Introducing the CCO Fantasy Baseball Insider

Welcome to a new weekly feature at the CCO….Fantasy Baseball. Fantasy Baseball has become a big part of the game and now you will be able to have your Cubs and Fantasy Baseball all in one place….Chicago Cubs Online.

This week’s topic: Tejada, Tejada, and Tejada!

Are you a fan of fantasy baseball leagues? Are you a Cubs fan?
Chances are, if you are reading this website, you are definitely the latter. Maybe you are like me, and you are a combination of the two, and you spend each baseball season trying to figure out how to win your fantasy baseball league, while simultaneously stacking your lineup with as many Cubs players as possible.

Hold on a minute! You may be chuckling to yourself and thinking that Cubs players and the top fantasy baseball players are mutually exclusive groups, but if you choose wisely, you truly can have a successful fantasy baseball team loaded with some of your favorite northsiders. Last year I won my fantasy league, and my final lineup consisted of D. Lee, Nomar, Barrett, Walker, Murton, and Zambrano.

I should have had Dempster as one of my relief pitchers, but good ol’ Dusty screwed that up when he had Dempster starting in the beginning of the year, and I went with….you guessed it….Joe Borowski! Ugghh.

Fantasy Baseball Leagues help you learn more about players across the league.

I joined my first fantasy league 4 years ago, and prior to that I really only had knowledge of the Cubs players, and players in the National league (but mainly on the teams in the Cubs division). Sure, I knew some of the names of the players on the White Sox from the local papers, and on the Yankees because they won the World Series every year it seemed, but that was about it. Joining the fantasy league greatly increased my knowledge of other players in the game, raised my awareness of American League teams and players, and gave me a greater sense of excitement and involvement in the off-season moves of the Cubs. I now knew more about the free agents available, and how they could benefit my Cubbies, and I also knew which players I hoped Hendry would trade for! I don’t play in my leagues to win money, and if you do, that is fine, but my motivation for playing is two-fold: First off, I am competitive, and like to win, and Secondly, fantasy baseball allows me to live out a dream job of being a GM, in my spare time, and lets me prove to myself whether my strategies for putting together a winning team work or not. On top of all that, it is really a lot of fun.

What will the CCO Fantasy Baseball Insider focus on each week?

I will focus on which players are the best in MLB at their respective positions, and in the key statistical categories that most fantasy leagues keep score by, such as HRs, RBIs, ERA, Saves, OBP, etc…. Keeping things interesting and relevant to you, the Cubs fan, I will also always compare/contrast how the Cubs players stack up at their respective positions, compared to the elite players of MLB. For example, in 2005, D.Lee was the cream of the crop at 1B, while the Cubs Outfielders left MUCH to be desired!

Every week I will look either at a new position, such as Catcher or Relief Pitcher, or I will focus on a particular statistic, such as Runs Scored, or Most Strikeouts by Pitchers. Of course, since I am a life-long Cubs fan, you can expect that there will be a good helping of opinion on the current Cubs news and rumors of the week.

I was going to have my first column focus on some of the highlights from last year in fantasy baseball, and who were the fantasy studs, duds, surprises, failures, and give some examples of strategy that led me to winning my league last year. However, I am going to save that for later, as I want to focus on the hottest rumor of all: Miguel Tejada!

I need a SS for my team….who should I choose?

I wish this question was being asked of me by Jim Hendry. At a bar. With beer, a cell phone, a pen and paper, and a fax machine on the counter. Then I could guarantee Chicago gets one of the premier SS in all of baseball….Miguel Tejada. Before we allow our emotions to get the best of us, let us morph into our Fantasy GM personas and rationally and objectively decide who the best shortstops in MLB really are. Time to look at some numbers, people!

Tejada has an amazing body of work, and I am looking at the past 6 years to give you some idea of his durability, power, batting avg, and consistency. He has averaged 639 at-bats and 161.67 games played over the last 6 years. Whoa. This guy really earns his paycheck! I wonder what he thinks of pitchers like A.J. Burnett who get $11 million a year to play every 5 games? His image as a slugging SS is well deserved, as he has averaged 30 HRs and 119 RBIs as well. His bat has some pop, but is he an all-or-nothing HR hitter? Hardly. Despite all the at-bats he gets, he only averages 83 Strikeouts a year, which is pretty low, with a BA of .290, and his OBP is a very respectable .346 over those 6 years. There has been some comments on the radio about Tejada and steroids, both due to his association with Rafael Palmeiro (his teammate that tested positive and then blamed the test result on a B-12 shot that Tejada gave him) along with the fact that he had a long tenure with the Oakland A’s, who had admitted steroid users (according to leaked grand jury testimony) in the Giambi brothers, during the time Tejada was with the team.

***DISCLOSURE*** I do not work for an independent steroid testing lab, nor do I have a degree in any kind of science that would allow me to have any credible opinion whatsoever on steroids, the effects of steroids, what steroids taste like, or whether Palmeiro is a jerk who slept with Ryne Sandberg’s wife, allegedly, while a member of our beloved Cubbies, nor do I like working with long needles, not so much because I am a wimp, but rather because I have too many other pressing matters in my life, such as wife, child, and job. ***END OF DISCLOSURE***

Ahem….glad we got that out of the way. As you can see, I am an “expert”, and it is my expert opinion that Tejada is not a steroid user, and/or if he was in the past, that it has not negatively affected his statistics the past two years in any material or noticeable manner. Supposedly, steroid testing was in full swing the past two years, and in that time Tejada had batting averages of .311 and .304, along with 34 and 26 HRs respectively. His RBIs took a monstrous drop from 150 in 2004 to 98 in 2005. I don’t think steroids or health has anything to do with this drop in RBIs. I think it has a lot more to do with the fact that 150 RBIs is a huge number and a great year, and most teams would be happy with 98 RBIs from their SS. Also, when you realize that Tejada was supposed to be protected in the lineup by Sammy Sosa (suspected steroid user that had a horrendous year), Rafael Palmeiro (confirmed steroid user that had a horrendous year), and Javy Lopez (who has hit 5 fewer HRs the past two years combined than he did in 2003 alone….another possible casualty of the steroid testing, perhaps?) then you can see why pitchers didn’t have to give Tejada anything good to hit, and why there probably wasn’t more people on base when Tejada came to the plate. Keep in mind that D.Lee had 20 more HRs than Tejada, but only had 9 more RBIs, and we know the Cubs never seemed to have anyone on base in front of him….so that shows you how RBIs can have a lot more to do with the other guys on the team than you may think.

The Cubs just lost out on Rafael Furcal, who they would have happily paid about $10 million a year to, for the next 5 years. How does he stack up to Tejada? Not bad, actually….152 games played, 620 at-bats, 12 HRs, 56 RBIs, 85 Ks, 32 SBs, 107 Runs scored, .283 BA, .342 OBP. These averages were over the past 4 years, as it looks like Furcal was injured in 2001, so I couldn’t use a 6-year period. When you consider that Tejada doesn’t have speed, and Furcal really doesn’t have power, then you have to look at Furcal’s steals as his “HRs” and his Runs Scored as his “RBIs”. If you look at the total package of each player, they both bring a lot to the table, I think it is a lot easier to find a guy to steal 30 bases a year, then to find a SS that can hit 30 HRs and 119 RBIs a year, so that is where, in my opinion, the greater value goes to Tejada. Also, much has been said about Tejada being a team leader, and being a good influence in the clubhouse, whereas I have heard Furcal is a good guy, but obviously he has some maturity issues with his multiple DUIs. Tejada’s career fielding percentage is .970, compared to .967 for Furcal, but the overall impression I have is that Furcal would be considered slightly better defensively, but that Tejada is not a slouch by any means, and would definitely be an upgrade defensively over Nomar, for example.

Who are the best Shortstops in the fantasy game?

From a Fantasy perspective, stolen bases are equally as important, in many leagues, as HRs, so keep that in mind when you select your SS. Chances are that if you are unable to draft/select Tejada for your team, you won’t get more HRs from any other SS. Here are some good options to keep in mind, if you do want a power-hitting SS on your team; Tejada of the ?, Young of the Rangers, Lopez of the Reds, Peralta of the Indians, and Jeter of the Yankees. Jeter has the extra benefit of a modest amount of speed and SBs, which continues to keep his overall fantasy value high. If you are looking for a lot of speed and SBs from your SS, look no further than the following; Figgins of the Angels, Reyes of the Mets, Furcal of the Dodgers, and Rollins of the Phillies. Keep in mind that some of these players qualify for multiple positions, and last year SS was one of those positions. That may change this year, depending on the team’s lineup, like Cesar Izturis apparently moving to 2B when he returns from injury, because the Dodgers just signed Furcal. Your league will likely allow you to continue using Izturis as your team’s SS, even though he really doesn’t play it anymore. The same can be said of Figgins, as he played multiple positions last year, so it remains to be seen where he will play this coming year and which positions he will qualify for in your league.

Alex Rodriguez was the ultimate fantasy SS in years past, but now he should only qualify in leagues as a 3B, so that is why he isn’t discussed here. Finally, a wildcard should be mentioned….he is a personal favorite of mine, and one of the most famous Cubs’ SS of all time; Nomar! Obviously his injuries have hurt his value in real life, as well as in Fantasy Baseball, but if he is healthy, you should expect Nomar to hit over .300, about 25 HRs, and close to 100 RBIs. He is especially a question mark for this upcoming year, as it is unknown what position he will be playing, and which positions your fantasy league may allow him to qualify at. If you really want Nomar on your team, here is a strategy I used last year, and it worked well. Most leagues allow you to have 1 or 2 players on the “DL” and that is where I stuck Nomar for most of the year last year. I think the DL is a great place to put your “injury-risk” player to start the year, just so you can see how he does the first month. If all seems well, then go ahead and start him, just make sure you have a backup plan, and from a Fantasy standpoint, try and make that backup plan better than Neifi Perez!

What kind of Trade do the Cubs need to make to get Tejada?

Normally I would compare more stats than just two players, but with the Tejada buzz this weekend, I am keeping the focus on how the SS position will unfold for the Cubbies. As you can see from their stats, about the only area that Furcal exceeds Tejada in is stolen bases, and if the Cubs were willing to pay Furcal big bucks, they should be willing to pay Tejada a relatively equal salary of around $12 million a year.

It was mentioned on a few radio stations that there is a person working for the Orioles who used to work in/with the Cubs farm system, and he has good working knowledge of the Cubs’ prospects. Bruce Levine of ESPN 1000 mentioned that he thought this was a positive thing, because it would give the Orioles more background on some of the less high-profile prospects, which they may be willing to take as part of a trade. In other words, maybe the Cubs won’t be asked for their top prospects (Pie, Guzman, Hill, etc….) only, as the Orioles may get good reviews on some of the 2nd tier prospects.

Either way, I see a trade unfolding two ways:

First, the Cubs unload Kerry Wood to the Orioles. The Orioles would have to be satisfied with Wood’s rehab progress and feel comfortable with his health….which they may not be. But if Wood’s health is deemed acceptable, I think the Cubs may prefer to go this way, as it saves them some prospects, like Hill and Guzman perhaps, and allows for a trade-off of high salaries. This salary exchange may allow the Cubs to take that same unused “Furcal” money and go after some free agent pitching, such as Millwood or Morris. You will likely also have to give the Orioles Jerome Williams, and maybe a lower level pitching prospect or position player prospect or two. It is possible that you don’t have to part with Cedeno if you give away Wood, but I am not sure. They will want to replace their SS, keep in mind.

Secondly, the Cubs can overwhelm, hopefully, with volume. If you keep Wood, then you are probably going to have to part with Cedeno, Rich Hill, Jerome Williams, and probably 2-3 more prospects. At least that is what I would ask for if Tejada were on the Cubs, and we were trying to get value for him in a trade. If you feel like we are giving away too many prospects, think about it from the Orioles and their fans’ point of view, ‘who the heck is Cedeno and Hill and Williams?!?!’

Can Corey Patterson or Todd Walker be useful trading chips? Maybe. Looking at the Orioles website, I see that Luis Matos is their CF, and his stats aren’t overwhelming. Brian Roberts is their 2B, and Melvin Mora is their 3B. If either Roberts or Mora can play SS, then the Cubs may be able to use Walker and Patterson in a trade, as the Orioles may have a use for them. Remember, just because we want to get rid of Corey Patterson, that fact doesn’t mean that other teams want Corey, or even have a spot available on their team for him.

I would do whatever we could to keep Cedeno as our 2B, because it improves the defense, and keeps payroll down at that position for years to come. But if you have to part with Cedeno to get a proven superstar, you absolutely should do it, in my opinion.

Finally, here is some thinking outside the box that allows the Cubs to part with only Hill, Williams and other prospects besides Cedeno: what if the Orioles sign Nomar? It has already been rumored, and that high-profile name is something the Orioles love, just as they were happy to try and use Sammy Sosa’s high profile to generate fan interest last year. The Orioles have to keep up with the Yankees and the Red Sox, both in terms of fan geography, as well as in their division. They need some superstar names, and Nomar would fit that bill, especially to offset the loss of Tejada.

In that scenario, you can dump Patterson, Walker, Hill, Williams, and some other lesser prospects to the Orioles, and they get pitching and solid bench help at multiple positions. They don’t need Cedeno if they have Nomar, and the Cubs become one right fielder and one starting pitcher away from a World Series in 2006! Thanks for reading, keep your fingers crossed, and go Cubs!

Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne