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More Cub News From Venezuela

Jose Pulido, whose Magallanes blog charts the fortunes of that Venezuelan winter league team (once again, it's in Spanish, but you can run it through Babelfish or any other online translator and at least get a sense of what it's about), e-mailed me again about Hee Seop Choi's performance with the team, which, as it turns out, he has now left:

Choi played for Magallanes until November 22nd. I was informed about ten days ago that his contract was for half the season with an option to prolong his stay, but he preferred to get some rest before spring training. He finished his visit with an 0 for 5 day in a 12-inning game that Magallanes lost 1-0. Choi was the last out against Francisco Rodríguez, of the Anaheim Angels and the Tiburones (Sharks) of La Guaira. Choi did well during the first month, but I think he is not quite ready to be the left-handed power hitter the Cubs have been looking for. Last two weeks he was especially vulnerable, recording only 2 RBIs and striking out 10 times in his last 25 ABs. I think the league caught up with him and he didn’t adjust to the situation. Left-handed pitchers dominated him changing speeds and throwing curve balls. He killed fastballs and was patient enough to get an OBP over 450, but his tendency to miss slow breaking pitches was frustrating. Considering all, Choi is not completely ready, but I think he is better than the Simon/Karros platoon the Cubs had at the end of the season. If the Cubs do not make a move, I think Choi could be good for the team in the long run, but he is going to miss in specific situations, particularly at the end of games against left-handed relievers.

Based on the Choi I saw play in both last spring training and in the half-season or so that he did play, I think this is a very accurate depiction of the Choi we can expect to see if the Cubs decide to go with him, or try to platoon him and a re-signed Karros, again. I've had long discussions with several people, including Craig Bartholomaus and David Geiser from the Cubs newsgroup about the holes in Choi's swing. You can argue semantics all you want, but this is a perfect example of what I'm talking about, and also, it does appear that he's a real streak hitter, since he started the winter season on a real hot streak, but ended it cold.

It's a good thing that he got the at-bats that he wasn't getting during the season, and I also think it's a good thing that he did get the extra rest he said he wanted before spring training begins. Remember that he is less than six months from a serious concussion, and I think people tend to forget how difficult it can be to come back from such an injury -- some players have even been forced to retire post-concussion.

I had mentioned to Jose in an e-mail to him that I thought the Cubs should try to trade for Richie Sexson (I presume that any trade acquiring Sexson would probably include Choi in return), and his comments were:

I think Sexson is one of the most underrated stars in the game; he is an amazing player. I guess the argument against the trade is that, with Sexson, the heart of the Cubs line-up would have a succession of right-handed hitters with no impressive OBPs. My two cents: with the great (and cheap) pitching staff the Cubs have, the organization should do everything possible to get the best available players to complement the pitchers. I don’t know if in four years, with Prior and Zambrano earning what they should, the Cubs are going to have the flexibility to get a 12 million dollar a year power hitter. I think this is a great time to gamble on Sexon. It’s not like he has to learn the pitchers on the division or make a drastic change in lifestyle. It’s true, the only left-handed batter would be Patterson, but if the project doesn’t work, the Cubs would have talent to trade.

Once again, this is very insightful. Yes, there would be a preponderance of right-handed hitters in the Cub lineup. But with the extra power (and OBA) that Sexson would provide, so what? It appears this off-season that the Astros and Cardinals may be cutting payroll, so the Cubs ought to go into the 2004 season as the favorites to win the division. With the pitching the ballclub already has, why not try to upgrade the offense with a ... I hate to say this, but I'm forced to ... "proven veteran".

And it's not like Sexson is 34 and on the downside of his career. He is 29 and had the best year of his career in 2003, and I believe he could do the same for another four or five seasons. I would not make this deal unless they had him signed at the time the deal was made, though; no way would I go through the 2004 season with him as a free agent.

On a day when the forecast in Chicago for tomorrow morning calls for snow flurries, isn't it good to think baseball? Only 100 days till the first spring training game!