Gil plays fine defense at second and short, but like Damian Jackson and Jose Macias, he can't hit a lick. Yet, I'm not going to waste time on fit of grape crushing, here. Instead, this is an opportunity to compare what Jim Hendry has done in acquiring these players to what Bill Bavasi did Saturday in his trade for scrub club member, Jolbert Cabrera. Let's start by taking a look at what each man has done over their careers.
Those career batting lines make me think about adding backup infielders to my theory on backup catchers. If there's an outlier, it's Gil, who still remains similar enough to pick up a mere 20 points of batting average and actually become Macias. The point is, they're all very comparable hitters, capable of analogous performance in the field (although, to be fair, Jackson isn't as defensively talented, and Gil doesn't play the outfield). I don't think it's a stretch to say they are players of approximately equal value. So, having marginally established that point, let's see how each player was acquired.
Jackson and Gil were lying around, freely available, so the Cubs signed them to minor league deals as injury insurance and sent them down to Iowa. That's how things should be done. Yet, both the Hendry and Bavasi chose to trade for one of these guys, Macias for the Cubs, and Cabrera for the Mariners. Trading for this type of player is never a good idea, but we can at least see who was dealt in each case to determine who overvalued this skillset more.
In looking at last year's stats, I see a huge disparity in the value of what each team gave up to get their utility man. But don't believe me. Listen to an expert. In his 2004 Prospect Book, John Sickels rates Ketchner a B- and notes that "Double-A will challenge him, but...he's got a decent chance to make it." Looper rates a C, and while mentioning he's too old to be a prospect in the true sense of the word, Sickels says "he's pitched well the last couple of years, and has sufficient command to be a very useful middle reliever." What about Chavez, you ask? He doesn't make the book.
I may not find the procurement of these types of players aesthetically pleasing, but if you're going to grab this sort, Hendry's doing it the right way. Jolmian Gilcias and his ilk should be acquired as freely available talent, or in exchange for organizational filler. Nothing more valuable should change hands. Using a young pitcher with some upside or a decent middle relief candidate, let alone both, to bring in a less than mediocre utility man is an egregious misallocation of resources, made all the worse in Bavasi's case by the fact that he could have signed Jackson or Gil himself if he'd just made a phone call.
When I cry for blood after hearing the Cubs have signed a Scrappy Crappy Utility Man to a minor league deal, it's part fear that the S.C.U.M. will get significant playing time, and part annoyance that guys like Scott McClain aren't given the shot I believe they've earned. However, this is nothing compared to the way Bill Bavasi continues to be beaten and robbed on the side of the road, smiling stupidly to himself, thinking how the guys stealing his car and cash are getting a raw deal.
I may not always agree with the players Jim Hendry values, but I've yet to see him get taken. If I can't have full philosophical agreement, I'll gladly take my concurrence in actuarial form.