I’m about to make a pretty crazy statement. Upon reading said statement you might laugh, you might cry, or your head might explode. Whatever happens, know this – while I might be certifiably insane, I’m still entitled to my opinion. So indulge a harmless, old man for a moment and hear my plea before throwing me under the bulldozers currently demolishing Wrigley’s bleachers.
I think I might kinda sorta, given the other options on the table, possibly want Corey Patterson
to play right field for the Cubs next year.* (Cringing, shielding face with hands.)
Ok, now that you’ve let that sink in, I’d like to make my case. First, let me say that Corey is certainly not my number one choice (Carl Crawford
, Bobby Abreu
), nor does he even crack my top 20 (I’d take Chris Burke
over him, and I don't mean the one who plays for the Astros). However, given the recent news that Jimbo Hendry is poised to offer Jacque Jones
a 2 year contract in the neighborhood of $10 million, I’d like to come out and voice my support for essentially anyone else. Yes, even Corey Patterson.
When I first heard the Cubs were interested in Jones, I immediately drew comparisons to Jeromy Burnitz
. Though Jones is not as old as Burnitz, he is still past his baseball prime and their statistics last year were almost identical. Why pay essentially the same player more money for a multi-year contract when you can keep the player you already have for a one-year deal, thus allowing the possibility that phenom Felix Pie could make the big squad by mid-year? Simply comparing the 31-year old Jones to the 36-year old Burnitz does not serve my argument, so I compared both of them to the 26-year old Corey Patterson.
As you can see, Patterson comes out favorably in most statistics, with the notable exception being strikeouts which have plagued him throughout his career. But, both Jones and Burnitz are also prone to the K, so we’re essentially dealing with three very similar offensive players. One of them just happens to be much younger and cheaper, as Corey will likely receive approximately $2.6 million for one year after the arbitration process.
Admittedly, this is the first chink in the armor of my argument since I’m using Corey’s 2004 statistics rather than those of his abysmal 2005. But, that should not totally discredit the point. Yes, he had a terrible 2005 (.215 / 13 HR / 34 RBI in 126 games), but because of his young age and incredible athletic ability, I’ll be optimistic and call this past year an outlier. It is certainly not outside the realm of possibility for Patterson to return to his 2003/2004 form, and I’d even go so far as to say it’s likely that he will.
Baseball has seen this scenario before, and actually very recently. In 2002, Pat Burrell
of the Phillies hit .282 with 37 homers and 116 RBIs. By all accounts, that’s a fantastic year. Then, in 2003, he inexplicably plummeted to a BA of .209 with only 21 HRs and 64 RBIs (sound familiar?). Essentially everyone in Philadelphia gave up on him. They called for his head in the newspapers, on the radio, and from the stands, but the story didn’t quite end there. Burrell came back to hit .257 in 2004, with an OBP of .365 (excellent) and 24 home runs. His 2005 campaign was even better, putting up .281 / 32 / 117 – almost exactly back to his 2002 form. It’s not impossible to see Corey Patterson pulling off a similar comeback given that he’ll no longer be forced to bat leadoff and will have much less pressure batting in the 6 or 7 hole.
Corey Patterson still has the potential to become the 5-tool player he was projected as when he was made the 3rd overall pick in the ’98 draft. Bringing him back to the Cubs will be difficult considering the hecklers in right field, and both Hendry and Dusty Baker are entering the final year of their contracts. However, using him as a stopgap until Felix Pie can prove himself is not necessarily a bad move. Certainly it’s better than overpaying for essentially the same player five or ten years older.
As fans, we’re often too quick to give up on players when they don’t perform to our expectations. That’s only natural, but when the other options aren’t good either it doesn’t make sense to throw away potential. What if the White Sox had given up on Paul Konerko
after he hit .234 in 2003? They almost certainly wouldn’t be World Series champs right now. I’m not saying Corey will turn around and hit back-to-back 40 homer seasons like Konerko or put up the RBI totals of Pat Burrell, but by playing him in right field for the time being, the Cubs will avoid yet another costly, aging mistake, and save a couple million dollars to provide some wiggle room at the trade deadline. Besides, unless the Cubs are trying to set a record for the most French-sounding names in one outfield, they really don’t need Jacque Jones.*Wow, you really can make an argument for just about anything.