Waiting in the Wings
By Benjy Lipsman in News on Feb 2, 2005 7:11PM
The Sammy Sosa trade hasn't even been completed yet, and the Cubs have already found his replacement in right field. As soon as the ink is dry on the deal sending Sosa to Baltimore (which could be this afternoon), the Cubs plan to sign Jeremy Burnitz. The deal would be for one guaranteed year at $4 million with a mutual option for 2006.
So can the Cubs really expect Burnitz to wipe memories of Sosa from the minds of Cubs fans? His numbers last season were better then Sosa's -- he hit 37 homeruns with 110 RBIs and a .283 batting average compared to Sosa's 35 / 80 / .253. But Burnitz played for the Colorado Rockies last year, and many a player has seen the thin Denver air affect his stats.
Burnitz looks like one of those beneficiaries. He had exactly the same number of at-bats at home and on the road last season -- his only season with the Rockies. In 270 home at-bats, he hit 24 HRs, had 68 RBIs and batted .322. In 270 road at-bats, those numbers dropped to 13 HRs, 42 RBIs and a .244 batting avg. That's a pretty significant difference.
However, Chicagoist thinks this is probably the best move for the Cubs at this moment. By only guaranteeing one season and by spending only $4 million to essentially replace Sosa's 2004 production, the Cubs will have more flexibility to address a permanent solution to the situation later on. The only remaining big bat left on the free agent market is Magglio Ordonez, but his agent is demanding a pretty big, long term deal in spite of his sugically repaired knee. This allows the Cubs to either make a deal during the season or wait until next season, when they can jump into the free agent game from day one.