Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Well, I didn’t see that coming. Hell, I don’t think Jim Hendry did, either. But when Todd Walker comes knocking on your door, willing to sign a one-year deal for $1.75M, making it clear to you that he just wants to come play for a winning team whether he starts or not, I think you shake his hand, show him his locker, and figure out what it means later.
So, smart guy, what does it mean? Well, it could be as simple as a platoon at second base and the leadoff spot. Put together Walker and Grudz’ splits against opposite-handed pitchers over the last three years, and you get nearly identical lines that translate to something like .300/.360/.450. I’ll take that from my second baseman any time, even if he does have two heads. The drawback in this scenario is Walker’s defense, but that’s going to be an issue no matter what you do with him. A strict platoon means you’ll see that exposed more than if Walker were some kind of super-sub, but with the stikeout rates of the Cubs’ staff, the loss with the leather is worth the gain with the wood.
Option two is mentioned in passing above, and that’s to make Walker a kind of super-sub. This could work alright if most of his time is spent at second, with only the occasional game at first or third, but I still feel like this would be a misallocation of resources. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but why take a player with a pretty solid line against right-handers and then only play him sporadically? Why take the player with the fourth best OBP on the team, and only put him out a couple times a week? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but that never stopped the Cubs from doing something, so don’t count it out.
The third option is some sort of trade. This could happen soon, say, a deal involving Grudz and Barrett in exchange for Jason Kendall (I have no information on this, it’s just a thought from my tiny little brain), or they could be allowed to fight it out in the spring, with the winner being a Cub, and the loser being paid by someone else. I have no objection either way, as long as the swag is good.
How this plays out over the next couple of weeks will give us an idea of whether this was the case of a deal falling into Hendry’s lap and being too good to pass up, or a premeditated move to facilitate something down the line. No matter how it came to be, Hendry did the right thing making this happen. He has several very defensible options for how to deploy the resources at his disposal, and while I think my favorite is probably option one, I’d be happy with any of them. I imagine Hendry would be happy with any of them, too, and that’s the key. If things stay as they are, he’s strengthened the team at minimal cost, and if he wants to deal, he’s in a position to say no and still be happy with the state of the franchise.
The best barganing chip you have in any negotiation is your willingness to walk away. The fact that Hendry has put himself in a postion to walk away from potential trade talks and still have a stronger team speaks volumes about how he’s doing his job.
Happy Holidays from out here in the Great Northwest! I'll be back to Chicago and more regular posting next week. Until then, may the holidays bring you much happiness, and may the new year bring us all peace in our lives and joy in our baseball!