Lack of big name FAs doesn't mean Cubs aren't trying to win

Lack of big name FAs doesn't mean Cubs aren't trying to win

Perhaps the biggest disagreement among Cubs fans is how the team should build.  Many of you know I'm on board with the current Theo/Jed plan.

There are some, however, who disagree.  While there are a minority of vocal fans who believe the Cubs should spend like drunken sailors, most of the fans here who disagree take an even-keeled, more pragmatic, more balanced approach.  In general, that approach is sign a big FA or two or three -- even if you have to overpay them, but keep building the farm.  While that view may have it's merits, I still respectfully disagree.

It's not like that approach hasn't been tried before.  It's not like we haven't seen it fail in the short term as well as the devastation it brings long term even when it does work.  We've seen the Cubs fail with this strategy.  We just saw the Marlins try and fail last year.  My guess is we'll see the Red Sox, and/or possibly the Indians, try and fail this season.

The main counter argument I hear is that this time it will be different.  The reasons given are typically as follows...

  • This time the Cubs have the shrewd Theo Epstein instead of the bumbling Jim Hendry.
  • This time the Cubs have a burgeoning farm system.
  • This time the Cubs will have lots of money to spend and can absorb the losses.

But is it really all that different?

  • Theo Epstein has never made big money mistakes before? (see Carl Crawford and John Lackey).  Jim Hendry has never made shrewd signings/trades? (see Mark DeRosa,  Ryan Dempster,Ted Lilly, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez).  It's easy to polarize the two, but there is more gray area than one might think at first glance.  This is not to say that Hendry is Epstein's equal.   I'm just saying the difference isn't so great that you can try the same failed plan and count on Theo's reputed genius to completely change the results.
  • The Cubs have never had an up and coming farm system? (see early to mid 2000s when consistently ranked in the top 5-10, and as high as #1).
  • The Cubs have never had money to spend? (see 2006-2009 when the front office was pretty much given a blank checkbook.  They invested upwards of half a billion dollars between signing FAs and extending their own players over that period of time).

Why is bigger necessarily better?  Why is higher cost equated with better value?  Why do we assume a more well-known player will add 5-10 more wins than an under the radar guy?

You can try and win by overspending, but you don't have to do it that way.

Here is how the Cubs are trying to be more competitive in 2013...

  1. Fielding a team that won't beat themselves.  It starts with something as simple as less walks and better defense.  You'll find yourself winning a lot more games simply by forcing the other team to beat you.... without your help.
  2. They'll be more efficient and think more creatively in terms of maximizing production by playing to player's strengths (i.e. platooning), and building a team that fits better with the environment (i.e. tailoring the surrounding defense and pitching around your home park).  That's a formula that worked wonders for Oakland last year and Jed Hoyer's Padres in 2010.  It's also worked for Colorado in the past.  Their success may have been short-lived (or may be in the case of Oakland), but unlike those teams, the Cubs have the resources to both sustain and build upon that success.
  3. Keeping the roster and payroll flexible to make additions as opportunities present themselves -- and you do it when the team looks like it's in a position to make the best use of those additions.  If you sign a guy who's less than a perfect fit just to sign him and make the team marginally better, you greatly jeopardize that flexibility to improve the team in the future.

It isn't glamorous, but it's how you build a potentially competitive team without hurting yourself long term.

The last question then is, how do these additions help the pursuit as outlined above?  Let's take a look at them one by one.

  • Scott Baker:  He doesnt walk hitters (2.20 walks/9 IP career, better than any Cub SP).  He's a better pitcher than he's given credit for.  We see all the fuss being paid to Anibal Sanchez (who's asking price has been reported as high as $90M), yet if you average their last 4 full seasons, Baker has a 3.1 WAR and Sanchez has a 3.2 WAR.  The sweet part of the deal is you may get the same pitcher in 2013 for 70-80M less dollars.  If he becomes an integral part of the rotation, you have the inside track on re-signing him.
  • Scott Feldman:  Feldman has improved his control every year since 2007.  Last year it was just a measly 2.33 per 9 IP.  The beauty of it is that it hasn't been at the expense of missing bats.  He struck out a career high 7 batters per 9 innings last year.  He finished with a 2.3 WAR last season, his highest since his breakout 17 win season in 2009.  It's also higher than four more well-known pitchers, each of whom who are getting paid more than twice as much: Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Jeremy Guthrie, and Ervin Santana.  How is that not a better signing?  Doesn't spending less for the same potential results seem smart, not cheap?
  • Nate Schierholtz:  The first thing that stands out to me is that he is a legitimate RF'er defensively.  He has the athleticism and arm strength to be an upgrade over DeJesus at that position.  Schierholtz has rated as an above average OF'er for his entire career.  He also provides a LH bat and, although his career splits are pretty balanced, he is becoming more proficient now against RHP.  The Cubs can maximize his value by platooning him with another good defensive OF'er, Dave Sappelt, who just happens to feast on LHP.   Is it implausible that between the two you can get a combined line where the RF platoon hits .275-.285 (perhaps a .340 OBP) with 12-15 HRs and plus defense?  I don't think so.  Isn't that exactly what Boston is paying $40M for a 32 year old Shane Victorino to provide?
  • Dioner Navarro: A minor piece but Navarro bring experience behind the plate and a far better throwing arm than Steve Clevenger, whom teams seem to run on at will.  It may not be much, but it potentially reduces the effectiveness of one more weapon that the other team has.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa:  A bullpen guy with great mental makeup, the ability to throw strikes (2.3 walks per 9 IP in his career) and miss bats.  In other words, a guy who won't beat himself on the mound, which goes with the general theme here. The Cubs don't ever seem to get all three qualities in one with their young arms.  At least not yet.  Aside from making them more competitive now, bringing in a veteran who has experience in high leverage situations has the additional advantage of giving the kids time to develop and grow confidence in either AAA or in low leverage situations on the big league team.
  • Hector Rondon:  This move is mostly about upside, but it's hard to ignore that there is an eye to the present here.  The Cubs could have gone with an even higher upside guy like Braulio Lara or Jose Dominguez, but it wasn't strictly about the future here.  Rondon throws strikes (1.8 walks per 9 IP in his last full season).  That's far better than either of those two guys have ever been able to do, giving Rondon a chance to actually be useful in the short term while still providing intriguing upside in the long term.

To be clear, I'm not saying you can't possibly win by upgrading up front with large scale signings.  I'm saying it's inefficient and inflexible. You can sign BJ Upton (3.3 WAR last season) and upgrade by about 1 or 2 wins if he performs as expected.  But you're paying $50-$75M for that.  That makes sense for a win-now team such as the Braves, but not for a team like the Cubs.  For the Cubs it makes sense to try and squeeze a 2 WAR season out of a Nate Schierholtz/Dave Sappelt platoon (with an upside for more than that) while, at the same time, retaining the payroll/roster flexibility to upgrade if it doesn't work or simply if it looks like the team has put itself in a position to win.

Does it amount to a contender?  The reality is that it probably doesn't. Not in 2013, anyway. But it doesn't mean they aren't trying to win.  It just means they're trying to do it in a way that doesn't compromise their long term plan.

Meanwhile, in the short term, there is nothing to say that team won't be more competitive on the field.  There is no question to me that the Cubs intend to take the field that will maximize the strengths of the individual, the team, and the ballpark.  There is no doubt that the plan is to make the other teams beat them.  They've taken more steps this offseason to stop helping out the other team with walks, bad defense, and a poorly constructed, inflexible roster. That alone should make for an improvement, one that hopefully shows up in the win total.

Filed under: Analysis, Rebuilding



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  • John,.. I have to agree with you on just about every point.

    And - IMO - the resigning of Stewart does a very similar thing. IF the guy is healthy for a change, he brings some value immediately. If he can't play - the team isn't out much and still has a guy who can hold down 3B defensively. If Stewart can play up to snuff - then Valbuena can back him, Castro, and Barney with soem effectiveness,... and IF they move Barney that flexibility comes in handy.

    It's all about getting good quality pieces in place that one can move if one has too - and leaving the team better off in some ways because of it.

    The Cubs were fun to watch when they had the big bats of Lee and Ramirez at the corners (at their primes), and when Zambrano wasn't melting down every few weeks,... but they had nothing in the tank backing them up.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Thanks Dr.Kaz...

    I think you have to have some flexibility. The way I look at it is that if the Cubs outperform expectations over the first two months of the season, they'll have all kinds of options and flexibility to improve.

  • Agree with everything you had to say. After year after year of
    signing big FA's and trades, its time to try something different.
    All we want is to watch good sound baseball being played.
    Mixed and match at some positions if needed. Our time will
    come 2014?

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think so E. It depends though, if this team appears headed in the right direction. It doesn't have to be a winning season, or even a .500 season -- but if Cubs feel they have a stronger core to build on, it wouldn't surprise me if they added a bigger piece or two next year.

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    Great article breaking down all the signings. I think we will see a more competitive team on the field this year and I'm excited to see some of these guys perform and try to hit the potential they have. Or in some cases get back to a level they once were.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    Thanks Zachary.

    I'm hoping we just see better baseball. We saw it in flashes last year, but overall we saw a lot of growing pains. I expect more this year, but what I'm looking for is progress, something they can build on.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    Great article John. An intelligent analysis of the signings. It's really too bad that more writers and bloggers don't do that instead of just spouting off with opinions without fact to back them up.

    Here's the other point I'd like to make. Jed/Theo aren't done with retooling the team this winter. I believe they -- like the rest of the GMs -- are just waiting for Greinke and maybe one other FA to sign and the floodgates will open up.

  • In reply to JeffK:

    Thanks JeffK.

    I try to be positive but I want to find legit reasons for optimism. And I think there are some. No question you have to dig deep for it though.

    I also want to be realistic here. The odds are very much in favor that this will not be a good team. It doesn't mean the Cubs FO thought process here is flawed. I think they have a sound plan considering the circumstances but it's a tough road in the short term.

    One thing I'm not by nature is pessimistic :) It's the easy way out, in my opinion. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to rip this team if that's what people want to do.

    Anyway, I agree the Cubs are not done. That's the subject of my next article, which is already written and I'll probably publish it this weekend.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Numbers are about digging deep. And, it is very unlikely -- and very rare -- that a team goes from the outhouse to the penthouse in a season.

    Baseball (sports in general) is no different than any other business. You're trying to maximize output, efficiency and ROI at the same time.

    However, fans are don't look at that way, they only see it as winning or losing and emotional highs and lows. But, they need to start looking at it as they would their own investments because really they are stakeholders in the business known as the Chicago Cubs.

    Businesses need to look in the long term to be successful. If they only look at the short term they end up making bad decisions and chasing their tails. The Cubs are no different.

    They spent a lot of money trying to win a championship quickly in order to drive up the sale price. But now they are playing the price of their shortsightedness. And, Jed/Theo are absolutely correct that you can turn a ship around on a dime.

  • In reply to JeffK: can't turn a ship around on a dine.

  • In reply to JeffK:

    I figured that's what you meant!

  • In reply to JeffK:

    Very well put. I like the business analogy. Agreed on all counts.

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    John you are correct. The main thing is this: You cannot win by buying all the players you need. You can win by filling a couple holes, but you can't win by relying primarily on Free Agency.

    Free Agency is the most inefficient use of resources available. GMs know this, and know they are overspending while they are doing it, because sometimes its the only way to fill a hole

    The problem with the Hendry era isn't bad trades (Hendy, IMO, did a great job in trading overall), or even FA contracts (Hendry had some stinkers, but alot of good ones); the problem with the Hendry era was the lack of farm system, and our inability to build a young, impact core through that system.

    Build a young core, THEN get Free Agents. That's how you do it. Everyone forgets that even as the Yankees and Red Sox "spent" their way to titles, they did it with alot of home grown players, and some high-profile free agents to push them over the top. But both teams have had very good farm systems. Can't win without that.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    They did build a good farm system, though. At least it was thought to be that at the time. They had some highly regarded prospects and looked primed to build a solid org from top to bottom.

    Problem in the end was that they were all high upside/high risk pitchers and many times those guys don't pan out. In the Cubs case almost none of them did. I blame that more on their development team though, which has consistently been the worst in baseball until Theo arrived.

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    Good points John, well thought out as usual. As fans we still need to be entertained. it costs a lot of money to go to games and its a huge time commitment to watch all the games on tv..If the TV ratings are poor what type a TV money will they command. Last years team was unwatchable. I found myself watching more minor league games then Cubs games...How many years will the Cubs still draw with no star power and bad baseball. People forget that it wasn't until 1984 or so that the fans got behind the team. Ricketts better be careful or his huge investment and fanbase will start to erode. All good intentions aside or well thought out plans the team needs to win. If not next year when? In 2015 when Baez Soler and Almora are ready?...I wonder if Theo new how big this task was going to be...

  • In reply to Barry Bij:

    Thanks Barry, I don't think they knew how gutted this organization was from top to bottom until they got here.

    I do understand the fan angle and almost touched on it, but the article was getting too long already. My thing with that is it's a two way street. If the Cubs try to sign FAs and wind up like the Marlins, will they continue to attend the games in September? The answer is no. They'll only come if they win and so the FO needs to do whatever they think is best to accomplish that. They can't worry about appeasing fans who believe free agency is the best way to win.

  • john I agree with every thing you said, Ricketts is paying the front office to be smarter than the fans. One thing fans fail to realize is when you sign big free agents you lose draft picks that are very useful in rebuilding the farm system. And fans think theo is suppose to think about attendance and ticket prices, he can't do that. Theo is not in the business of pleasing fans and buying names. Funny thing is they complain about hendry spending but want theo to do the samething.I would not give grienke the money he is asking because for the money he is asking he has to pitch better down the stretch than he has.

  • In reply to seankl:

    GMs who operate to please fans wind up sitting with them pretty quickly :)

  • McCarthy signs with D-backs.

  • Nice signing for them. Heard Cubs tried, just chose AZ in the end. I think that he, Baker and Feldman were top 3 targets. Would loved to have had McCarthy too, but they did well to get 2 of 3.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Brings me to another point that I didn't include in this article. You can pursue these guys but it doesn't mean they'll choose your team in the end.

    You can't always get what you want...

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. McCarthy might have been a good addition, but you never know. Personally, if they add another SP, I'd prefer a lefty.

  • I like that idea as well. Could balance rotation and then bullpen once Baker is off the DL.

  • Great article. To me the main point is one you raised: the difference betweent the Cubs doing this and KC, Pittsburgh, San Diego, etc. is that once the farm system starts producing, we can fill in with expensive free agents and pay our top players to stay. The other teams have to continously keep doing the rebuilding because for the most part they cannot retain their top players once they hit FA, or even arbitration and cannot pay FA to come to thier place. I'm on board, nothing else has worked and these guys are smart.

  • In reply to cubman:

    Thanks cubman!

    That was actually a last second addition as I was reading it I felt there was one piece missing to the article. It's what separates the Cubs from the other teams that have built this way.

  • Are there any other players we signed that might help if not now
    then later.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Not sure what you mean, E. Like minor league signings?

  • Another thing about free agents being signed to be effective immediately is that frequently they aren't effective immediately. I remember that quite a few of those past signings took as long as a whole year before they adjusted to Wrigley and day baseball and started to contribute at the level they were signed for. I'm all for building the team the right way as it is being done now.

  • The Yankees and Red Sox had good farm systems and still appear to be in trouble now, because both spent too much and can no longer depend on the farm.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    For many years the Yankees at no #1 or 2 draft picks because
    of signing FA's. This can kill you in the long run. Our #2 pick
    is very valuable. Is signing a maybe FA worth it?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    It's true. Having your cake and eating it too isn't always easy. Hard enough to maintain both sides, it's even harder to build both.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    How many world series do the Yankees and red sox have? I think their method worked. Now teams that all depend on the draft and prospects like the royals, rays, pirates, twins, and a' many world series do they have recently? None. So whose method works and whose doesn't.

  • In reply to Joshnk24:

    His point is its hard to sustain that success by investing. Both teams have been forced to cut back and they're every bit as wealthy, if not more so, than the Cubs.

    The Yanks didn't rebuild their dynasty through free agency either. They built it with homegrown talent and some smart trades. They only added big pieces later.

    Theo's 2nd team was largely built through the farm and trades. Their subsequent foray into free agency led them into the mess they are in now. Even the first team that was built through Duquette free agency didn't win anything until Theo supplemented it with some under the radar values. That was a declining team when Theo took over and it was salvaged through some smart, inexpensive signings.

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    In reply to Joshnk24:

    You're missing the key point, though. While the teams you point to don't have World Series wins, you can also only point to one team that has a World Series by completely skipping the whole minors thing, the 1997 Marlins. They are not the only team to try it. The point is not to win solely with minor league players, but to take advantage of the new rules -- and Tommy John surgeries -- to quickly build up the minor league system to the the point that it is generating significant talent for both the major league team and for trades. We aren't close at the moment. The big league team isn't 3 players away, it's about 15-20 players away. And the upper minors are pretty barren. This is going to take time, but we have to do everything with consideration given to building that foundation.

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    In reply to Joshnk24:

    Don't forget the Cardinals in your list! How many world series have they won? You can win by building primarily from within the farm system then supplement with FA.

  • Great article john, but cubs fans shouldn't be paying some of the highest ticket prices in baseball if we aren't going to see a winning or even competitive team. The cubs are not the rays or Marlins. I like having prospects to look forward too, but seems like this front office is putting all their eggs in the prospect basket. If these prospects don't pan out, which is highly possible, this will be a really really long rebuild. The cubs can afford to sign some valuable free agents now and play the prospects when they are ready. I'm not saying sign any and every player but they can afford to sign guys that aren't always injured that they are just hoping will pan out.

  • In reply to Joshnk24:

    Thanks Josh.

    I don't think the ticket prices play into it. We assume it's all static but if the Cubs start spending big...

    1. Hype goes up, then demand goes up, then ticket prices go up even more. Not justifying it. It's just business.
    2. If the Cubs acquiesce to fan demand and spend money -- but then lose anyway (a very real possibility), will fans remain loyal and come to support the team in September anyway? We've already seen that they won't.
    3. Once the FAs get to the back end of their contracts, the team will have to buy them out or pay other teams to take them to make room for more free agents. (And ticket prices go up again).

    It's just a cycle I don't want to be a part of. It's only worth it to me if the Cubs in one WS, but the odds of that happening are extremely long.

    The fans want one thing. They will show up if the team wins, so the front office should do what it thinks will make that happen -- not just in 2013, but year after year after year the way good teams like Texas do it. That's the kind of team I want this team to be -- and the Rangers most certainly didn't build the best organization in baseball through free agency. In fact, their foray into free agency set them back a few years, caused them to overhaul their organization and rebuild it through their farm and the international market. It took a lot of effort and a whole lot of patience, which isn't easy in Texas.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    As a former resident of Texas for 30+ years, I feel compelled to note that the Texas franchise labored in futility for the better part of futility for some 2 decades following their move from DC. Under GMs Melvin and Grieve, they began to improve their farm system (both scouting and development), but even then it took about 10+ years and another GM (and the arrival of Nolan Ryan) to see them into a regular 1st Tier team.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Right, but they weren't always pointed in the right direction for those 10 years. Once Ryan and Daniels arrived they built this team the right way.

    While there were occasional signs of progress along the way, it took Daniels about 4-5 years to completely right the ship, which is really no different than what Theo and Jed are saying.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. My intended point was to place the Rangers current success in context. They are the path forward for the Cubs because they've created a sustainable means to compete over the longer term although it took many years to accomplish.

    Could the Cubs have done more / better in the Winter meetings? Perhaps, but absent an Old Testament miracle, it could not overcome the time and effort a proper restructuring it will take. As Marcel and others have correctly noted, talented prospects + little or no development = disappointment.

    Team Theo may not be able to pull this off, but I think they have a plan and I hope they have both the ability and the patience to do this right. If they are surprisingly competitive in 2013, I'll take it, but I don't personally view this as the primary goal in 2013. Continued improvement in the scouting and development functions together w/ another haul of talented prospects, in my mind, is the overriding goal. If Theo builds it right, maybe just maybe, we'll start wondering how many championships the Cubs will win instead of wondering if we'll even see one in our lifetimes.

    Again John, you have a great site site w/ a constructive band of followers / commenters that "advance the ball" on my insight into the greatest future team in baseball.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Great stuff...very much agreed.

    And the readers are great. They definitely add to this site. I knew this was going to be a controversial article but everyone on both sides of the debate have handled it intelligently and respectfully.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    I love that phrase of yours:
    "The greatest future team in baseball".

    What a treat it is to watch it unfold and to read what we see here.

  • I'm completely on board with this FO, but I'm still having a hard time understanding the argument against short term overpaying contracts. Saying other teams have tried it and it doesn't always work doesn't really mean much, because last year we tried the other way and lost 101 games, so obviously that way doesn't always work either.

    I'm not saying I want us to go out and spend, spend, spend, I'm just trying to understand what the detriment is of going out and overpaying some guys (who aren't blocking anyone) to take short term contracts and try to squeeze into that second wild card spot while still rebuilding. And if we don't make the playoffs, those players can get us a bigger haul back as flippable assets at the deadline or offseason.

    The only arguments I've heard against this that resonate with me so far are getting a higher draft pick, and the fact that if we find ourselves a middling .500 team, we might be tempted to buy at the deadline instead of sell, slowing down or even stalling the rebuild. Those two make the most sense to me, but let's be honest, both of those have a considered strategy of losing in the short term to help us in the long term, which is something that makes me cringe despite it probably being the most efficacious way to be consistent competitors down the road. Stockpiling money for when they are going to go after big free agents when the timing's right would make some sense to me also. Just not sure what's the motive force.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    The bigger point is this: Why would difference making free agents sign for 1 or 2 years to play for a rebuilding team?

    You're assuming that impact free agents will come here on the cheap if Theo just bats his eyes and whistles. It doesnt work that way. To use a recent example, maybe McCarthy just preferred AZ.

    At the same time, have to be careful not to overestimate the difference between the bigger names and the guys who are considered better values.

    Going back to McCarthy. For example, you can say he is worth 5 more wins than say, a Scott Feldman, but he really isn't. He's a bigger name, but strip away luck, ballpark, and other factors you can't control, then they're basically the same pitcher. Even McCarthy himself admitted it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think I said overpay about four times so it isn't on the cheap, Theo eyebatting or not. (I vote yay.) If you mean on the cheap as in less guaranteed money, I understand that. But some of those guys become more available as spring training nears. Hoyer was just talking about that in fact, making me think we might be planning some late offseason moves when players get signed closer to value.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I can see them making moves and signing players as players run out of places to go. Some guys are getting overpaid and a lot of guys who are equal or even better are getting shut out. Sometimes you get a great deal once the smoke clears, as Washington did with Edwin Jackson last year.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    It would be kind of sadly ironic if the exact same guy is left without a chair this year. That said, I'd happily take him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Would take him in a heartbeat, wouldnt even cost a draft pick.

  • Great article, John and I agree with ALL of it... A lot of people I know want to see the Cubs spend big bucks and not "act like the Pirates and Royals"... But I always reply that even if we add 2-3 big salaried guys we will be below average at this point and will only hinder us in the future and possibly block prospects.

    I remember before the 2011 season, JH said the Cubs were 2-3 moves away from contention, so he signed Carlos Pena and Kerry Wood and traded for Garza... As it turns out, we were not those players away from contention and that is the same thing that could happen with that approach when you obviously need to rebuild.

    And I thought I was the only one trying to make the same point you just made about Schierholtz and I loved to read that... If a platoon of Schierholtz/Sappelt was to hit a combined .255/.321/.383, would you be disappointed? Because I know a lot of people that would... But guess what, that was Victorino's triple slash line in 2012... What if they hit a combined .274/.348/.391?? A little better, still not enough... But, that was Michael Bourn's triple slash line... Granted, they will not steal as many bases as those guys, but if the difference in performance is just speed, then let's go ahead and save 10-15 mil and years of commitment instead of getting Victorino or Bourn.

    The only way I see Bourn as a viable option is if Soriano gets traded and you'd still want to replace Soriano's bat with another power bat.

    Anyway, that's the way I see things, hopefully I'm making sense.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Thanks Caps. The Cubs will spend when the time is right. It was promised to Theo as a condition of him coming here. The reason he's not spending it all now is that he doesn't see the value in doing it right now. He's not going to spend just to reach a certain payroll number.

    Good perspective on those comparisons. Exactly the point I've been trying to make.

  • john one point fans fail to realize is when trading overpaid free agents you have to pay more than half the salary just to get prospects back and that money adds up. Then you have no financial flexibility, and the price of below average free agents is to high to just be competitive like some fans want.

  • In reply to seankl:

    The money does add up and it doesn't just disappear. It shows up in next year's ticket prices.

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    Good post John. Can you get the Tribune and Suntimes to run this? Or perhaps have the Cubs hand this out before every home game? :)

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Ha! Thanks! I can't get them to run it, but sometimes my articles are linked on their web page.

  • Read this from Arizona Phil on TCR. The 2013 salary will be approxiametly

  • one more thing, would you want to be indians and mariners going after youk and hamilton knowing they are not making a difference but trying to sell tickets. Fans complain about ticket prices if they spend money or not, because if they spend money and it does not work out then fans will not come, and complain about a poor product and over paid players and high ticket prices. I say that because that was the voice of some fans when soriano,ramirez,lee and other cub players were on the downside of their career.

  • Whoops..

    Read this from Arizona Phil on TCR. The 2013 salary will be around 90mil without any other additions. Imagine if we then went out to sign a Bourn/Sanchez or a Hamilton that essentially takes us up to around 130mil (if Bourn gets 25AAV and Sanchez gets 15AAV). That's basically putting us right back were we started in 2011 before the rebuild.

    Additionally I think people (not the people on this site) are still having a hard time understanding advanced metrics. They see a guy like Feldman with a 5.09 ERA and instantly think the FO got hosed, without understanding that he maintained a FIP under 4.00 in previous years. They seem to be of the opinion that it's better to spend on a FA that is more established then sign one that doesn't have any "real" track record of success.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    It's more comfortable going with a guy you know or who has performed well in the past, but it can often be a trap. Sometimes once you strip away things like name value, luck, stadium, and defense, you can find pitchers who are every bit as good at a better price. That's what I've been trying to say when I talk about getting the most value.

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    There's another important point here (and this really is a column condensed into a paragraph). Those who advocate signing middle-tier free agents aren't necessarily wrong. In fact, that's how most major league teams operate. Even if you stink, you add some guys and try to do the best you can next year. So, what Theo's doing is a little revolutionary.

    But what he's trying to do has also never been done before. Take over an organization that had been completely destroyed under 20 years of Tribune Company rule and turn it into a winner for the first time in 100 years under the bright lights of one of the most vicious media environments in the country. That, to put it mildly, probably requires some outside the box thinking. His goal (a team with a solid minor league system that uses its resources to add the few remaining pieces) is not completely outside accepted baseball practices, even if his method is a little unorthodox.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Excuse me, 30 years. What's a decade among friends?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Perhaps with so many teams chasing mid-tier guys, the value gap has shifted. Where once you found you could get better value with 2nd tier guys, it's possible that's not the market efficiency anymore. Maybe there is more value to be gained with those 3rd tier names. Feldman instead of Guthrie is a big value gain in my opinion. Baker may prove to be a much better value than Anibal Sanchez. Not that he's better, but you can at least say it's potentially very close and Baker affords you so much more flexibility.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike, you hit the nail on the head here. People truly don't think about the circumstances Theo got himself into. It's gotten to a point where if Theo wins a world series here mark my words he will be given a statue.

    This is more than a rebuild. This is a complete overhaul the likes of which we've rarely seen. I'm fully prepared for it to take even longer than most estimates because this franchise was THAT broken.

  • I think the Cubs organization is in the middle of the perfect storm and I am enjoying it. The Cubs have a great leader in Ricketts for bringing in Theo Epstein. Theo has built a team of very good, smart people.

    I have no doubt the moves being made have a purpose other than catering to a deprived fan base.

    The first year for Theo the FA market really did not have pieces available to add to the current roster to make a difference. I was glad to see them pass on Fielder and Pujols for Rizzo. I was glad to see them lock up Castro. Shark was given a chance to start and it worked. They flipped pieces for better long term chances.

    In my opinion, there was no one on the FA market last year or this year that was a difference maker with the current roster. Really, the next year's FA class is not all that great--no impact players under 30.

    I think the best approach is to continue the plan of building the farm system. I am excited about the long term future with guys like Almora, Soler, and Baez to go along with Rizzo, Castro and Shark. Not only that, but the possibility of Castillo, Clevenger, Watkins, Brett Jackson, Campana, Vizcaino, Sappelt, etc. being regulars or role players helps with funds for FA.

    If they can get the core cogs in the 25 man roster, they will be able to spend big when the FA market is better than it is right now or the next year or two.

    I really am thankful for this site and it really helps me enjoy watching the organizations plan unfold.

  • In reply to AUBWDE:

    Thanks AUBWDE,

    I do think once the farm is churning out impact prospects at the upper levels, you'll see the Cubs open up a bit and take more chances. Like you, I don't think that time has arrived, but hopefully we'll see it in a year or two.

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    John, great article! I couldn't agree more.

    I saw where Edwin Jackson doesn't seem to be getting a lot of interest. I wonder if someone like him could end up falling into the Cubs laps. He could make a useful trade chip if he is pitching well.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Thanks Michael. Have always been an EJax fan. Wouldn't complain at all if the Cubs got him at something reasonable.

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    All this talk got me to thinking. If I'm Theo, I think I really need to know what I have in B. Jackson and Vitters/Lake. I give them another 1/2 year in AAA ball and bring em up. Are they or are they not a part of our plan. I don't want to take a chance at blocking them along with a few others.

    Then I got to thinking again. Who might be available next year in the FA pool? So I Googled "mlb potential free agents 2014."

    Take a good look at some of the young starting pitching that may be available next year!

    Tim Lincecum
    Josh Johnson
    Edinson Volquez
    James Shields - $12MM club option with a $1MM buyout
    Jon Lester - $13MM club option with a $250K buyout

    There will also be some nice Outfielders available:

    Curtis Granderson
    Corey Hart

    My point is that I feel next year's FA class seems to be a bit better and after 2 seasons at the helm, Theo and Jed will have an even better idea where to fill those holes and we will have even more flexibility and the cash to just get the guys we want/need.

    Just a little more to think about. I say stay the course and lets see how our guys develop with one more year of seasoning with the team of coaches/teachers that this FO has put into place. PLEASE don't blow it now! I've waited way too long to see a Cubs dynasty!

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Agreed that it gets easier once the holes become more defined. Right now, there are just too many to fill and too much uncertainty as to which holes they'll be able to fill internally. A little bit of time should answer those questions much more clearly.

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    John, I wholeheartedly agree with everything in this article. But one thing that also needed to be touched on is the new emphasis put on player development. Yea, we had a top system during the Hendry days but none of those guys developed from top prospect to impact ML player. That is a direct fault of player development.

    3 prominent examples that show how player development makes a difference deal with Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters, and Matt Sczcur. These guys were drafted, sent out, and left alone for years until ricketts and co arrived. They were left to rely on natural ability and not given proper coaching to round them out as players until now.

    here comes Theo and co. It's hard to see but Vitters and Sczcur both improved nicely in taking walks, Vitters continues to slowly improve defensively while sczcur is finally learning how to hit for power. Jackson is JUST NOW starting to fix some flaws in his swing, etc. These are things that should have been taught/worked on in the arizona league like were seeing with Baez, Almora, and soler. They have received great instruction every step of the way.

    I believe player development and coaching will become the new pillar to success and our cubs are getting a nice start on that.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Right on marcel. Seems like every week we heard about the FO adding to the player development staff or the scouting staff. Their doing this thing right, making sure they draft the best player and making sure they get the right help through the minors. I for one am excited to see how the pitching begins to develop with the help of Derek Johnson.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Thanks Marcel and you're right. I tried to focus more on this offseason and 2013, but in the big picture development will play a huge role, bigger than any of these offseason moves.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    You and I think very similarly. The problems developing players has driven me crazy. That Brett Jackson made it all the way to AAA and no one in Hendry's organization realized that he had holes in his swing you could drive a truck through is remarkable. Corey Patterson. Jerome Walton. The list just goes on and on.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Agreed. When Vitters was drafted Keith law said with proper instruction he could definitely be slightly above average at third and hit 3rd in the majors one day. The crazy part is he still has those same skills but we all know he never got the instruction. Makes a difference.

    don't get me started on how the cubs PD system butchered Corey Patterson lol

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Marcel, I blame Dusty Baker on a lot of what happened to CPatt as well...He just let everyone gowith the flow but never taught the kid a damn thing..Piniella screwed up Matt Murton who I really thought could have hit over 300 with 20-25 homers per year, but that was too much to ask of Geriatric Lou...Dale Sveum seems to relish helping the kids as well and that is a great thing as well.

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    In the end, the Cubs are an entertainment business, and although I want to love their product because I have historically, I am not going to spend a bunch of money to go to watch this team play. I don't even think I will renew my subscription. They should have spent some short term money on offensive upgrades at 3B and CF. $15-20 million/year for each position for the next 2 or 3 years wouldn't break the Cubs. It also wouldn't prevent the Cubs from signing top notch amateur talent, which I agree should be a priority. The problem is, when I go to Wrigley, I don't just read the box scores for the Kane County games.

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    In reply to Mike Mayberry:

    I also wish they would have went for Greinke. I know it is too early to go and drop a ton of money for a front line guy, but Greinke, Shark, Garza, Scott Feldman/Baker, Wood looks like a contender's rotation.

  • In reply to Mike Mayberry:

    Putting aside the risks of committing so many years and dollars to a pitcher who has some real question marks, it's the other side of the equation that is often ignored.

    Given that Greinke has Texas and LA willing to pay huge, what would make him come to Chicago instead? He's reportedly excited about Texas because of their chance to win next year (and every year for that matter). Cubs couldn't sign him if they offered him 180M probably -- and he's not THAT good to begin with.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    you're probably right, I just want to watch good baseball. Maybe I will take the advice below and stay focused on the minors this year.

  • In reply to Mike Mayberry: do I. Hope they're not finished yet.

  • In reply to Mike Mayberry:

    If You take every important pitching stat over the last 3 years Grienke is the 35th ranked SP in baseball. He will get 160 million or more , that is top 10 money , a true aces money, Grienke by stats is a solid 2 OVERPAY . If you are going to overpay Sanchez gives you the same pitcher basically for 70 million less .

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    In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Excellent point Bryan. I would have been fine with Sanchez in place of Grienke as long as his age and everything else lines up. I am thinking you sign (and start overpaying) Grienke now and keep him around. Same with Sanchez I guess. Maybe the current rotation could scrap by with a better offense, but it would be nice to have a strong presence at the front with some experience.

  • In reply to Mike Mayberry:


    If the Cubs spend 30 million/year for 3B and CF upgrades for the next two years that would improve the Cubs talent and record for those two years and very likely move them from the 2nd to 5th pick range to the 10th to 14th pick range. The difference in talent between picks 2-5 and picks 10-14 is huge. Sometimes top stud players are drafted later but most likely they are in the top 5 picks and not usually outside of the top 10. So the Cubs would essentially be paying 60 million over two years to get 2 fewer stud prospects. So I guess I disagree with your statement that spending wouldn't prevent the Cubs from signing top notch amateur talent. And that 60 million could have been spent on coaching/training/scouting/facilities that will help those stud prospects realize their potential.

    I understand watching the games will be not as enjoyable for the next two years, but after that I think you are going to love your cubs team. Maybe you can consider the Kane county cougars for a while and save some money.

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    Been reading for a while and wanted to ask a question about a statement in the article. You mentioned building a team that fits the environment of the stadium. Is there a player type that projects better at Wrigley or one that tends to do worse?

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    In reply to CubChymist:

    I think he is talking about pitchers with good command that don't give up a lot of walks. That way, when you give up a bomb, there isn't anybody on base.

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    In reply to Mike Mayberry:

    That goes for any stadium though, I was wondering if there is a specific pitching or hitting type that has excelled at Wrigley (or should be avoided) like how fly ball pitchers do better at Petco because of the big outfield.

  • In reply to CubChymist:

    Every park plays differently. in a small park you want guys who throw strikes, get groundballs (thus the strong IF defense), and keep the ball in the park. In a place like Oakland, SD, or Sea you can probably afford flyball pitchers and may want to structure your team with a good OF defense.

    Some studies show the ball carries better to RF in Wrigley, so it's no coincidence Cubs have added LH hitters. They should have at least 4 this year. Even more specifically, maybe you want a guy who tends to hit balls into the alley and CF, where Wrigley is especially small, rather than down the lines, where it plays big.

    The Cubs have done extensive studies on what plays best in Wrigley and they're trying to get players that an benefit better from the individual quirks.

    Hard part sometimes is that Wrigley can play like different parks at different times of the year. It's a daunting task. I'll leave the Cubs to sort that all out.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd add mental toughness. Dealing with "It's been 100 years, what have you done today to fix that?" appears to have a bad impact on guys. As exhibit (a) I present Lou Piniella's first news conference as Cubs manager -- with dark hair and boundless optimism -- and the grey haired wreck that retired 4 years later.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Very true. And the Cubs have certainly made an effort to get players with plus mental makeup. It's a tough town and a lot of pressure.

  • Great wrting as usual. Question for you, kind of relates to much of what you are saying.
    There is a mantra down here near St. Louis that the Cardinals are much better off without Albert Pujols. That by having payroll flexibility, the team will be in much better shape without him.
    The Cardinals probably could have retained him for a 10 year deal at around 23 million a season, much deferred as he did with the Angels. Now there is no argument that when you are paying him at 40 and 41 years old, he will be overpaid probably. But to me that is what class teams do with their iconic players, as the Braves did with Chipper, Yankees with Rivera and Jeter, etc.
    The question is, how easy will it be for the Cardinals to go out and replace a 4 or 5 WAR player like Pujols the next 6 or 7 years? They gambled and it paid off last season with Beltran. But is that feasible every season. How much is Hamilton going to cost? How about Cano next year. As you said, look what someone like Victorino got, what will Bourne cost, etc. And it will only get more expensive, and less and less teams are letting go of their elite players. Any thoughts?

  • It's an interesting question. They certainly weren't any worse. In some ways the 2012 team was better than the 2011 team. Pythagorean record had them as a better team in 2012 but they underachieved.

    I think they can continue to sustain the level of success they have now. Beltran was signed on a 2 year deal and they may be able to replace him next year. They now have a very good farm system, something they didn't have before.

    Right now I think they may have made the right decision as far as the future of the team goes.

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    Diamondbacks got McCarthy for 2 and 15. Makes the Feldman signing look that much better seeing as they are essentially the same guy.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Very similar pitchers in terms of stats, command, and stuff. McCarthy probably better, but I don't think it's by much.

  • The plan is the plan. I'm not going to complain all that loudly until it plays out. And even if I did, what difference would it make, right?
    But to say that they are putting together the 2013 team for any other reasons than flipping guys and draft position then you're not drinking the koolaid, you're swimming in it.
    One year deals withot euven an option for rehabbing pitchers. If they work, their being dumped. Otherwise they're free agents. It's painfully obvious again. Bring back Stewart is saying "Oh, yeah, we want the #1 pick" People with throughout "If he is healthy..." So what? He's never been good. He's not going to magically both heal and become good. It was an awful trade, bringing him back is almost as bad.

    Like I said, the plan is the plan, let's see how it finishes. But, remember Hendry made the playoffs three times in his first six seasons, these guys are going to have to get real hot, real fast, to get there.

  • In reply to Vinny:

    they will Vinny , they will . 2015 the Cubs will have a roster capable of winning a WS . Book it.

  • In reply to Vinny:

    Vinny, how many WS did those Hendry teams win? Epstein's plan is to be a sustained playoff team and not just make the playoffs by spending big bucks on FAs and then getting bumped out fast. Also Hendry left a few big contracts for old declining players that Epstein has to deal with. Hendry didn't inherit a LF getting paid 18 million/yr and a pitcher getting 19 million/yr when he took over. Just saying the situations are different and the goals they are shooting for are different too. I understand what Theo is trying to do and i am willing to be patient and give him the 4/5 years her said it would take.

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    In reply to Vinny:

    A team option would help flip the players. The lack of one was almost certainly at Baker and Feldman's request.

  • In reply to Vinny:

    I don't like Kool-Aid.

  • So many commenters seem to be missing the point of this fine article; the Cubs are working to build a competitive team, not one that will lose 100 games. They are making subtle but telling changes that will show up in a more competent team on the field. If it works, there is your value for your "entertainment" dollar. & the off-season isn't over yet. I'm going to enjoy watching this team pitch & defend in 2013, and hope they can find another bat.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    Thanks wastrel for putting what I wrote into perspective.

  • I couldn't disagree more. The one advantage the Cubs have over most of the other teams in baseball is their payroll. A high priced free agent here or there is not going to affect them in the future. For instance, the Cubs could have easily overpaid for McCarthy say 2/20 and it wouldn't affect their flexibility in the future at all. Furthermore, if he proved to be lights out, they could have flipped him and gained more prospects in the future.

    I agree with not overpaying prospects to obtain talent from other teams, but there is no reason that they shouldn't be competitive on the free agent market. Especially on short term contracts.

    Thank goodness this will likely be the last season that they will be able to pass over the rebuilding bs on the fanbase and get a free pass. I give them credit for making the minor league system better, but with the Central being a consistently weak division there is no reason the Cubs and their payroll shouldn't be able to compete every year.

  • In reply to Cubz99:

    I like Brandon McCarthy but do you think signing him would have made this offseason so much more successful?

    You severely overestimate how much better Brandon McCarthy is than Scott Feldman. They are, in fact, very similar pitchers. And even more to the point, McCarthy has not even been as good as the Cubs first signing, Scott Baker, has been in his career. Just because he's a more well known player, it doesn't mean he's going to add 10 wins to the team. The truth here is that he's pretty much on the same level with those two pitchers.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    As you probably could have guessed, John, I'm totally with you on McCarthy. But I've been looking around and some of the fanbase is really upset about this one. The feeling is they should have beaten the DBacks offer if they were serious about winning -- that they aren't proves tanking is the intent.

    This season could get really ugly in a hurry.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I really like McCarthy. I think he's a good pitcher, but somehow he became extremely overrated over the course of the offseason. I was a little surprised by the hype he's gotten.

    I heard people were shocked he got "so little", but to me it was more than fair considering the risks involved. He got himself a nice deal under the circumstances. I also think it was a great risk on AZ's side. They want to get a SS and now they have pitching surplus up to their ears. I'll be surprised if they don't deal for Asdrubal Cabrera or another SS soon. Think it will be Cabrera, though.

    If the Cubs get off to a bad start, there is going to be a lot of anger and finger wagging. "If only the Cubs would have signed Brandon McCarthy and Michael Bourn!"

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I don't think I overestimate him at all. I think that if you are going to try to buy lottery tickets (which is what the Cubs seem to be doing) it wouldn't hurt to go with the better bet to pay off. McCarthy had a WAR of 4.8 in 2011. Even in Feldman's best years he hasn't sniffed that. Baker's best WAR was 3.5 and that was before TJS. So if anyone is overestimating players it seems to be you. The sad thing is that McCarthy only got two years, which would have been an easy decision for the Cubs to take the gamble. Just because they got Baker and Feldman doesn't mean they couldn't have signed McCarthy.

    My point is that the Cubs are not desperate for resources. They could easily try to compete for the next year or so and still build up the farm system without any trouble. The fact that they are operating the team like a small market team is what bothers some fans.

  • In reply to Cubz99:

    I'm the one who thinks they're all good pitchers and reasonably similar, which the numbers bear out. And I was never against signing McCarthy. You can't be falling in love players and overpaying them based on no other apparent reason than name value. You have to be objective and pay them what they're worth or at least close to it, as AZ did. You have to consider McCarthy' health risks and history of not taking on a big workload, past production in terms of having one season over 1.8 WAR, and he has a modest ceiling. The command is excellent, but the stuff is average.

  • Great piece John, and great debates everyone. I have torn feelings I believe in what they are doing but the flipping thing I spoke about earlier in my post. Sometimes I also wonder if some FO guys are just trying to come up with the next market inefficiency to a fault. Pretty soon there just aint gonna be any left.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I like what they're doing. But it's worth nothing that Jed and Theo are the smartest guiys in the room in most rooms they walk into. That's obviously a good thing, but many times guys like that can out think themselves. You may well be on to something here.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Thanks Tom. I think there's a danger to overplaying market inefficiencies because sooner or later you have to have impact players and the chances are you won't be able to develop them all in your own system. Sooner or later the Cubs will have to overpay for a free agent or trade prized prospects for an established MLB player (hopefully it works out as well as DLee and A-Ram). Theo and Jed may have to sign their version of Soriano if it's the final piece. But that makes sense to me if it's a piece that puts them over the top -- or at least gets over them over the hump.

    I really do think that Jed and Theo understand that, though, and I'll be shocked if that day doesn't come soon, probably by next offseason.

  • I always was a fan of developing your own talent. I was so jealous of the Dodgers and Expos of the 80's and the Indians and Braves in the 90's. Too bad Expos couldn't keep theirs or could the Mariners. The Indians were smart like TB they would lock up their guys early.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Right now I'm jealous of the Rangers. Such depth to be able to get pretty much whomever they want. Toronto also got some very good MLB players for guys who werent even their best prospects.

    One surprise team to me is the Cardinals. The seem to fill in for anybody who leaves or gets hurt during the year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I was hoping the Rangers would finally win the Series this year after losing 2 tough ones. As for the last team you mentioned, their "success" is base more on luck and PEDs than anything else.

  • Want to see the Rangers win it because they do it right.

    As for the Cards, I'll take some of that luck!

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Tom, I don't believe for one second that this front office will ever have a problem keeping their own when the time comes and it's a great thing to be able to develop your own talent...we've been deprived of this as a fanbase, for far too long..

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    John, the thing about the Cards is that although a lot of thier minor leaguers don't put up flashy numbers they play hard and are winners...Look for example to what Dave McKay has brought to the Cubs as a coach coming from the Cardinals...he turned Soriano around defensively among many other things..I really believe this organization was deprived of good teachers/coaches for a very long time...Dusty never did a damn thing for any young player or even vets, he always went with the flow..till drowned him each time.. Piniella didn't give a crap anymore, not that he was ever that great of a teacher either..Quade...I won't even go there.. I have a feeling with the emphasis on player development and putting the right people in charge of working with the kids, we'll be in that group of teams you mentioned above sooner rather than later...and it's about friggin time...

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    It's a great point about McKay. It's another way the Cubs are trying to maximize their talent -- by getting coaches who can draw the best out of their players.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I've been wondering for a while how much of the success in Boise goes to Billy Buckner and if there is any chance at all of keeping him in the organization -- since he probably doesn't want to ride the busses the rest of his career.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think he lives out that way or has a ranch or something. He may want to stay out there.

    In some ways, as long as he's cool with it, I like him in a position where he can get to players early when it's so much easier to change their approach.

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    Luigi, our discussion on FB last night produced an out of this world dream. To fill the rest of you in, LZ and I were discussing the Cubs FO's ability to surprise the hell out of all of us, and we were talking about how great it would be to get Mike Olt. Anyways, I had this dream that Soriano, Castro, Garza, Marmol and cash, were traded to Texas for Profar, Olt, Holland, Grimm and Andrus.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    So you had a FB conversation with Luigi then took some mind altering drugs.....?

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    In reply to felzz:

    Felzz, i've been known to have that effect

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    In reply to felzz:

    Something like that Felzzy.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Michael, i'd be very happy just to get Olt without dealing Castro!!!! That's one hell of a dream pal!!!!

  • What a great article and discussion. It sure is nice to have all these knowledgeable Cubs fans in one spot on the net. Kudos to all of you, and especially to Tom and John who make this all come together.

    As to the discussion of how this process should or should not take place, I get all kinds of excited at the thought of young studs coming up through the system. They are then "our own" and we get to be front and center in the viewing of new careers that collaborate to give us a winner. I think we all can agree that we have to have a steady flow of talent from within, and once we can put perhaps 80-90% of the talent from our own system on the big team, then fill in with free agent talent to put us over the top, this guy (me) from Tennessee probably won't be able to get a ticket anymore. I'll probably have to go to all the Smokies games I can and suck up to somebody there to see if any of them can get me one. LOL.

    So I'm all in on how Theo and Jed are shaping the Cubs, and especially how they are so committed to developing these kids. It's all good.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    Thanks cubs1969!

    That talent should start appearing in AA soon, some good players this year -- Villanueva, Alcantara, Szczur...maybe Baez by midseason.

    I'm with you, really looking forward to seeing these guys come up through the system and be guys we can follow from day 1 -- guys we'll get at their peak years.

  • Good article, John. I like the way you broke things down and I agree with the emphasis thwy've done on building up the farm system, but there is a desire among many cubs fans to be competitive. I don't want them overspending on free agents either but surely they could do more than put together a flippable club like they seem to have done. There were probably players that could be part of this transition to 2014 or 2015. In this new approach (and I'm not saying its wrong) who can the fans identify with? Fans have always wanted a player that they can follow through the years. I think that's what's missng in 2013.

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    In reply to pricewriter:

    You mean somebody like Rizzo? Or Shark? There are some good players on this team that are going to be on the cubs for a long time. Yeah they didn't go out and pick up a big name but they definitely have players I can identify with and want to watch.
    I think you're going to see some of these signings open some eyes with the opportunity they've been given. And if they don't, it can't be worse than Volstad.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    You're right about that. As fans we like having players we can follow. Guys like Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Greg Maddux, Andre Dawson, or Sammy Sosa (before his act got old). I'm a little too young but in the previous generation it was Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams.

    Castro, Rizzo, and Samardzija have been identified as core players, so my guess is we'll be following them for awhile. Hopefully they turn out to be stars. Right now they're still a few years away from their prime.

    I think if they're going to get another future star to follow for years, it isn't going to come through free agency. If you get a a guy like Bourn, for example, he may be fun for a year or two, but then we'll be wondering why we're stuck with him for another 3 years.

    With the exception of Dawson, the guys we really like to follow are those that either come up through the farm or guys that are acquired through trade when they're very young. The guys that have a chance to grow with the team. Hopefully they can add some more of those players.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, The more these contracts, especially with the Dodgers, the more I agree with your approach. The flipping is something that takes away from the identifying with players. But I can see their reasoning. As for players to identify with, each has his own favorites and as you rightly point out it has differed through the years. I tend to go with the underdogs that have to work hard to get where they are. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes not, like LaHair. Remember Gene Baker? I followd him because he steadily did his job. He wasn't a big name, but I followed him. And I do agree with you about the players that we like to follow. Again, I'm not in favor of a big agent purchase. I'm in favor of an effort once in a while to show that the ownership is aware of their commitment to the present not just to 2014 or 2015.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    Firt sentence should be - the more thesecontacts play out -.

  • Looks like Dempster wants a 3 year deal, no less. How about the Cubs offer 3 years at 8 million per year without a NTC?

  • No thanks, I wouldn't do more than 2 years no matter which team I was.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    That would be the point of the Cubs' offer. See what Dempster wants more, the years or the money. I believe I know the answer.

  • I can't say I blame Dempster. When you see risks like McCarthy or less effective pitchers like Blanton and Guthrie get 2, even 3 years in Guthries case, it makes you wonder. Demp may be older, but he's been healthy and he gives you big innings in addition to being effective.

    That said, I think 2 years for a pitcher his age at that salary is a pretty good deal. Not sure why he didn't take it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He might end up taking a 2 year deal.

  • personally I would say no to Dempster for 3 years, 1 year with no NTC is all I would do in Theo/Jeds position, roster spots are gold right now .

  • John & forum members, first post & long-time follower:)

    This article is far & away accurate & well thought out, decribing exactly what the FO is accomplishing over the next few yrs. Happy to be along for the ride!. Thnx. again for the forward thinking articles.

  • In reply to TobaccopouchinIvy:

    Thanks for the kind words and sharing your thoughts.

    This is not always going to be easy. The important thing for me is that once Cubs get there, they'll stay competitive year after year.

  • This site is just ridiculous with the number of knowledgable baseball fans and excellent discussions. Compared to most baseball team fan sites, it is much better.
    You guys talking about the Cardinals and how great their system is, I will point out that they have won the central division one time in the last 6 years. Want to win a good bar bet, since the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006, who has won the division more times, the Cubs or the Cardinals?
    Call me the eternal optimist, I think the Cubs have a chance to have a better starting rotation and bullpen than St. Louis this year. Losing Lohse is a huge hole, look at what his production was for them the last 2 years. Carpenter and Garcia are huge question marks, Westbrook could blow at any moment, and they have a bunch of kids that throw hard, but how many top teams have rookies playing major roles on their starting staff?

  • Agreed. Great group of fans here. Even when we disagree it's all good.

    And I hope you're right about the impending demise of the Cardinals pitching staff. I'm sure it would be nice to quiet down those Cards fans in Belleville!

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    Shelby Miller really turned it around at the end of last season though. And he's only 22 heading into the year. He has a very good chance to fill in the Lohse hole for a decade. You can't help but stand in awe of what that team does year-in, year-out from their minor league system.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    While never tanking...

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    In reply to Vinny:

    See John on "tanking."

    But the Cardinals have never really had to rebuild because they've been doing it on a consistent basis. The Cubs are starting from ground zero and have chosen to do an extensive rebuild. Different starting points, different strategies to get to the same end result.

  • A positive for them IMO is their stable of young pitching, many of whom ate knocking at the proverbial door.

  • Forgot to add that with Wainwright, they are in a bit of a dilemna. If he pitches like he did last year, he is just a guy. If he returns to his ace form, how are they going to resign him next year? I hear he was going to sign an extension, but once the talk came around about what guys like Greinke and Sanchez were going to get, he is thinking that free agency might not be such a bad idea.

  • One other comment this morning I would like to make. What are the Cubs not doing? When I was watching MLB network, every gm that came on this week said they were looking for starting pitching, but it was a tough market.
    The Cubs have already signed two qualtiy starters in the prime of their careers, and are on the lookout for more. They signed the 2nd best rated relief pitcher in Fujikawa in the free agent class, after Rafeal Soriano. And they were all over Grilli, who was the third rated.
    And Schuerholtz is a great pickup for a player in his prime years, I would not be shocked he has a better year than guys like Pagan or Victorino, who cost a whole lot more.
    Most on here know I am not a big Stewart fan, but they played it perfect, and have him on a no risk look see deal for the spring.
    There are still plenty of good quality players left on the board, and they have plenty of money left.

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    This I absolutely agree with. They targeted their below the market opportunities for huge gains and have already solidified their rotation. Now while everyone else is panicking for another starter (and hopefully trading the farm for Matt Garza to fill that hole in), the Cubs can move on to other needs.

  • Exactly. These guys weren't picked up because they're trying to lose. If you want to lose, you get guys who don't have any upside at all and who don't fit what you're trying to do. That's not the case with any of these signings. These guys are fits and they're young enough to have some upside left.

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    John, about something else LZ and I discussed last night, he brought up Arizona's shortstop problem. I tend to think we should sell high on Darwin Barney. I wonder if he might net the Cubs Trevor Bauer?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    What were those drugs, again?

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    No, but I've been longing to visit Colorado and Washington.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    No chance on that Michael.

    I'm okay with the idea of trading Barney but I think the selling high part is largely myth. I think teams have a pretty good idea of who and what Darwin Barney is, despite the phenomenal defensive year. It's similar to LaHair. I think teams knew exactly what he was, even at his peak.

    Secondly, it's my opinion but I don't think Barney is a SS. I think his lack of athleticism and arm strength are exposed there. Some good baseball people, however, think he can play there. I disagree.

    Even if he could play SS, he has nowhere near the value that Bauer does, warts and all.

    What I hope for is that someone like Bauer becomes available again in 2-3 years when the Cubs could have some upper level depth at SS.

  • No way do I want Dempster back. I would instead give a chance
    to a young pitcher.

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    Ticket prices are mentioned above. I've been thinking about it some, and those can be deceptive. Remember Wrigley is one of the smaller parks in the majors. As has been said, there isn't a bad seat in the house. Watch a game from the GA seats in Dodger Stadium, and you'll see what I mean. The Cubs don't have the super upper deck they can charge $12/game for. That is going to drive up their average ticket price. What counts is prices of tickets with similar views in other major market ballparks. Based on pricing out those tickets at Atlanta this summer, the Cubs don't seem ludicrously high. But comparing those across ballparks will have to wait until next summer (when the 2013 prices are up across baseball).

    So, ironically, the high ticket prices the Cubs have is the result of a problem for the team, not a benefit.

  • New article up everyone. My last in these long series on the winter meetings. Where as my last two (and Tom's) looked back on the meetings, this one looks ahead as to where the Cubs go from here in 2012-2013.

  • Looks like 1 player got away from the Dodgers, Otani. He's going to play for the Ham Fighters.

  • Sorry for the late comment. I must disagree with some of your optimism. Schierholtz is simply not good. He's just as likely to hit .240 as he is .270. Stewart might not make the team after hitting a woeful .201 this past season and his career as a starter in the bigs could be over. I completely understand WHY we're throwing this season away before it starts, but I'd like to see some progress and I just don't see it. A 3 yr plan is now a 5 yr plan at best since we won't be seeing our farm guys until 2015 and that's even if they turn out great. Look at Vitters. Even Jackson may never do much for this team. We are so far away from even sniffing the playoffs it's disheartening. Sorry to be the downer here but if Stewart and Schierholtz are what they want us to buy into........I'm not.

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