Filed:December 1st, 2008
Jim Edmonds (Cubbie Nation/File)
I received a very interesting e-mail from a reader last night, asking for support from Cubbie Nation in campaigning for the return of Jim Edmonds. You know, my first reaction was to chuck it off, and respond back to him privately when I had a quiet moment. However, after thinking about it a bit more, I wanted to add a couple of thoughts, and perhaps discuss it a bit more publicly.
The short answer is yes Pat, you're a little crazy, for a couple of different reasons. Problem number one is that he doesn't fit the bill for what the Cubs want to do in 2009, and for however much we know—or think we know—about baseball, the Cubs have decided it's best to move on, and we have to accept that.
Don't get me wrong, everybody likes Jim, at least from what I've heard. Well, maybe not some fans, but that's a different story. But the Cubs have two left-handed solutions for center field in Felix Pie and Kosuke Fukudome, and a desire to get younger and more athletic in general. Both of these things combined put an Edmonds signing ridiculously at odds with reality.
Now, I personally think that Felix Pie is on his way out the door, but there's a 42 million dollar commitment to Fukudome that can't be ignored, so he's not going anywhere.
And that's really what's best for 2009. Pair Kosuke up with a reliable platoon partner in Reed Johnson in center field to start the season, rest him a few days a week, and hope that you can hide that .800 OPS—we hope—in center a bit better than they could in right.
Now, I suppose that you could make the argument that there is some benefit in leaving Kosuke in right, resigning Edmonds, and shifting Johnson to right a bit more often in platoon. However, defensively that's a bit more a liability than finding the younger, athletic right fielder that the Cubs are looking for. And it still doesn't address the problem of Edmonds himself.
See, the Cubs caught lightning in a bottle in 08; not only able to put Edmonds into an almost perfect situation on the field, but getting him cheaply to boot.
However, this off-season, as a reasonably productive left-handed bat, I'd look for him to slot in around 40 percent of the contract that Adam Dunn ultimately gets. Right now, that looks like about four million for next season; maybe six. Not too rich, but probably a bit more than the Cubs would prefer to spend.
Further, if there was one free agent that I'd be worried about showing strong decline next year, it would be Edmonds. When he came to the Cubs last year, he was a hot mess.
Still on the mend from his calf injury, his bat was slow, he couldn't make contact, and there was no ability to drive the ball. Gerald Perry really smoothed him out, but in something of an odd way. They eliminated his stride at the plate altogether, allowing Jim to wait back longer on fastballs, but at the expense of natural power generation. It's all core and arms; no lower body.
Now, maybe you can get a few good months out of that approach, and maybe a bit longer with a good platoon. However, I don't think that this approach is sustainable, particularly as he further ages. You saw some of what I mean toward the end of last season, when Edmonds was unavailable for stretches.
Maybe he'll adjust to get more lower-body power, but I expect pitchers to adjust, too. I haven't rang any of my favorite sabermetricians lately on it, but if I had to make an educated guess, I'd project him at about .255/.355/.460 for next season. Not bad, but not worth the cost if you're the Cubs. You can probably get that OPS from Fukudome in center, and maybe even from Pie. Better to go looking for someone younger and more versatile to give Lou some options. Guys like Luke Scott, Jeremy Hermida, and Ryan Church are some prime examples.
Even Mark Teahen, who in a smaller park, and facing lesser NL power pitchers, could very well be that '09 Jim Edmonds. And let's not forget that these guys are likely cost neutral, as you could exchange some of the Cubs arbitration-eligible talent for them.
Sorry man, it's probably not what you wanted to hear. But hey, maybe Edmonds cost bottoms out, or the Cubs preferred options fade, and the conversations are re-ignited. Past that though, the best that I can offer to Edmonds is a hearty thanks for a great 2008 season.