The more I think about it, there was no one else out there who was an appreciably better choice. The only other viable options were Todd Walker and Jose Vidro. Walker is left-handed and has a little more pop, but he’s also a much worse defender (Baseball Prospectus had him being 21 runs worse than an average defender last year), so much so that it wipes out any added value his power might bring. Vidro is a better player than both Walker and Grudz, but he’s been somewhat fragile over his career, would likely be expensive in trade, would certainly be more expensive financially, and would likely need to be signed to an extension (he’s a free agent after this season) to make the whole exercise worthwhile. Which brings me to the real reason I like this deal.
Mark Grudzielanek wants to return, but the Cubs are looking at him as a stopgap measure, believing minor-leaguer Brendan Harris could be ready to play by 2005.
This little gem was stuck in the middle of a somewhat related Paul Sullivan article in the Tribune on Saturday. Obviously, Grudz wasn’t signed yet, but this statement and the structure of the contract give me some real hope that the club is at least philosophically interested in developing Harris and making him a part of their future plans. There may still be a significant gap between the philosophy and the practical application, but the implication is that the Cubs have not completely abandoned the idea of building from within, the first such sign we’ve had during the Hendry/Baker tenure. I’ll try to stay cool about it, after all this is one sign among many indications to the contrary, but balancing between winning now and planning for the future is the key to building a contender in the long term. The Cubs organization may finally be realizing this, which is good news for us fans, and horrible news for the rest of the National League.
Yesterday’s other Cubs deal was the signing of Tom Goodwin to a one-year contract for $650,000. It appears that Goodwin will be the Cubs' fifth outfielder, and that’s a good role for him. He can pinch hit occasionally, pinch run some, start sporadically, and go in as a defensive replacement anywhere in the outfield. He’s not so good that he’s in danger of usurping Corey Patterson if he gets off to a slow start, but he’s just good enough to be useful in specific applications. If the Cubs can come up with a solid fourth outfielder, this deal gets that much better. Nicely done.