By Jim Callis
August 16, 2003
With Hee Seop Choi ineffective since returning from a concussion and Eric Karros not doing much against righthanders, the Cubs have been looking for a lefthanded-hitting first baseman. After Rafael Palmeiro twice vetoed deals that would have returned him to Chicago, the Cubs went to Plan B, getting Randall Simon from the Pirates on Saturday for Double-A outfielder Ray Sadler.
Though they had Craig Wilson available to play first base, Pittsburgh traded three prospects (most notably third baseman Kody Kirkland) to Detroit last November for Simon. Simon was everything he was advertised—a free-swinging line-drive hitter whose production is below average for a first baseman—and his bat attracted more attention for the swipe he took at one of Miller Park’s sausage racers than it did for any damage it did to pitchers. Simon, 28, hit .274-10-51 in 91 games for the Pirates, with mediocre on-base (.305) and slugging (.417) percentages. His on-base plus slugging against righties (.738) isn’t much higher than Karros’ (.704). Simon’s speed and defensive skills are also nothing special. He’s making $1.475 million this season, after which he’ll be eligible for arbitration for the second time in his career. He’s a lifetime .298-40-200 hitter in 412 big league games.
Sadler, 22, was a 30th-round pick in 1999 from Hill (Texas) JC and signed a year later as a draft-and-follow. A cousin of Rangers utilityman Donnie Sadler, he’s not in Donnie’s class as a speedster but runs well and has more thump in his bat. During the offseason, the Cubs praised him as a rare player who has improved his tools as he rose through the minors. He’s a plus runner and a solid center fielder. At West Tenn this year, Sadler has hit .291-6-42 in 110 games, with a .352 OBP and .434 slugging percentage. He needs to tighten his strike zone (33 walks, 81 whiffs) but could figure into Pittsburgh’s outfield mix at some point in 2004.