On Xavier Nady & An Off-Season Lost
To the extent that you want more solid MLB-caliber players than not on the roster, the addition of Xavier Nady is a nice get for the 2010 Cubs. Short money, decent enough right-handed bat, positional flexibility, in some ways the move was a no-brainer. Almost any team in baseball would improve, some more than others, as a result of having Nady on their roster.
The problem for the Cubs, and any other team for that matter, is that resources and roster spots are finite. Coming off of 83 wins playing in one of baseball's weakest divisions, a few focused, tactical moves could have resulted in enough wins added to spring the North Siders into contention. As it stands at the end of the Hot Stove season, their starting rotation looks thin and injury prone while their offense looks to be improved. On the whole, it looks like this Cubs team should be just a bit better than last year's club. With luck, they'll contend. With Xavier Nady in the fold, they'll still need luck.
It's hard not to think back to the Milton Bradley episode and how much it distracted Chicago when looking at their moves this off-season. Losing Bradley and picking up Carlos Silva and Marlon Byrd, wherever you come down on the argument that they just had to part ways with Bradley, amounts to wheel-spinning. Byrd is no better than Bradley, Silva is just awful. Nady might hit southpaws better than Kosuke Fukudome, but how much of that differential offensively does Nady give back when he takes the field in right? As I see it, the most enticing part of this addition is that it protects against further Soriano deterioration. That's no small thing, but in an off-season where just a few shrewd moves could have made all that difference, Bradley, Byrd, Silva, Nady - the Cubs just haven't seem focused.
With the ownership commotion surrounding the club and Soriano's bi-weekly direct deposit hamstringing baseball operations, I can empathize. But at the same time, this was an off-season that called for even greater focus. There wasn't going to be a lot of money to spend, but the Cubs had a roster on the cusp. And it still is on the cusp, so it's not like they've mismanaged their way out of any hope for 2010. They just could have done more, and the announcement of the Nady signing tells me that they're not thinking strategically enough. Nady just won't make much of an impact, when there was impact at a great price still to be had on the free agent market.
You want to go short money and improve the club? Well what about Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez for a team whose second basemen hit .254/.310/.357 in 2009? If the Cubs opted to bolster their starting pitching instead, to avoid relying on some combination of Tom Gorzelanny and Randy Wells and Sean Marshall for 400 innings, then Jon Garland and his 200 league average innings could have helped. Garland would have led the 2009 Cubs in innings pitched. And heavens, Johnny Damon is still sitting out there. Maybe you don't want to hurt Alfonso Soriano's feelings or you otherwise sense a logjam in the outfield, but Damon is still an excellent player whose value seems to have plummeted without good reason.
Again, I want to stress that I can't get too worked up about any of the Cubs moves this off-season. I understand the chemistry stuff and the case for why Bradley had to go. Center field was a hole that Marlon Byrd should be able to fill. Xavier Nady adds some depth and a nice platoon partner if deployed appropriately. But if the Cubs looked at their roster and determined they only had a few moves to make this off-season, I wish they would have been executed with more focus and precision. Because a couple wins could mean all the difference in the National League Central.