Here's what the immediate future of Cubs GM Jim Hendry holds:

Under majestic, climate-controlled glass atriums, you'll be surrounded by nine acres of lush indoor gardens, winding rivers and pathways, and sparkling waterfalls where you can unwind, explore, shop, dine, and be entertained to your heart's content. Highlights include a 44-foot waterfall, fountain shows, and tours aboard our Delta Flatboats - right inside the hotel.

So says the Web site for the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, where the Cubs and the rest of Major League Baseball will convene for the Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday.

Carrie Muskat's latest report at seems designed to lower Cub fans' expectations of what the team might accomplish in Nashville. ("Cubs expect minor tweaks at meetings"; is that an expectations-lowering headline or what?) One thing the Cubs definitely won't accomplish at the meetings is signing free agent infielder Kaz Matsui since the Astros beat them to it, pending a player physical and agreement on a few contractual details.

For the Cubs, I think this is a case of addition by non-addition: Matsui was a disaster for the Mets from 2004 through early '06, hitting .256 with a dismal .308 OBP in 239 games. Exposed to the grass fields in America for the first time, he struggled defensively as well. Wrote the New York Times early in Matsui's first season with the Mets...

Many of Matsui's errors have come from waiting for ground balls, then rushing throws. On the fast artificial surfaces in Japan, Matsui could afford to sit back on grounders and casually sidearm the ball to first base. On the dirt infields common in the major leagues, he has to charge the ball more often and throw over the top.

Matsui's hitting numbers in Colorado, spanning 136 games between late '06 and '07, were respectable. He hit .288 last season with 32 stolen bases. KazMat clearly benefited from hitting in Denver's mile-high Coors Field, however: at home he hit .330 with an 864 OPS; away from Coors, the numbers were just .249 and 638.

To be fair, Matsui had the best defensive Zone Rating for all regular second baseman in the National League last season, and he has been a much more solid defender at second than he ever was at shortstop, where he played when he first joined the Mets.

All in all, however, I'm happy that the $15 million destined for Matsui's bank account over the next three years will be Drayton McLane's money and not the Cubs'. And I'm happy that the Cubs won't have to turn Mark DeRosa into some sort of ├╝ber utility player to make room for the offensively inferior Matsui in the Cub lineup.

Of course there's also the fact that Cubs can put that $15 million to use somewhere else. And right field--Fukudome country--still appears to be the spot to keep your eye on.


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