Put on your GM hat because it’s that time of year. After the World Series ends fans line up to shout out their wish list to the world. It’s easy. Just sign each and every favorite player and all will be wonderful. Just put our name on that next World Series trophy! We got this.
Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works. Your team has needs but they also have restrictions. The Cubs are a large market team but they just don’t have the same type of budgets that the Dodgers, Yankees or Red Sox have. When the Rickett’s bought the team, they did so on a “debt deal.” In short, this deal restricts the amount of financial flexibility they have. We also need to realize that the Cubs are still working within an old TV deal that doesn’t look anywhere close to the type of deal the Dodgers have.
With that said, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Cubs finances. Last year they had a payroll around $120M. This was including 32 players over the whole year. A little research shows that the # for the guys on the current roster was closer to $110M as the spreadsheet below shows:
As we can see from the current spreadsheet, the Cubs are on the hook for about $90M in 2016 if everyone under contract returns. According to BP, the largest payroll the Cubs have had in recent years was in 2010. In that year the Cubs spent about $145M. It’s extremely doubtful that the Cubs would get close to the payroll of 2010. A much more “workable” figure is probably right around $125M. This allows for future moves if needed at the 2016 trade deadline if the Cubs decide to take on the contract of a big name acquisition for the playoff push. This leaves the Cubs about $35M to spend this winter.
We would all love to sign David Price. But, his projected contract is currently at 7 years for $210M or about $30M per year. As you can see it just doesn’t make sense financially speaking. The Cubs have already indicated they want to add two pitchers and at least a CF’er to take the place of Dexter Fowler. There just isn’t enough money out there. Of course the Cubs could go over the limit but then they put themselves back into the bind they were in before Theo arrived. So the better choice may be to look for other options.
When you’re a fan your roster is more like an All-Star team. In reality, the roster needs to be adjusted to fill the holes you have. So you will hear all sorts of rumors out there connected to the Cubs. Much of this stuff is generated by the player’s agents because the agent’s job is to generate leverage by getting teams to up the bid for their clients. You should expect to hear the rumors but also acknowledge that it’s probably just a team “checking in” and doing a little homework.
Another resource the Cubs have are the players they have in the organization. Many folks shutter at the thought of trading anyone. Bad memories of Lou Brock still bring tears to their eyes. They seem to be more worried about how the player might perform for another team and less concerned about the return. The Cubs can circumvent this by dealing from an area of surplus. If you look at the entire system, two areas the Cubs seem to have a surplus is middle infielder and corner outfielder.
For the sake of this article we will look at building a roster and not an All-Star team. Theo has said they wanted to add pitching depth with at least one of those guys being an impact arm. Jed Hoyer also spoke of the importance of having pitching that is cost controlled. Knowing that the team has several holes to fill, we will also assume one pitcher will be a free agent and one will probably be acquired through trade. This allows for the most flexibility. There is another given. The impact pitcher does not have to be a #1 pitcher. The Cubs already possess that with Jake Arrieta who is also looking for an extension. If Jake is extended it should take up a good portion of the $35M the Cubs have to spend for 2016.
A #3 pitcher is still an impact pitcher and should probably be a young cost controlled guy with the potential to eventually become your #1 pitcher. Looking at the available arms that are currently free agents, we see no such guy. Most of these guys are 30+ years old and are certainly NOT cost controlled. This type of pitcher can be had but only through a trade. So that leaves us looking for a #4 pitcher for the 2016 rotation. If you look at it in this light, it really changes your perspective.
Our first highlighted free agent pitcher is rumored to be looking at a contract of about 5 years and $80M or about $16M per year. A recent rumor even had him in the 4 years for $65M range. He will be 31 years old to start the 2016 season. He has had no injuries and has thrown 200+ innings for the past 3 seasons. He is projected to have a WAR of 2.7 with an ERA of 3.85. His strikeout per 9 innings projects to 7.39 with the walks around 2.12 per 9 innings. Overall this guy fights to give you at almost 7 innings each time he pitches.
Our second highlighted free agent pitcher is rumored to be looking at a contract of about 6 years and $126M or about $21M per year. He will be 30 years old in May of the 2016 season. He has had no injuries but scouts have reported a drop in velocity over the past 2 seasons. He has also thrown about 200 innings the past 3 seasons. He is projected to have a WAR of 2.8 with an ERA of 3.57. His strikeout per 9 innings projects to 7.28 with the walks around 1.82 per 9 innings. This guy also takes the ball and gives you almost 7 innings each time out.
When looking at these two guys we can see that they are basically the same except for one thing. It’s all about the MONEY! We are only talking about a$5M difference per year but pitcher #2 will be on your payroll much longer. We all should expect their performance to decline as they age. It’s just a statistical probability.
Looking at it this way, we could probably agree that pitcher #1 makes more sense. We could probably also agree that in the #4 spot of the rotation the Cubs would be much stronger than they were in 2015. Let’s reveal the names.
Pitcher #2 is Jordan Zimmerman.
Drum roll please……
Pitcher #1 is Jeff Samardzija.
It’s not about “show friends” it’s all about “show business.”