In 2008 Edmonds was awful in San Diego and great with the Cubs. He’s an opposite-field hitter and his natural stroke hits the ball right at Wrigley’s left-field “well”. A park that’s short in the corners doesn’t help him much, but one with short power alleys does. I’m not great at interpreting Hit Tracker data, but it sure looks like he hit lots of high fly balls toward the left field alley in 2008, and his average distance on HR that year wasn’t all that high. He was signed by the Cubs in mid-May and in June started getting more playing time and hitting more, just as the weather heats up and Wrigley turns into a really great place to hit home runs to left field.
My interpretation of Edmonds’ 2008 is that he was aging and facing power decline, no longer able to consistently hit homers in most parks, and was propped up by Wrigley’s unusual dimensions. 11 of his 19 Cub homers came at home. Interestingly, 4 of the 8 road HR were at Miller Park. Obviously it’s not much of a sample size, but Miller isn’t all that big in the alleys either. In the NL Central he’ll play lots of games at Miller, Wrigley, Minute Maid, and Great American, each of which should suit his stroke well. Busch doesn’t look so hot, and PNC is his nightmare park.
In only half a season (85 games) with the Cubs in 2008, Edmonds posted a ridiculous .256/.369/.569 triple-slash line (.394 wOBA) with 19 HR and 49 RBI. Edmonds did all of this with a .260 BABIP (.315 xBABIP using THT’s xBABIP calculator). Bad luck, in theory, robbed Jim Edmonds of 10 hits. If we credit Edmonds with those additional hits and pessimistically assume that all of those additional hits would have been singles, Edmonds would have hit .296/.403/.608 (1.011 OPS) in his 298 PA stint on the Cubs. Amongst all major league players in 2008 who came to the plate 290+ times, only Albert Pujols (1.114 OPS), Chipper Jones (1.044 OPS), and Manny Ramirez (1.031 OPS) posted higher OPS’s.
During his brief tenure with the Cubs, Jim Edmonds was worth +14.4 Batting Runs Above Average (BRAR) and -6.7 Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAR). When you adjust his numbers for playing time and position, Edmonds came out to a 1.9 WAR player over essentially one half of a season for the Chicago Cubs. That extrapolates Edmonds as being a 3.5-4 WAR player over the course of a full season for the Cubs. All of this is before you adjust his batting line to account for bad luck.
Edmonds is now 40 years old, however, and it would be somewhat naive to think he could repeat his 2008 season, especially being a year removed from major league play. Being incredibly pessimistic, let’s just say that Edmonds would have been a 3.5 WAR player over the course of a full season of play in 2008. If we account the traditional -0.5 WAR adjustment for age by season, that still puts Edmonds as a +2.5 WAR player if he is still in shape. Subtract another -0.5 WAR for “being rusty” and you still, in theory, have a quality +2.0 WAR player.
Now, a lot of this is of course “in theory.” 298 PA is a poor sample size by which to judge OBP, SLG, OPS, and ISO. Edmonds is also going to turn 40 this year and dealt with several injuries in 2006 and 2007 which limited him to partial seasons (~400 PA) each year. There are clearly a lot of “what ifs” and “in theories” to be said here, but if Edmonds is healthy, and if the Cardinals (or any team, for that matter) are willing to take the risk, and if Edmonds is willing to take a huge paycut, then its very possible that Edmonds could be the ultimate low-risk, high-reward OF this season for a team with a budget crunch and holes to fill.
Edmonds got about 300 PA as a Cub, which looks like half a season, but he was on the team for longer than that. Edmonds’ first game with the Cubs was their 41st of the season, so he played about 3/4 of the season as a Cub to get 300 PA. Basically he got a lot of days off and didn’t have to face much left-handed pitching. If he had to play more, especially against lefties (Edmonds has been awful against lefties from 2006 on after hitting them well before that), you can’t assume he’d have hit as well. So if you’re really going to extrapolate based on his Cubs time you can only extrapolate to about 400 PA. Which would come out around 2.5 WAR, not 3.5-4.
I’m not sure that extrapolating based on his play with the Cubs and ignoring his awful play with the Pads is really the right way to go about things. But even if you do it, and look closely at his performance, things don’t look quite as rosy as you say. Which still leaves room for Edmonds to be productive as a part-time player, hitting only against righties, and not playing in parks with deep left-field alleys.
Supposedly he discontinued a medication when he left SD and went to Chicago. And no caveats about UZR or injuries. He could be exceptional defensively. Reading fangraphs et al is like reading old fashioned boiler plate copy.