Part 3 of 5 – The Outfield
The outfield of the 2005 Chicago Cubs had a lot of change and drama everyday. With the off-season departure of Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou, the Cubs searched the entire year to replace their numbers and experience. Jeromy Burnitz did a fine job in Right Field, but he was the only consistent throughout the year. Hollandsworth and Dubois were traded. Lawton and Gerut were added, and then traded. Corey Patterson sent almost a month in Iowa and Jerry Hariston, Jr. was in and out of the outfield due to injury and playing time in the infield. Matt Murton became a fan favorite and should be in the Cubs’ outfield for years to come. Jose Macias, Jody Gerut, Matt Lawton, Jason Dubois, Todd Hollandsworth and Ben Grieve all spent time in the Cubs Outfield in 2005. Too many players for only 3 positions. Jeromy Burnitz (RF/CF) – Burnitz had a solid year for the Cubs playing mostly in the difficult right field at Wrigley. Burnitz replaced Sosa very well and had a better offensive year than Sosa did in Baltimore. Burnie finished hitting .258 with 24 home runs and 87 RBI’s. He had 31 doubles and a SLG of .435. The numbers that concern me about Burnitz are .276 (Before the All Star Break) / .237 (after the All Star Break). He played in all but 2 games this year for the Cubs (160), but I wonder if father time started catching up with him.
2006 Outlook – Jeromy Burnitz has a mutual option for the 2006 season and may not return. I do not think that Burnitz will fit into the plans for the 2006 Cubs. Burnitz is a good player, but he has never played on a winning team and this concerns me. He filled in fine during the transition, but I do not believe with the money he will demand (he made $4.5 Million in 2005 and the option for 2006 is $7 million with a $500,000 buyout) he is worth the investment of time and money. Burnie will be 37 just after the season starts and $7 million dollars is too much to pay for a role player. The Cubs must go younger in the outfield and build consistency for the next several years. Look for Jeromy Burnitz to end up elsewhere. (Note: The 2005 Season Review was written before the Cubs decided to decline the 2006 option on Jeromy Burnitz on October 28, 2005. I wish Jeromy Burnitz the best and thank you for the summer of 2005.)
Jerry Hariston, Jr. (CF/LF/2B) – The name that will forever be linked with Sammy Sosa. Hariston really seemed to pick up his OBP toward the end of the year (before his injury) hitting in the lead off spot. (although the numbers prove otherwise .361/before and .303/after) Hariston never seemed to mesh with the club and was constantly moving positions in the field and in the batting order. Jerry had a respectable year, but will anyone remember anything other than he was the one traded for Sosa?
2006 Outlook – Jerry Hariston, Jr. is arbitration eligible for 2006. And I feel that is the reason the Cubs agreed on the trade, no strings attached if it did not work (and it did not). Depending on what route the Cubs go will seal Hariston’s fate with the Cubs. I do not think he is in their infield plan for 2006. The Cubs have 2 players that would be signed before him to play in the infield in the back up role (Walker and Perez). That leaves the outfield and I am unsure of that as well. With the fact this organization is in love with Corey Patterson and Felix Pie should see time next year, Hariston would be the odd man out. I do not think he is a ‘Dusty Baker Guy’, I think he was a means to an end with Sammy Sosa. Do not look for Jerry Hariston, Jr. to be back with Cubs in 2006.
Corey Patterson (CF) – Corey Patterson had the worst year of his professional career. The Cubs tried to get him to become a lead off hitter and could not. He is too selfish. They tried to move him down in the order to get production and utilize his talents in the outfield; he still could not produce….to selfish. Patterson finished just above the Mendoza Line (.200 batting average) at .215. He had 13 home runs (12 solo shots) and only 34 RBI’s. Patterson had 97 hits in 451 (wow??) at bats and struck out 118 times. (more strikeouts than hits) He showed brilliance at times in the outfield and then at other times lack of concentration and desire. Patterson even had trouble running the bases. For the Cubs to have been successful in 2005, they needed Patterson to step up. He did not and we all know what happened to the Cubs. He has multi million-dollar talent with a 2-cent head.
2006 Outlook – Corey Patterson is arbitration eligible for 2006 and I have no idea what the Cubs are going to do. The organization has spent a lot of time and money on this guy and he and the Cubs have yet to click. Before his season ending injury in 2003, he looked like he was beginning to put it together, but in 2005 it was back to the drawing board. I do not see a scenario that Patterson is able to stay in Chicago and fulfill his potential. I think Corey needs a new address and the Cubs need to help find him one. This is one of the HUGE question marks in the off-season. Your guess is as good as mine.
Matt Murton (LF) – Matt Murton had a breakout year in 2005. He started the year with the West-Tenn Diamond Jaxx (AA) and finished the year with the Cubs. Murton had a brief stint with the Iowa Cubs (AAA) and hit the ball at every level. Murton played 51 games for the Cubs and hit .321 with 7 home runs and 45 RBI’s. His patience at the plate gave him a .386 OBP and a SLG of .521. Matt played very well, but at times he showed he was a rookie. He is a work in progress, but showed tremendous potential. Murton was acquired in the Nomar Garciaparra trade from the Red Sox in 2004.
2006 Outlook – Matt Murton is playing for the Mesa Solar Sox in the AFL and this should help with his fundamentals. Murton showed he can hit Major League pitching and the only thing I am concerned about is pitchers figuring him out. Can he adapt to the everyday grind of Major League Baseball? If he can, he should be wearing Cubbie blue for a very long time. Murton has the inside track to be in the starting lineup out of Spring Training.
2006 Outlook for the Outfield – The big question for 2006 is Corey Patterson. What will the Cubs do? Do they give Patterson another try or trade him? What value does he have? Matt Murton should find a home in either right or left field for the Cubs. I do not think Burnitz will be back and there could be 2 new outfielders in Wrigley in 2006. (Note: The 2005 Review was written before the Cubs declined the 2006 option on Jeromy Burnitz) Does Felix Pie figure into the equation? What about Johnny Damon? Kenny Lofton? Do they go speed or power? And please do not even mention Manny Ramirez!!! A lot of questions for 3 positions….stay tuned.