Jim Hendry surprised just about everyone by trading for Kevin Gregg. But when word got out that the Cubs were looking into a trade for Royals outfielder Mark Teahen, I was left speechless.
What would the acquisition accomplish?
The Cubs main concern is the lack of a left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup. They need someone to hit in the midst of Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Mark DeRosa, and (if he stops leading off) Alfonso Soriano. Can Teahen really provide that bat?
In four years with the Royals, he has averaged just under 12 home runs in about 489 at bats per year. That's one home run for every 41 at bats.
The 2003 book Moneyball tagged him as the next Jason Giambi for his ability to get on base. But in the big leagues his OBP is only .332 and he has had only one season in which he racked up more than 50 walks (55 in 2007).
Compare that to Adam Dunn (.380 OBP, 112 BB average over the same span), who the Cubs wouldn't have to trade anyone away for.
While we're at it, let's compare Teahen's 2008 season with some left-handed outfielders that are already with the Cubs.
- Mark Teahen: 623 PA, .255 AVG, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 46 BB, 131 K, .313 OBP, .402 SLG
- Kosuke Fukudome: 590 PA, .257 AVG, 10 HR, 58 RBI, 81 BB, 104 K, .359 OBP, .379 SLG
- Micah Hoffpauir: 393 PA, .358 AVG, 27 HR, 108 RBI, 23 BB, 70 K, .394 OBP, .707 SLG (Iowa/Chicago)
- Felix Pie: 461 PA, .278 AVG, 11 HR, 65 RBI, 30 BB, 83 K, .327 OBP, .437 SLG (Iowa/Chicago)
- Tyler Colvin: 602 PA, .256 AVG, 14 HR, 80 RBI, 44 BB, 101 K, .312 OBP, .424 SLG (Tennessee)
- Sam Fuld: 473 PA, .264 AVG, 6 HR, 52 RBI, 58 BB, 52 K, .353 OBP, .315 SLG (Tennessee/Iowa)
Looking at those numbers, the only categories that Teahen holds a real advantage over Fukudome are home runs and slugging percentage.
In 230 fewer plate appearances, Hoffpauir hit 12 more home runs. His on base percentage was 80 points higher, his batting average was 100 points higher, and his slugging percentage was 300 points higher. While most of his stats come from his time in Iowa, Hoffpauir still put up great numbers coming off the bench in the big leagues. A .342 average with a .934 on base plus slugging is phenomenal in a pinch-hit/backup role.
Pie had a higher batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage in 2008. I'll talk more about him in a moment.
Colvin is an interesting case. Going into last season, the thought among many following the Cubs was that if Pie didn't step up to take over the centerfield job, Colvin would be the favorite going into 2009.
While his stats from last season may not overwhelm, it is important to remember that he was battling an injury that required Tommy John surgery at seasons end. When he gets back from rehab a few weeks into the season next year, keep an eye on Colvin for a performance that might deserve a mid-season call up.
The final guy on the list was actually a contender for the center field job last season with Pie. Fuld followed up a very nice 2007 season with a performance in the Arizona Fall League that pushed him into the minds of many Cubs fans.
Last year was a little bit of a down year, but still wasn't that bad. Just look at his strikeout numbers over his career (44, 54, 43, 40). This guy finds a way to get the bat on the ball.
Now, let's factor in defense.
I have seen Teahen described as a Mark DeRosa type of player defensively. He can supposedly play multiple positions well.
If you assume that he is that type of player, Fukudome pulls out ahead of him because of his superior skills in right field. Hoffpauir would maintain his lead on Teahen because of his superior ability to mash.
Pie and Colvin are three and four years younger than Teahen, respectively. Both are great defenders and (if Colvin's arm is alright after surgery) both have good enough arms to play right field. The ceiling is higher with either of them.
Fuld can cover ground similar to Pie and Colvin, but some arm injuries in the past few years have reduced his arm strength. He could still be a candidate to platoon with Reed Johnson if a few things go his way in spring training. Since he will be 27 next season, he doesn't have the benefit of time on his side, so look for him to step it up next year.
When comparing Teahen to these players, it just doesn't seem like he's enough of an upgrade on the Cubs current situation to trade for. If he was a free agent, I'd say go for it, but sign him cheap and don't expect him to be the answer to all your problems.
When comparing him to any number of free agents that the Cubs could sign, there is no comparison. Barring huge strides in development before next season, acquiring the 27-year-old Teahen has no advantages for the Cubs organization.