Chicago Cubs: Talent Evaluation Nowhere To Be Found

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IAugust 6, 2009

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 25:  Casey McGehee #64 of the Chicago Cubs poses for a photo during Spring Training Photo Day on February 25, 2008 in Mesa, Arizona.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Many writers, both those of the professional variety and those of us that write for sites like Bleacher Report, have put words on paper to release some of our frustration with the winter plan Chicago Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry put into action before the current season.

I'd like to take a moment to examine two players, one on the Cubs and one playing elsewhere, to highlight some differences between an organization that can, and actively does, evaluate talent and the opposite, the Chicago Cubs.

Player A

  • 27 years old; 6'1", 195 lbs
  • Bats/Throws: right
  • Plays second and third base
  • Batting average: .319
  • On-base percentage: .367
  • At-bats: 182
  • Home runs: 9
  • Runs batted in: 34
  • Slugging percentage: .538
  • Strikeouts: 35
  • OPS: .905
  • Batting average with runners in scoring position: .400

Player B

  • 32 years old; 5'8", 180 lbs
  • Bats/Throws: switch/right
  • Plays second, short (pun intended) and third base
  • Batting average: .198
  • On-base percentage: .235
  • At-bats: 126
  • Home runs: 0
  • Runs batted in: 4
  • Slugging percentage: .254
  • Strikeouts: 17
  • OPS: .489
  • Batting average with runners in scoring position: .107

Now it's time for you, the reader, to answer the following questions:

  1. Which of these players is making $400,000 this year? The other is making $2.2 million.
  2. Which of these players is currently on the Chicago Cubs?

If you weren't able to connect the dots, I'll do it for you. Our "Player B" is the Cubs' Aaron Miles, one of the reasons tigers eat their young. He signed a two-year contract worth nearly $5 million to play second base for the Cubs this year, largely because he's a switch-hitter and Hendry was giving anyone who could do that a couple million this past December.

While Miles has underperformed, even while hurt, "Player A" has been quietly going about the business of establishing himself as one of the better offensive rookies in the National League this year.

What's aggravating is that you could have almost six Player A's for the cost of Player B, while statistically it might take the inverse for the offensive numbers to add up.

If you're a Cubs fan, you'll probably be furious to know that our "Player A" in this experiment was on the Cubs roster last year, making thousands, not millions, of dollars, and was under contract for a couple years to come. But, because Hendry has a thing for veterans, he never got his chance.

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"Player A" is Casey McGehee, now of the Milwaukee Brewers.

McGehee was viewed by many in the Cubs organization similarly to how Jake Fox is now being referenced: He can hit, but where do we play him? Because the Cubs lacked the foresight to keep a guy that could actually hit and play more than one position, McGehee was claimed off waivers (meaning the Cubs got essentially nothing for him) this past winter.

The same winter when Hendry gave Miles his contract with the millions, not thousands, of dollars attached to it.

This is a classic example of how Hendry, and the Cubs, have squandered talented players in an effort to reinvent the wheel. Simple statistical analysis would have told you that Miles wasn't worth the contract he signed, but he was a veteran switch-hitter, which fills both of Hendry's requirements for a contract, so he got paid.

Meanwhile, McGehee not only makes a Cubs fan ask "What if?" but also makes us hope that in 2010 we aren't having this same discussion about Fox while he plays somewhere else.


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