Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Not Re-Signing Orlando Cabrera May Go Down As The Worst Non-Signing In Baseball History

Ever since Game 4 of the World Series in 2004, the SS position for the Sox has been a 2.5 year, $50 million nightmare.

The 2004 season brings back a lot of memories. One of the earliest of those memories came on July 31st at around 5pm as I was sitting at my girlfriend's parent's dinner table when the Philly Sportscaster casually mentioned that Nomar Garciaparra had been traded for what seemed like at the time a ham sandwich and a case of Genny Cream Ale. In mid-bite of my hamburger I screamed some garbled obscenity that to this day is still perhaps the dirtiest thing I've ever said. As history has shown, Theo was right and I was wrong. But after watching Lugo kick around a few balls tonight and allowing another to get right passed him because he stepped the wrong way, it occurred to me that ever since the 2004 season ended, at least in terms of the shortstop position, it seems that the third party in Garciaparra - O-Cab / Mientl;kjsdfjaksl;cz deal was Faustus.

Following the success of the 2004 season and "the trade," Theo and his minions had a ton of roster collateral to work with. They had made so many smart moves to get the championship that you figured they'd just never make a bad move again. They could have re-signed Mo Vaughn and somehow Sox fans would have been ok with it. So when they overspent for Edgar Renteria (4 years for $40 million) instead of re-signing Orlando Cabrera because Cabrera wanted 4 years at around $30 million, you figured they knew what they were doing. They didn't. Renteria started slow and kept getting slower. Eventually his bat picked up and he was serviceable as a batting shortstop, but it was his defense that was really remarkable. In 2004, Renteria had 11 errors. In 2005, Renteria had 30 errors. And what made it so much more disappointing was that one of the major reasons for the Sox success (or Soxcess as the Herald has coined) in '04 was the vast improvement in middle infield D that Pokey Reese and O-Cab provided. So in response to the '04 Renteria disaster, the Sox traded Renteria for a prospect and agreed to pick up $11 million of the Renteria deal (essentially paying $19 million for one year of a 30 error SS play. Solid.) and then signed defensive whiz kid Alex Gonzales to fill the spot for the 2006 season. A-Gon put together mediocre numbers at the plate (though no worse than Renteria) but dazzled in the field, earning the Gold Glove award at SS for the AL.* It was widely known that A-Gon wasn't the solution and having traded away their best SS prospect (Hanley Ramirez) for Beckett the prior season, there was no young stud to come up and step in. The Sox had to go out and sign someone. They settled on Julio Lugo for 4 years and $36 million (an option for a 5th. I'm guessing they take the $1 million buyout.) and to date that decision has been as bad or worse than any front office move I have seen in any sport, business or fantasy league.

As of this very moment, Julio Lugo is batting 9th in the order (he was recently dropped to the 9th and replaced by a rookie in the leadoff spot. He was hitting behind Doug Mirabelli in his first trip to the 9 slot) and is hitting a robust .213. He has 18 stolen bases and hasn't been caught but he's been pretty horrendous in the field and his 8 errors and other fieldings stats don't seem to capture his incompetence in the field. He gave up the error in the fifth to kill Schilling's chance at a perfect game and he just seems to take bizarre routes to balls that appear playable. He also runs like a gimp. Simply stated: he's been shitty and looked shitty doing it. But none of this would matter if Orlando Cabrera (the one that got away) was also shitty. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.

Orlando Cabrera, in 2005, played SS for Anaheim, hit as many home runs as Renteria, struck out half as many times and stole twice as many bases. But the biggest difference was in the field. Cabrera made just 7 errors in all of 2005. Renteria had that many before the ground thawed out in beantown. The following year, while A-Gon struck out once every 6 at-bats, Cabrera hit .282 with 9 home runs, 71 RBI and 27 SBs and again played great D at SS. Now this year, Cabrera is hitting .332 with a .382 OBP and is again playing almost flawless D. Lugo, well like I said, Lugo is shitty. While all this information is good and explains why the Sox have failed in their quest to find a competent shortstop, none of the stats are more effective in making that point than this:

The Sox have spent $32 million on SS failures while Orlando Cabrera has outproduced all of the for a mere $22 million. That's an expensive non-signing. Thanks Theo. Oh, and about that Matt Clement deal....

*Derek Jeter actually won the award that year but considering he is one of the worst defensive shortstops in the league, I choose to disregard that mistake.


Jay said...

I miss Cabrera. The dude was amazing. I loved his stance, the fact that he fit in so well here and he was just nasty on the field. I never understood why thye didn't resign him. I had friends telling me that Renteria was going to make me forget Cabrera.

That did not happen.

TF said...

The Red Sox took Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie with the draft compensation for Orlando Cabrera. Are those two worth a few years of angst at shortstop?