Outfielders, Outfielders, Outfielders!!!

Damen JacksonCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2008

Felix Pie (Cubbie Nation/File)

Filed: Dec. 21, 2008

Bradley. Abreu. Dunn. Ibanez. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I love these guys. I really do. As a fan of plain old baseball entertainment, I've enjoyed these guys for years.

Who can think of Bobby Abreu without remembering his sweet, elegant grace in the field and at the plate in his prime? Remember the 2005 All-Star Game?

Or the way that Ibanez has carried himself for years now, in my mind one of the benchmarks of how the modern-day baseball player should carry himself. I live thousands of miles away, see maybe a half-dozen Mariners games a season, and even I realize that he's the consummate pro.

And let's not even get started on Adam Dunn. You need only see one of those rocket shots out of Wrigley—and onto Sheffield—in person to realize he's a beast; you know, when he's not striking out.

But enough already!!!!! I can't crack a paper, open my email, check out a sports site or blog, or even finish my coffee without these names coming up. Where are they going? What are they getting? Are the Cubs really chasing Milton Bradley? You'll notice that I don't recall him fondly, by the way.

Now, with the holidays approaching, it's likely that these deals will be pushed into the early New Year, and perhaps more so as the Nationals wait to see what the Teixeira talks will bring.

I hear they're looking hard at Dunn as a Plan B, so I suspect that some East Coast team—the Red Sox, Mets, or Nationals likely—will have to commit some dollars before this situation unclogs.

I stick by my original opinion though either way, in that relievers and corner outfielders are going to get burned, burned, burned in this economic market. But must they postpone the inevitable?

Having all week to reflect on my version of Outfielder on The Brain though, a few thoughts came to mind:

For what it's worth, my current opinion is:

Abreu- Cubs

Dunn- Nationals

Bradley- Hell Rays

The economy will truly hit Main Street by early next year, potentially cutting into ticket sales for the 2009 season. Ancillary purchases should be down, and baseball is cutting fixed costs all around the league.

Yet the sport is healthy, acknowledged by all parties involved as flush with cash, and many marketers have signed up for long-term deals. With the suddenly deflated free agent contracts—just like most everything else right now—I'm giving it about another month before the grumblings of collusion become louder out of the MLBPA.

Remember all those 2/6 deals for corner outfielders earlier this decade that got MLB in trouble back in 2006? After a few too many position players find their initial demands cut by 40 percent, you'll be seeing those complaints all over again.

I keep looking at the Phillies signing of Raul Ibanez, and I just don't get it. I like the move, so don't get me wrong. He's not only a professional bat, but a true pro in a clubhouse that seems to appreciate pros.

Production-wise, he should mimic Pat Burrell's batting line for a least the next few seasons, and Internet fodder aside, he's about the same defensively, if not a touch better than Burrell. Maybe the lineup is a touch too left-handed, but he really was about the best fit, in my opinion.

Now maybe the fans should have a beef if they feel they missed out on an impact bat, but really, what was the alternative? Overpay Pat, and watch him de-evolve into more underperforming seasons? Bring back Abreu? Just kidding.

And let's not even get started on the personal issues with Burrell. I get to hear a new jaw-dropping story about him every time I visit Philly. I just can't see how he's going to be missed, at least on the field.

The Cubs signing Joey Gathright I get. Signing him before trading Felix Pie is ludicrous.

I consider Gathright about the perfect fifth outfielder, fast, a plus defender, and inexpensive at under a million bucks. It's a good signing.

What I'm left wondering is how badly have the Cubs diminished the trade value of Felix Pie in the process? In my mind, it's to about the value of a decent A prospect, and a couple of bats.

Let's see. You can't send him back to the minors, out of options. You won't carry six outfielders. It's extremely unlikely that the Cubs won't add an outfield bat. And the fifth outfield spot was just taken.

I feel like I'm looking at Matt Murton all over again. Jim Hendry generally gets a pass with me, as he's been a fine evaluator of major-league talent. But continuing to get himself put into bad trading positions with prospects is inexcusable. I'm beginning to wonder if the concept of selling high just doesn't register with him.

And yes, I think of the fact that he should have gotten more for Jose Ceda when I say that.

Bottom line, he appears to be operating under the mindset that he can still lie in wait, and fleece the Pittsburgh's of the sport, using whatever prospects are handy. Those teams have more money now, and significantly more desire and ability to secure those arbitration-year players to multi-year deals early, as opposed to trading them.

If he wants to use the farm system as the preferred acquisition tool, then fine. But let's start preserving the value of those assets, and trade guys too early, rather than too late.

Lastly was the under-the-radar signing this week of Felipe Lopez by the Diamondbacks; at not only a great price, but a one-year deal. Sad.

Felipe has been my Cubs move of the offseason, assuming that he would be within this price range. I had envisioned him filling the role that manager Lou Piniella keeps trying to tie Mark DeRosa to. He's a switch-hitter, who has shown an ability to play *cough, shortstop, *cough, cough*, and a passable outfield.

Keith Law has a fine take on the signing, which I think is worth a read. All I'm going to say further about this is that Washington is where careers seem to go to die.

Blame the park, the management, the players who've no winning experience there, an organization that doesn't know how to get things done, or any combination of the above.

You should check out his stats before he got sent to purgatory, and what he did immediately upon leaving. Do not be surprised if he's the Comeback Player of The Year. Just sayin'.


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