Brian: This protects Guzman from being exposed to the Rule 5 draft, which is a necessary step. However, the Cubs’ stable of pitching prospects is creating somewhat of a practical problem. I don’t want to see Guzman bouncing back and forth from the minors to the bigs next season, a la Todd Wellemeyer. But with Leicester, Mitre, Wellemeyer, Guzman, and Webb all on the 40-man, the team is pretty short on flexibility, given that they don’t seem prone to using minor league starters for anything but long relief. I suppose that’s not too bad of a problem to have, in that there’s no such thing as “too many pitching prospects,” and anyway a lot of things could change during the offseason.
At any rate, Guzman had surgery in July, and is not a realistic candidate to make the team in 2004, at least right away. He’s a promising dude, however, and could be ready to take Matt Clement’s place in 2005 (providing that Clement is back in 2004, which is not a sure thing).
Brian: No surprise here.
There was something truly miraculous about Moises Alou’s 2003 season. No, it’s not that he followed up a terrible 2002 with a thoroughly average season. After all, he still was only a shade of his former self, and as much as folks like Rick Sutcliffe liked to crow about his protection of Sammy in the lineup, a) Moises was still a mediocre corner outfielder, and b) Sammy still didn’t have a very good year.
No, the miracle can be found in the simple fact that Moises played in 151 games, only the third time he’s crossed 150 in his career (and he only crossed 140 one other time). Since we know that fragile players tend not to get more durable as they age, it’s hard not to think of Moises’s robust health in 2003 as a fluke.
I’ll be blunt. Moises Alou is almost certain to be a major liability in 2004. A rebound in 2003 notwithstanding, he’s not getting better as a hitter – he had an OPS of almost 60 points lower after the All-Star break, when his power dropped out – and it’s impossible to imagine him staying healthy all year again even if he was. He’s probably not tradeable either, unless the Cubs want to continue to play “musical salaries” with someone else’s veterans again.
As much as the Todd Hundley signing is maligned, Hundley wasn’t much worse at his position than Alou is at his. And it’s not like Alou isn’t overcompensated – he’ll make $9.5 million for his troubles next year. True, Alou hasn’t made a point of acting like an ass all the time like our favorite ex-catcher, but he plays just as large a role in the sad failures of blockbuster free-agent signings by the Cubs in recent years.