I just had a final thought regarding the Todd Hundley and Chad Hermanson for Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek (plus $2 M) trade. I know that it was, as Rob Neyer put it, one "of those 21st-century classics whereby teams swap high-priced headaches." Neyer proceeds to illustrate why the trade is beneficial to both teamd. We've developed these jaded ways of viewing these trades.
I have been discussing it with the Cub Reporter. He had been posting rumors of a subsequent trade of one of the two former Dodgers, but they don't seem to be panning out. He pointed out some excellent points about the trade:
Taking a look at the trade on its own, and ignoring the other trade rumors, the only problem is with the additional salary the Cubs take on this year. I think it prices them out of the free agent market for the rest of the winter (at least for the big guys), which isn't a good thing. But the $7.5M they take on this year is balanced by the $5M they save next year, assuming they don't pick up either option.
So, they've over-paid for a guy who could be an effective pinch-hitter, and two guys who can back up untested rookies who are expected to step up and start. The only worry, of course, is that Dusty Baker will have a quick trigger on Choi and/or Hill and we'll see them on the bench or back in Iowa.
I agree. In fact I wrote him the following:
You know the more I think about the trade, the more I think you must be right (about the trade rumors). I cannot fathom why the Cubs did it. I know that they unload Hundley's contract, but they pick up two more wretched contracts. I know that Karros' and Grudz's contracts have only one year left and they are insurance for the two rookies.
However, if the Cubs have the two players on the roster as backups in 2003, and they also have the starting 8 position players, a backup catcher, two backup outfielders (at least), and another backup infielder for the left side, they would have 14 spots filled. This would limit them to 11 spots for the pitchers. That should be OK though some teams like to carry 12.
But that puts a lot of pressure on the 2 backup OFs and the utility infielder. Karros cannot play anywhere besides first (and DH). Grudz used to be a shortstop, but he hasn't played there in three years. If Kevin Orie is the utlity infielder, he's basically a thirdbaseman. Who backs up short? Well, Mark Bellhorn, or possible Grudz and Bobby Hill, I guess. I don't know if Auggie Ojeda is still around, put he's a no-hit guy anyway. It just seems like it leaves them a little short especially if the rookies struggle and Baker (rolled up newspaper be damned) decides to start injecting the veterans. It is odd that they unceremoniously dumped a veteran, multi-position player in Chris Stynes though. I mean here's a guy that can play 2B, 3B, and the corner OF spots. That's supposed to be the type of player that gets scooped up nowadays so that the team can carry an additional lefty in the bullpen, right? He didn't have a tremendous year with the bat, but is "only" 29 and has had some decent ones in the past. Maybe it was his price tag.
And as you said, they are left out of the free agent market for this year, but I wonder if that was by design. If they are not looking to replace any positions players and don't want to disturb a young staff, I guess they don't really need to dip into the market. They spent themselves with Remlinger and are done, I guess. Whether that's an appropriate strategy is a separate issue.
I would be nervous if I were a Cubs fan since you have a young staff, Corey Patterson, and a rookie right side to the infield. They could take some time to gel. And as you point out, Baker may not give it time and is prepared to replace youth with supperannuated, expensive backups. Plus a short bench. I just don't get the trade from the Cubs' perspective.
Baker has done more with less in the past, but has never really shown himself as a mentor for young talent. It is going to be an interesting seaon in Wrigley this year.