cause this year.

But don't worry. I'm sure Soriano will heat up once the Cubs are 15 or 20 games out of first place. He'll get his numbers in garbage time. He always does. For his minimal contributions to the team, he will be paid a handsome salary of $18 million this year. He'll be paid that same amount next year as well.

For all you Cub fans out there, you've only got another 310 games to put up with Soriano's crap. By then, you will have done your penance.

As much as I love making fun of Soriano and his absurd contract, I can't say that contract is any worse than the one the White Sox gave Adam Dunn.

Dunn is off to yet another terrible start here in 2013. He's batting .105 with two home runs and five RBIs through the first 16 games of the season. Anyone actually think he'll get above the Mendoza Line this year? My guess is no.

The Sox just completed a miserable 3-7 road trip through Washington, Cleveland and Toronto. During those 10 games, Dunn went 1-for-33 with two walks, two RBIs and two runs scored. When you think about it, it's a miracle he managed to muster up the two RBIs and two runs scored. I was surprised to learn he struck out only 11 times in 35 plate appearances on the trip. Just watching him, it felt like more than that.

In two years plus 16 games as a member of the Sox, Dunn is batting .180 with a .683 OPS. For his career, he's batting .239 with an .865 OPS. It's pretty clear something happened to this guy as soon as he put on a Sox uniform. He has sucked ever since. I can't put my finger on it, but I do know the South Siders would be better off if Dunn were playing somewhere else.

For his horrendous play, Dunn will be paid $15 million this year. He's making $15 million next year, too, which means there is no chance Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf will allow Dunn to be released. Uncle Jerry always wants to try to get a return on his investment. That's just the way he is. 

So, my fellow Sox fans, that means we've got another 308 games of Adam Dunn before we are relieved of watching this mess. Man, I'm excited.

All I can really tell you about these two players is this: Soriano looks like a frog. Dunn looks like a donkey. And neither of these players can be traded unless their respective clubs are willing to eat all or most of those salaries.

Which contract is worse? I suspect we could have a pretty healthy debate on that topic.