Neifi turns two
Neifi's happy. I'll be happy once the guy to his left is gone.
As Lazlo pointed out, the Cubs have resigned Neifi Perez to a 2-year deal which makes him a Cub until the end of the 2007 season. With Nomar filing for free agency, it looks more and more unlikely that he'll come back (Good! Send him to the West Coast!) so we grabbed back the cheaper SS of the two.
But what will this ultimately mean?
Neifi has said countless times, in person and in print, that "any way I can help them [the Cubs] out, I'll help them out." This is the perfect sentiment for a 32-year-old, career .270 BA/.301 OBP/.380 SLG hitter. His defensive range is solid, and he did show flashes of excellence last year.
However, it makes me worried that now we've re-signed him, Dusty will work him into the everyday lineup at the expense of Cedeno. Neifi is great 2B/SS/3B cover, and he works well as a PH for the most part, but he should not be playing everyday, but if Nomar does depart, I'm afraid that Baker will panic and use him on a full-time basis.
This is not smart. Why?
He's a long way removed from being that everyday guy.
In 2005, his best months were April (.368 BA, .403 OBP, 11 R, 12 RBI) and August (.347 BA, .388 OBP). Why? Because those were the months in which he played the least (68 ABs and 75 ABs respectively).
In every other month where his ABs were considerably higher, a natural occurrence if playing every day, his numbers were dreadful:
108 AB, .259 BA, .283 OBP, 11 R
109 AB, .229 BA, .248 OBP
103 AB, .233 BA, .245 OBP
102 AB, .255 BA, .274 OBP
Neifi's notoriously streaky; when he's hot, he's unstoppable and when he's cold, he's abyssmal. Playing him everyday, as tempting as it may be for Dusty considering that he's part of the Veterans Club (aka "favourites in the dugout"), will be detrimental to this team, and I guess we'll find out soon enough based on how hard we chase Rafael Furcal to fill the SS hole.
The last time he played more games than he did in 2005 (154) was way back in 2000 (162 for Colorado), coincidentally the year he won the NL Gold Glove.
It's time for him to serve in the role for which he is best suited in the Cubs organization: serious depth on our bench. Having exercised our option on Todd Walker (maybe to use him as trade material, and the Indians might make another run on him), a ready young guy in Cedeno, and an expected run on acquiring Rafael Furcal, the Cubs will go from shallow to deep at those infield spots.
Thankfully, Neifi is ecstatic to be a Cub again, and he is one of the more unselfish guys you'll see around. This won't be a problem at all for Neifi or for the Cubs on the whole, depending on Dusty's managing of the situation in 2006.