Cubs could target June for phase 2 of rebuilding

Just about the time the Marlon Byrd deal was going down I was talking with someone familiar with the Cubs plan. I was told the Cubs are working the phones hard now, and the Byrd deal proves it.

This front office has a lot more bodies to shuffle and they seem to have the go ahead from ownership to make any move they deem necessary. That would indicate they would eat the remainder of Alfonso Soriano’s deal when they feel the time is right.

That time could come when Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson are ready. That is a whole other issue. This front office won’t rush these guys as we have talked about exhaustively.

I was told that ownership now realizes how silly it was to “start the clock” on Starlin Castro almost 2 years ago. Castro was brought up quickly by then GM Jim Hendry at the time to try and save not only the 2010 season but also maybe his job and face.

Hendry badly wanted to show that his farm system was producing a talent like Castro. If he had let Castro stay down a bit longer it could have ultimately saved the Cubs about $8 million.

I was told yesterday that not only would it be financially and baseball prudent to let Rizzo and Jackson ripen a bit, but also mentally.

Let’s say Rizzo were to come up here in the cold and unforgiving spring weather that has affected slow starts to vets like Moises Alou and Derek Lee. It messed with their Cubs debuts, just think what it could do to a young player that faltered a bit in his first major league stint.

The Chicago media vultures would be throwing out the AAAA label, and  short sighted fans would be up in arms over another failed, hyped prospect quicker than you can say Brooks Kieschnick.

Not a good idea if you think about it. It may sound like silly semantics to you, but think about how much sense it makes to bring these guys up in June. You not only have the chance to start their clocks later, you get some weather to help ensure a Rizzo shot reaches Sheffield rather than get knocked down to a warning track out.

That could go a long way in greasing the skids for a young player in an unforgiving situation.

For now we just have to wait it out and see if other players like Geovany Soto or Soriano can be moved to make room for replacements. We have discussed the reality of rebuilding here lately. John is a bit more patient with holding onto vets than I.

I do have patience to rebuild; I just want the full effect. This is the first time since 1982 that a Cub organization is being completely retooled.

I guess we may have to wait for the weather to change before the climate completely does too.




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  • Tom, i'm with you 100%..After seeing the same old Soriano being impatient at the plate and striking out in a key situation on a pitch 2 feet wide and in the dirt it makes me want the Cubs to cut ties with the likes of Soriano, DeShit, Soto etc regardless of the cost but then again that's why Theo and Jed are in charge..In all honsety, after Byrds horrific start, i'm surprised we got Bowden plus another player for him, seriously....Here's hoping that Geovanny Rebisi gets hot for a couple of weeks so we can ship his ass elsewhere...

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I think by June we are going to mostly get our wish. It sounds like we just need to be a bit more patient.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    June's not that far off..Did your source have any other rumor info??? I'd wage rhtat Soriano is gonna be the hard one to move, is there any chance they just cut him??

  • I imagine the plan is to try to trade Soriano and move LaHair to LF, trade Soto and bring up Castillo or someone like Lalli to backup Clevenger while Castillo still works on his game, and to call up Rizzo and Jackson. We may also see DeWitt, Baker, or Johnson dealt and someone like Cardenas brought up. Most likely Dempster will be shopped at the deadline and maybe someone like Rusin will get a shot to join the rotation. It might be nice to lock up Castro and Garza as well. It will be fun to see some new competitive faces at Wrigley this summer, even if it will take them a few years to win.

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    To think that there are Cub fans who still think that Hendry did an average to above average job overall as GM.

  • Well, let's be realistic here, Raymond, he did! Not long term. Hendry wasn't building a team from the ground up for long term success. His plans were more in line with Tribune Co's idea of selling. Selling while they're hot. He put together teams for short term success. I still believe that his two big failure moves were signing Soriano to a ridiculous contract and hiring Lou Pinnela over Joe Girardi. I think the team would've gotten more from Joe and Joe would've gotten more from the team.

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    In reply to lokeey:

    With the resources at his disposal and the payroll he had a hand in building, to have his Major League teams play 1 game over .500 and to have left behind one of the worst player development systems in baseball, Hendry did not do an average to above average job as GM.

  • Thanks for the forward looking article today. It takes the sting out of the loss today. The June draft should make foor many interesting conversations. Can't wait to see that strategy Theo and Jed use.

  • In reply to Cliffy46405:

    Thanks Cliffy, it does help to look forward to those 2.

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    Speaking of the cold weather, does anyone know the reasoning for playing night games this early in the season? When the lights were put up in 1988 they said it would help the team to not get worn out as easily in the hot summer days. Wouldn't it make more sense to group the majority of the night games in june- sept. They're gonna freeze their butts out there tonight!

  • In reply to cb56:

    Don't say that! I'm taking John tomorrow night.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I hear it's supposed to be warmer tomorrow. Could get to 70 in the day, obviously colder at night but shouldn't be too bad.

  • June sounds about right, the way they are playing , June seems the month they start blowing things up.

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    Yes, this is the first time since 1982 that ownership has allowed for a complete rebuild, but that is exactly what needed to be done, and just like then, the guys to do it are in place. Unlike last time, I think ownership will see it through. I don't think the Ricketts family sees the Cubs the same way the Tribune Company did. The Tribsters only saw the Cubs as a cash cow. They only cared about winning when they wanted to sell the team so as to make it more valuable. I think the Ricketts want to make money, but I think they care as much about winning as they do making a profit, and I think they've taken the view that making the Cubs a consistent winner will make them even more profits.

  • Tom, I agree with the piece totally. Can you discuss what exactly they may do with Soriano. Are you talking buyout? Or does he have value to an AL team if the Cubs pick up all of that ridiculous money owed to him??

  • June sounds about right to me, actually. I do want to say I'm not in favor of keeping the vets longer if they get a good offer for them. I just don't want to dump them early for nothing. It's April and the value and demand are really low right now.

    The Byrd trade is a good example. Boston had a strong need and Byrd was the best available CF'er. That the Cubs were able to get a young MLB ready arm and a PTBNL was probably more than they could have gotten a month ago.

    If a catcher goes down, Soto immediately becomes the best on the market, but you can't force him down someone's throat when he's struggling and teams don't have a strong need.

    Soriano, on the other hand, anytime they want to trade him is fine with me. I don't know if they'll ever get a decent offer for him even if they pay 80-90% of his salary.

    I think once you get into June, teams have a much better idea of what they have and don't have -- and maybe by then Soto is at least hitting .260 with some HRs. That would be enough to get a decent return back especially once teams become unhappy with their own catchers.

    By then, there will also be injuries and somebody will give the Cubs something for Baker, who I look at as someone teams might have more interest in as a role player they could use down the stretch. Reed Johnson doesn't become eligible until June, I'm sure he's almost certainly gone soon after. The Braves would be a nice fit for him.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed! I want to see some of these guys gone as much as anyone, but there is no sense being rid of them just to be rid of them. Soriano is in a category all by himself though. Frankly, I don't think he is tradeable. I think the best you are going to be able to do is hope that he and his agent would agree to renegotiate his contract, ala Bobby Bonilla, and then grant him his unconditional release. Either way, he is still getting his money, and the Cubs are still going to pay all, in the case of an unconditional release, or most of it, in the case of a trade.

    I think Soto, like Byrd, still has value, but that value is as much about other teams' needs as it is what Soto is actually doing. Obviously that value would be enhanced if he were playing well, but how much so is debateable. The front office got an offer for Byrd that was probably the best they were going to get given all the factors involved. So they pulled the trigger. If between now and July 31 a team needs a catcher, the Cubs will be the first team called because there isn't a catcher out there with his potential upside.

    Dempster, if he can stay healthy and continue to pitch as he has so far, has the potential to bring a decent haul back. It's a shame the Royals aren't playing better, because Dempster, much like Charlie Leibrandt was for a young Braves' staff, would be the perfect stable pony for them, but he could also be that for a young Blue Jays staff. I could also see Detroit having an interest in Dempster. In fact, there aren't many contending teams out there that Dempster wouldn't be a good fit for. Of course, there is always the question of whether or not he would waive his NTC. I think he would in order to have a chance to win a World Series. All that said, whether they trade him or not, I would hope that this front office would be open to possibly resigning Dempster, as long as it was a reasonable deal. This team's pitching staff is going to need a stable pony too, and hopefully sooner rather than later. Again, it's a role he is perfectly suited for.

    I said it in another thread a few days ago, but on the "Should we trade Garza fence?," I'm leaning trade again. I don't want to see another Cubs player get a blanket NTC again as long as I live. Money-wise, I would be okay with an extension that guaranteed Danks-like money to Garza while giving him incentives that would get him into Cain-like territory, but if he insist on a blanket NTC, he's got to go. Also, I'm not confident that the Cubs will be good enough to contend again while Garza is still in his prime years. So there is another reason to deal him.

  • With Rizzo, if they bring him up in June, I believe he'll acquire a year's service time by the end of the season. If they really want to save money on him, they'll have to wait until late August or September.

    I think an interesting question is this: What if it gets to late July or early August and he's still red-hot while LaHair slumps or gets injured? Calling him a few weeks early at that point may cost them a year in terms of service time. Do you wait or do you call him up?

    I do see service time as a factor, especially as it gets closer to that cutoff point. I wonder that if Rizzo isn't called up by June if service time looms larger as it gets closer to September.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I think this front office will be smart about the call ups. If this team were in the hunt and those call ups might actually make a difference, it would be different, but this is not the case. There simply is no point starting their clocks early. The extra tickets sold probably doesn't offset the cost of doing so.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I'm of the mindset that service time is a factor, but not the only one. I think if the stars align sometime in June or early July for Rizzo, then we'll see him then. Once it gets around August, it'll get a little trickier, I think. Then you're talking about a few weeks of play in exchange for an entire year of service time.

  • Good to hear that ownership has given the front office cart blanche. It's going to be a rotten year at the turnstile, but for Ricketts, it's still better than the alternative, which is to make a couple big, expensive free agent signings in a desperate bid to be competitive. As anyone can plainly see, neither Pujols nor Fielder would have been enough to get this team to .500, let alone to the vicinity of a wild-card berth.

    Smartly, Ricketts & Co. just want Theo to change the culture and the narrative surrounding this Cubs team. Bad teams can be hopeless (see Cubs 2010/11) or hopeful (Cubs 2012?). From a business standpoint, that means that ticket sales should start climbing in April 2013 and continue to rise as the team introduces new and exciting players.

    I know we were on the sidelines for the free agent shopping spree last offseason, but I would expect the Cubs to make at least one big signing this offseason. Is it too early to make a guess as to where that would be? I'd put my money on a young pitcher with top-of-rotation stuff, like another Garza.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Yeah I think Ricketts is all the way behind this plan, that is so refreshing!

  • If you take the front office literally, they want Jackson to get another 250 or so at bats in AAA. That takes him well beyond early June. Oh, and he is not hitting all that well in Iowa. But they could really use an outfielder at the big league level. On the other hand, Rizzo came into the season with a lot more AAA at bats and is hitting far better than Jackson. But they do not need a first baseman in Chicago; in fact, that is about all they don't need. That is one of the (many) real frustrations about this year. Not only is there a lot of mediocrity at all levels but the useable pieces don't fit together all that well either. I will leave to the predicting to people who know more than I (that is why I read Cubs Den) but it seems like it may be later than June before we see serious change (IMHO).

  • In reply to bruno14:

    I have to agree with you Bruno. I think later than June seems more likely. I would even bet that Jed will still play it safe with Rizzo due to what happened out in SD and maybe even wait until after July to bring him up. LaHair isn't horrible and he's actually doing more than what most of us probably expected. When they start giving Soriano a few days off and you see LaHair playing LF, than you pretty much suspect or expect something will happen shortly thereafter. I don't think LaHair should be moved, though, as we've already seen him show some signs of having back issues.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    Not living in the Chicago area, I did not see LaHair in the outfield all that much last year, but what I saw did not look that bad. He seemed to take a pretty good line to ball, caught what he got to, and was faster than I expected him to be. From reading here, I begin to suspect that my impression was a tad too optimistic. If he coould play outfield, that might address part of the problem of how to best fit the pieces together.

  • The Cubs are losing all credibility with their rebuilding through trades which primarily shed salary. After losing out on Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespodes, the much smaller contracts to sign Geraldo Conception and the players in last year's draft are not going to boost Cub fans morale and hope enough, what with all the losses piling up already. It's time to sign Jorge Soler when he soon becomes eligible.

  • In reply to shalin:

    Part of rebuilding means clearing the decks. Unfortunately, the Cubs don't have pieces to deal that have a lot of value.

  • Lots of word recently that Tampa looking for a catcher. Soto and Suzuki are good fits for them.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Soto would be a nice fit for Tampa, let's just hope they don't try to regift any previous players in a deal.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    dream scenario: Soto and Darwin Barney for Wade Davis, Tim Beckham and a prospect.

    Tampa is loaded rotation wise and has other pitching prospects in the minors so losing Wade shouldnt hurt them much, he got beat out for a rotation spot bc they felt he'd be better suited in the pen than the other guy. Beckham is falling out of favor and some even think Lee has surpassed him in their system but I think he still has some upside and would look nice at second base for us in a year or two. until then you let Valbuena or Cardenas play second.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Have to think Wade Davis' name would come up if the teams were to talk. Would make some sense.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Would like to obtain Davis, but why no love on this board for Barney. The kid is developing into a quite solid 2B. He is 26 years old with a little over 600 at bats in the big leagues, and he is on the improve. We are talking about second base here fellows, he is batting in the two hole and more than holding his own so far this season. Based on current production, he would wind up with around a 2.0 WAR, above average for the position. And he plays solid defense and is always mentally in the ball game.
    He needs to adjust to swinging at the low ball, this is how they have been getting him out. Question, anybody notice how he looks to his left with his eyes when he is in the box and the pitcher is ready to deliver. Strange quirk he has, wish one of the media guys would ask him about it.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I'm sure Tampa wouldn't mind Barney. Other teams seem to like Barney more than Cubs fans seem to.

    That being said, I dont think Barney's the problem. If Tampa or another team is willing to deal value, that's one thing -- but we've got much bigger problems than second base.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thank you John. Sometimes it seems like no topic is too removed to get a contribution of "and then we can finally get rid of Barney." One day he may get beat out but for now second base is far less a problem than at least a few other positions.

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    In reply to bruno14:

    Hence why I feel he is the topic in alot of those discussions. One thing we do have are guys in the system are guys who project to be decent 2nd basemen and a few who can potentially unseat barney at some point (Torreyes, devoss, valbuena, cardenas, etc). hes 26 so you pretty much know what your going to get from him and some guys even think logan watkins can give you the same things barney can from the left side. Alot of us feel Barney is best suited as a utility player but if you more value for him as a starting 2nd baseman from another team I say you do it.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree he is not the problem but if we can get for a example a tim beckham( a young kid with alot of projection left) + a prospect in a soto deal just by throwing in 26yr old Barney who most we cubs fan swear is a utility player and has reached his ceiling in terms of potential would most of us not make that deal? John I know your also high on some of our 2nd basemen in the situation. could a Logan Watkins give you the same production barney does at a younger age and from the left side?

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    The depth at 2B is what gives the Cubs the option to trade Barney. If another team is interested and is willing to offer the Cubs something worthwhile, then I'm okay with it. He's certainly not an untouchable, but at the same time trading him shouldn't be a priority either.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    (Almost) nobody is untouchable, and I am fine with someone beating Barney out, but I cannot see trading him for someone that another organization has already given up on.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Any chance we could get Hak Ju Lee back? I know he isn't hitting very well right now, but I think that is more about the level adjustment. His other numbers still look good. I'm less and less confident about Castro sticking at shortstop every time he makes another error. There is no doubt Castro has the tools. I think his problem is more mental, but maybe as move to second base would be beneficial for both him and the team.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Doubt it. Despite their slow start, Lee's their best SS prospect and they have nobody blocking him right now. And they can afford to be patient while he rides out this adjustment period.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    What do you think might be a reasonable return for Soto?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Right now, not a whole lot. Teams would be trying to buy low on him.

    Maybe if Soto starts hitting, they can start talking about a deal involving Davis. I think Tampa will want to trade a MLB guy rather than prospects.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I thought about that as well hence why I suggested Beckham instead as he's falling out of favor in place of lee and therefore would be easier to get. he can play second and short in the event Castro doesn't stick

  • LaHair has always hit very well in the minors and is finally getting a chance to show that he belongs in the majors. I have very positive vibes about him over the long term. Plug him in at first or left field for the whole season and let's see what we've got

  • In reply to shalin:

    I like LaHair as well. No need to rush Rizzo in there while LaHair is playing this well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I also have become a fan of LaHair but how about him in LF?

  • Great posts and conversation as usual fellows. I agree that with guys like Soto and Baker, etc. it is prudent to wait for the right deal and situation to come along, get the best bang for your buck.
    But the story with Alfonso is reaching a critical point I believe.
    Here is the problem, how many of you watched the game yesterday and got that same deja vu feeling, the same formula for failure in ball games we have seen over and over, with Soriano once again failing in crucial situations. And it is about to get real ugly. The fans have been overboard in holding back their displeasure with Sori, but those days are over. I think the average fan like me has just had all he can take. The guy is a negative WAR player. He can easily be replaced by Mather or Sappelt and you would get more production and better defense. It just is time to move on.
    Look at the Angels and Bobby Abreau, similar situation, a highly paid player who is toast. He has 20 At Bats in 16 ball games. They can't trade him, but at least they don't try and play him. It kills the morale and mo jo on your ballclub. The time is now for the boys to make a move on this dysfunctional situation, or worst case put him on the bench until you can dump him.

  • I think the big problem with Soriano is that he still brings something that you can't get from the other guys on the bench. He will hit 20+ homeruns after it warms up at Wrigley. I don't think that you can get that kind of production from anyone else they have...unless you see a call-up of Rizzo and a move to LF for LaHair.

    If Tom is right about the Cubs brass being upset about Castro's early call-up, I don't think there's any chance that Rizzo is called up before September. In the meantime, Mather, Johnson, and Campana aren't going to provide the same kind of bat that Soriano will when the weather improves.

    I guess my frustration is that some of the pieces that are on this team (Baker, Johnson, and DeWitt especially) don't have much flexibility or value...even as part-time players. Who is a potential power threat off the bench? Two of those guys don't offer ANY defensive help. Even Campana is one-dimensional. If he couldn't run, there is no chance of him being in the major leagues. It's hard to win when your starters are stuck because they have a huge albatross of a contract and your bench players offer little competition.

  • Amen!

  • Rizzo and Castillo will be allowed to develop. Blake Lalli can back up Soto and Lahair. He is solid offensively and ok at 1b & catcher. We already see that Jackson will get AAA time needed. Soto hurts his pitchers due to his inability to frame marginal pitches. This is a game changer with good bitters in key at bats. If you were GM would you want Soriano?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think when the Cubs deal Soto, it'll be Castillo who comes up. Lalli is already 28 and I don't think the Cubs will want to make room on the roster for him. Castillo is already on the 40 man (in fact, it's his 3rd year). I think his time comes this year.

  • Soto and Soriano in there = yet another defeat.

    Why is it so hard for the Cubs to grasp this simplest of concepts... Best Players Play? Going back to Neift we've seen this baloney over and over.

    If management cannot resist then at least don't play these two bums at the same time. And DO NOT take LaHair out as a part of some %^#$&*% strategery.

    All of every game for him unless he slumps badly, gets hurt or needs a rest day. Don't need no rest in April!!.

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    In reply to eaton53:

    The Neifi Perez days.........boy oh boy

  • Ahhh, I see we're back on the bash Soriano bandwagon again. Was it a week ago that we were praising him going the other way and hustling on defense. Windsock blows often and early around Wrigley....

    See the problem here is that the answers aren't very Blog friendly. If becoming a contender is completing a puzzle, this whole year is about finding the corner pieces. The whole season! A Few pieces. So how do you talk about that on April 20th, then again on the 21st, the 22nd, the 23rd.....

    I think Rizzo will be called up in June, possibly July. it just strikes me as smart. If Lahair is going to continue to hit, I think he goes to Right field with Kim Dejesus' husband moving to center.

    Soriano will continue to play, and the angry, bitter, jealous, probably racist fans will continue to bitch. Does anyone remember Dale Svuem's last public comments about Soriano? " He's been great from day 1. I have no complaints whatsoever." Yes his streakiness is frustrating as all hell. But he'll have a week or two where he carries the team. And it still won't increase his trade value. He will be released/ sold off when and only when there's a viable option to play there. And there's nobody. NO BOD EEEEEE, to do that right now. I'm just going to root for him to get some hits. you a Cub fan, like to see the CUBS do well.

    Oh right. Barney's not going anywhere either. Because at the end of the season there might be a decision on whether The Cubs want to proceed with Castro at SS. And if the answer is to move him to another position, there's nobody to play SS but Barney. Also, Svuem seems to love him.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Soriano has worn me out!

  • I don't have much of a problem with Barney at 2b if they fix the rest of the team.

  • Longtime listener, first time caller...

    Is there any way to find out who leads the majors in getting themselves in a 0-2 count? If there is, my money is on Soriano to be at the top of the list. I've never seen such an inpatient hitter. Too bad Soriano, in the last few years, has not been a very good player for the Cubs because I really like the guy. He's always had a bit of flair on the field and you never ever hear anyone complaining about him. Plus my buddy has waited on him a few times at Morton's and he says Soriano is about the nicest pro athlete he has ever met. Here's hoping he'll try and change his approach at the plate (unfortunately I doubt it) and give the Cubs something this year.

  • In reply to svelocity:

    "Soriano is about the nicest pro athlete he has ever met."

    Nice guys finish last. Somebody said that awhile back.

  • In reply to svelocity:

    Haha! Thanks for calling in.

    Soriano is a nice guy. I don't know if he can change his approach at this stage of his career, though. You'd like to see him compensate for some decline in skills by grinding ABs out a bit more but so far there are no signs of him doing that.

  • Do the Cubs play the Angels in Wrigley? Maybe Pujols is waiting for that.

  • I could see the Cubs making a play for Anibal Sanchez in the upcoming free agent market . He will turn 29 end of next Feb . 4 years 40 million and You have a legit #2-3 type rotation guy in his prime . With Garza that is a nice 1-2 punch . He is making 8 million this year so 4/40 should get a deal done.

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Too much money at two many years for a guy of his caliber. He is arguably a #3 starter at this point and hasn't done a whole lot to get 10 million.a year at 4 years. Thats a 25-26 year old #2 starter money. But then again u never know. He could be Kyle lohse or Carl pavano. I'd maybe give him 10million but not 4 years. 3 at most with an option or two. Weather plays a big role in it too and nothing gets better than Florida.

  • I know it's easier to spend someone else's money, but fearful of paying someone who is producing, several years out? Some problem.

  • Anyone have Barney's RISP stats compared to the rest of the team?

  • I think Sanchez is better than Ted Lilly and Lilly made 11 Mil . 10 mil is solid 2/3 in the rotation money . 4 years he is only 33 at end of contract. I wouldnt do a full NTC tho.

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