Everyone involved with major league baseball will be centered in Nashville for the next few days. Meetings are officially scheduled to start on Monday but everyone has probably already arrived and are busy looking to improve their teams. The Cubs have been busy already as well but have yet to make that big splash that most have expected. Let’s look again at what we could see happen over the next few days.
A little over a week ago we looked at how much money the Cubs might have to spend. We estimated that the Cubs had about $35M to add in payroll this winter. This was concluded before we saw what David Price signed for or what many expect Zach Greinke to sign for as well. It’s pretty easy to see that this year’s crop of free agents is getting outrageous money. Fans will quickly proclaim, “he’s not worth that much!”
The bottom line is, a player is worth exactly what anyone is willing to pay him. We also have no problem with payers trying to get as much money that the market will bear. We should also note that the player’s union pressures these guys to take the most money they can in hopes that it will raise the salaries of all the players over time.
So with that said, you just have to accept that this is the price of doing business in today’s major leagues. If you are in the market for a true ace in free agency, you better be willing to cough up $200M+ for many years. The only way around this is to draft and develop your own ace. The latter is much more risky because you just never know how these kids will pan out during their development in your system.
The Cubs took a different approach. They went after the best bats they could acquire at the time they were available. They also didn’t prioritize the players they acquired. They didn’t look at areas of need but rather grabbed the best available player in spite of what position they played.
The plan all along was to get the best bats and figure out later where they would play. Also included in this overall plan was the idea that at some time they may have to trade some of these bats for pitching OR pay through the nose for the pitching the knew would be needed in the near future.
Well friends, that time has come and it’s ahead of schedule. In a perfect world, the Cubs would have had a new TV deal in place and wheel barrels of cash would have been there for the taking. Reality slaps us in the face and we can see that the $35M we have to spend just isn’t enough money to land the best free agents on the market.
What’s worse is that the idea of signing Jake Arrieta to a team friendly extension needs be abandoned. There is no way Arrieta should sign a team friendly deal in spite of all the success he has had as a Cub. And the Cubs would be wise to just let this play itself out as there is probably no way Arrieta repeats his history making season of 2015.
So if you are scoring at home, this means the Cubs have a 2 year window for the services of Jake Arrieta. This makes the idea of acquiring a young, cost-controlled #3 pitcher even more of a priority. The Cubs could easily sign a guy like Samardzija, Lackey or Leake to fill that #3 role. But not one of those pitchers could step up to the #1 guy if and when Arreita decides to test the market.
Teams controlling these young cost controlled guys are also asking for high returns for their pitchers. Any idea that the Cubs would trade one young stud for a pitcher seems to be short-sighted. The Mets, Indians and Padres are all saying the same thing. It’s going to take 2-3 top prospects for their major league ready top of the rotation guys.
Again, this is just the cost of doing business. So if this is the case, there is going to be a stiff price to pay. But instead of always dwelling on what the Cubs may give up, we should look at the strength of the team after a deal is made. Will the Cubs be a stronger team after a deal is made? The Cubs have depth. Players being traded this winter could probably be replaced over the next 2 years from the pool we have in the minor leagues.
The Cubs have talked about the possibility of trading either Soler, Baez or Castro this winter. Now the question seems to have shifted. Are the Cubs willing to package 2 of these guys for the pitcher they covet? We think they are. The reason for the unexpected long delay to acquire their impact pitcher they desire is which 2 guys do we package and for which pitcher?
This will be the one decision that will make or break this front office’s master plan to rebuild and win a World Series!