There’s been some talk in the Chicago papers that the Cubs may offer Juan Pierre three years and $24MM this offseason. Let’s take a closer look at the 29 year-old speedster.
The Cubs acquired Pierre to play center field on December 7th of last year. Before then, the Cubs flirted with Milton Bradley, Brad Wilkerson, Austin Kearns, and Dave Roberts. Definitely a mixed bag there knowing what we know now. I was not a fan of the Pierre acquisition, though the price didn’t seem terribly high to me. In hindsight, Cubs fans wouldn’t mind having Ricky Nolasco back.
Pierre had an awful start to his Cubs career, hitting just .240/.276/.309 over the season’s first two months. Something clicked in June, however, as he’s hit .316/.363/.433 since. Still, Pierre is miscast as a leadoff hitter and perhaps even as a regular.
The point of a leadoff hitter is to get on base, right? Pierre ranks a woeful 24th in OBP among leadoff hitters with 300 plate appearances this season. Clunky guys like Kevin Youkilis and Jason Kendall are running circles around Pierre’s OBP. Speaking of running, that’s often the defense for letting a guy like Pierre lead off. But when you’re getting nailed on 27% of your steal attempts, you’re not adding much value there.
It’s also well-known that Pierre doesn’t make up for his offensive shortcomings with his center field defense. His arm is awful and his range is unimpressive. In short, Pierre would make a decent fourth outfielder. To pay him anywhere near $8MM annually is a mistake only the Cubs could make. Baseball Prospectus indicates that he should be paid about half that.
Cubs fans can only hope another, dumber team swoops in with an offer Pierre can’t refuse. Matt Murton would be a better option atop the Cubs’ order. Solid free agent outfielders include David Dellucci, Kenny Lofton, and Dave Roberts.