The conversation about the soon to be immortal Al Infante got me thinking about Chicago's foreign flavor and history in signing International players. In 26 seasons as owner of the Cubs, I've spent more than $182 Million on International players ($182,380,000 to be exact). A quick review of the $10+ M players and how they impacted the Cubs, for better or worse:
Pat Suzuki, $26.6M - Arguably the greatest int'l player ever. Still just 24 and in his 4th full season (was a mid/late season injury call up and played in 59 games in season 23, ruining ROY chances), has already amassed 216 HRs, 563 RBI, 529 R, 123 SBs, with a career .295 avg, .375 OBP and 1.011 OPS. As long as he stays relatively healthy (big if) could end up being on short list discussion of best players (although I think Al's Johnson will always be the best pos player ever). Has almost single handedly thrust Cubs into perennial contention. There is no amount that would have been too much for this guy. Sometimes WIS is just about being lucky. Cubs were lucky they had more money than RobertBaron, the only other team with big time cash at the time of the signing
David Manzanillo, $16.7M - Has been a solid contributor to the Cubs recent success and its distant failures. Signed as a SS, had 40 errors in a dreadful season 20. 40! Was moved to 3B, where he won the GG in season 22, then played a few capable seasons at SS after getting past his yips. His poor SS play could be attributed to the fact he was born with spina bifada (53 health), which cost him 70 games in season 21. Weak metronome at the plate - .280, .345 OBP, 20 doubles, no power every year. Given the money and the fact that players like Willie Pascual, Kevin Yoshii, and Pablo Solano were signed for similar dollars, has to be considered a slight disappointment.
Bernie Mendez, $15M - Mendez was a panic signing - one of those 'I don't know how may good Intl's there will be this year and I have low scouting' (Cubs spent 8 mil on intl that year). So panic signing, with a purpose. Mendez's greatest contribution to the Cubs was serving as the centerpiece in a trade that delivered Haywood Bell. Bell's terrible health rating was a calculated risk for a team that had no star power and needed a legit bat. Bell has spent time on the DL for sure, but has averaged .296 ave, .372 OBP 30 HRs, 90 RBI over the past 9 season. needed consistency for a team that was directionless.
Desi Guerrero, $14M - Way too early to tell with Desi - could be a GG 3B, but Cubs moved him as the centerpiece in the Jair Bennett deal. On a team rife with low health ratings, Cubs needed to move him for established, healthy vet for stability (editors note: Bennett currently on the DL..what a dick). Good signing, but only ways Cubs don't regret dealing him is if Jair helps them win a WS (getting there doesn't count).
Jose Ortiz, $11.9M - One of the more frustrating players in Cubs history. Should have been a steal at this price, but was consistently inconsistent. Struggled mightily when Cubs were still in contention in season 12-15, then pitched his best when Cubs needed him as a #1 (seasons 16-18: 230 IP, 3.7 ERA, 1.34 WHIP). Unfortunately, his best was the stuff of a #3 starter. Biggest contribution to the Cubs was being centerpiece in trade for Michael Yammamoto and Tike Jeter. Yamma was later included in blockbuster for Victor Morlan, while Jeter has established himself as one of the best back of the rotation starters in the league,despite his 0 GB/FB rating in a HR hitters park. Jeter has been good for about 180 IP, anywhere between a 3.5 - 4.5 ERA, and a WHIP hovering around 1.18 - 1.22. Not bad for a #5.
Other Internationals of note:
Pedro Amaral, $6.4M - Had some extraordinary power numbers in seasons 10-12, then again in season 15. Ended up career with 474 HRs and 1952 hits. Pretty damn good player for the money - totally outperformed his ratings.
Ezdra Gutierrez, $5.3M - I'm assuming that this was a late season signing and the Cubs simply had money to waste. Either that, or Ezdra had compromising pics of Paco from his scouting trip to Mao.
Davey Puente, $3.6 - The Carlos Quintana of WIS. Had a few cups of coffee at the ML level, had some decent numbers, but never got a real chance. Rightfully so - not a good player.