Thursday, November 12, 2009

Should Cubs Non-Tender Fontenot?

News came out this morning that Cubs second baseman Mike Fontenot reached Super Two status for this offseason, meaning that he'll now be arbitration eligible for 2010, along with the expected 2011 through 2013 seasons. This means that, in spite of his disappointing season, Fontenot is in line for a raise from his $430K salary for next season, possibly into the $2M range.

Given that the Cubs have extremely limited payroll flexibility (especially if they flush dollars down the drain on John Grabow.. ugh), it's questionable if Fontenot is worth keeping around. Obviously, the Cubs should release Aaron Miles first and foremost, he should have been released the day after he was signed, but retaining Fontenot is no longer as obvious as it once was.

He's a good defender at second base, and he has solid plate discipline, but he has a big platoon split, and it's pretty questionable if he's a capable everyday player at this point. When he was making around the league minimum, he was certainly worth keeping around, but given that the Cubs already have Jeff Baker on the roster, it's questionable if Fontenot is still worth keeping around if a raise is necessary. But given that Baker has a platoon split as well, it doesn't appear that the Cubs have a legitimate everyday second baseman on their roster.

I wouldn't be remotely surprsied if he was kept around or let go, but at this point, I think that the Cubs are more likely to look elsewhere for a second baseman going into 2010. There are numerous options that could fit if things play out right (guys like Orlando Hudson, or even Luis Castillo), but the Cubs should probably focus on the outfield more so than second base.

One possible solution: a platoon of Fontenot versus RHP, and Baker versus LHP. Fontenot has posted a .273/.348/.436 line against righties in 729 at bats in past three seasons, and Baker has posted a .275/.332/.509 against lefties in 222 at bats over the same time period, so between those two they could potentially have a solid second baseman platoon, keeping the price tag at that position relatively low, even with Fontenot's raise.

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