Stopping to read the Jim Hendry outfield foibles over the last few seasons reads like the tale of a man who just doesn't get it. Corey Patterson, Jacque Jones, Jeromy Burnitz, Matt Lawton, Cliff Floyd, Juan Pierre, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Milton Bradley, just to name a few.
In pretty much every case, the Cubs have either failed to get the production that they hoped for, and/or wildly overpaid for it. I'll let you figure out which is which.
Couple that with the players that have passed by them; guys like Carlos Betran, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Bobby Abreu, and you can't help but get spooked when Hendry decides to dip his check-writing pen into the inkwell for a outfield solution. I certainly did in reviewing the Cubs decision to sign Marlon Byrd to a three-year/$15 million deal yesterday.
But I've slept on it, debated it a bit, and in the end, I'm going to say something a bit shocking; I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt, and say I'm okay with the signing.
Now, on the larger scale, it doesn't make up for fumbling on Granderson, and failing to bring in Mike Cameron this offseason—a much more consistent talent, and better defender—nor the fact that there is no one within the system that could fill this role within the next year to two. And certainly the question of how much his contract structuring over the past few seasons have resulted in this new fiscal conservativeness. Fair questions, all.
But Hendry did three things here that I can at least respect, especially given that I believe that Byrd should at least be an average centerfielder in 2010.
One, he again respected the opinions of his manager and coaching staff, working to get them the talent that they say they need. I think Rudy Jaramillo had a great deal of input into this signing, and when the best in the business vouches for someone, you have to listen.
Two, the deal structure makes it likely that the Cubs maintain better than expected payroll flexibility over at least the next two seasons. With $3.5 million reportedly guaranteed in 2010, and another $5.5 in 2011, they're basically paying this guy with the cash received from the Bradley deal. Ideally, you might even be able to move him after 2010 if need be with minimum fuss. The 2/12 contract at that point isn't exactly an albatross.
And finally, Hendry didn't overpay. Maybe you don't like Byrd—I certainly don't—but all indications so far is that he didn't get caught bidding against himself, and he paid the market rate for this mid-level talent.
So, I'm going to say that this is no worse than a "meh" deal with some upside in the short run, and the potential to be a steal if Hendry can make him go away before the 2012 season. Welcome to Chicago, Marlon, and here's to hoping that your skin is thicker than the last guy.