2014 offseason is time for the Cubs to make their signature free agent acquisition

2014 offseason is time for the Cubs to make their signature free agent acquisition

Perhaps no move was more symbolic than the trade of Alfonso Soriano.  With all due respect to Corey Black, who could be a fine late inning reliever some day, it felt more like the final, biggest step away from the Hendry/Kenney/McDonough era that mixed old school scouting, marketing, and short-term financial thinking into their talent acquisition plan.  

From a statistical standpoint, Soriano represented a fascination with traditional counting stats, such as home runs and stolen bases.  Nobody was concerned about his approach at the plate or his defense at the time, nor was anybody concerned that they were investing 8 years of their future on the past performance of a player.

Meanwhile the higher ups were more concerned with finding a face of the franchise, but for them it wasn't about what the team was going to build around philosophically.  They were looking for a face that fans would get excited about -- a marquee player that would fill the seats and raise the short term value of the franchise because, as we know now, they were already planning to sell the Cubs at a huge profit all along.

Of course, it wasn't just about one player, they were going to need to contend if they were going to really raise the value.  So Hendry was handed a blank check to do whatever he could to build a winner and, to be perfectly honest, he didn't do too badly with his other major signings: Ted Lilly and Mark DeRosa.   But it was Soriano that truly represented the unholy concoction of this misguided triumverate.   Hendry wanted Soriano and while you may dispute that wisdom on it's own, it was ultimately ownership who sold out the organization's long term health for short time glory by adding years and dollars to the deal.  Well, that is, if you could call two years of first round playoff exits (via sweep no less) "glory".

But when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer said that Soriano did have value for them, they weren't just blowing smoke.  Soriano, despite the big contract and the poor fit philosophically, will be missed.  He provided power on the field and leadership off of it.  The Cubs will have to replace him for 2014, but don't expect a similar player.  The next move may be symbolic of what this new front office wants this team to be from a philosophical standpoint.

This is not to say the Cubs won't overpay for a free agent.  That is the nature of the beast.  But, as Tom wrote, with the Cubs placing a lot of burden on young players -- and with even more youth on the way, the Cubs should be willing to pay that price.  But only to a point and for the right reasons.

Replacing Soriano's production should be a top priority this offseason. The question is how they'll fill it.  How the front office answers that should tell us a lot about how they plan to reach the next level.

I don't believe the team will wait around idly for prospects to emerge.  History says only a few will make it and only a couple may make a big impact long term.  The Cubs shouldn't put the business of building a contender on hold in anticipation that they will fill a homegrown lineup of all-stars in 2015/2016.  That just doesn't happen in this day and age.

By the same token, packaging top shelf prospect talent for a player like Giancarlo Stanton seems premature.  If they can acquire him without dealing Baez, Almora, or Bryant, then they need to consider it. But that is the topic for another day.

With a low payroll and their own young talent on the way, the answer may be to acquire a key player through free agency -- provided the Cubs don't give up a first round pick for it, which seems likely given their current record and the roster they are employing down the stretch.

So which free agent is the best fit?

Most of the focus has been on two players: Sin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury.  So let's compare the two.

Sin-Soo Choo

.283/.416/.454, 16 HRs, 14 SBs (23 attempts), .386 wOBA, 145 RC+

No player on the free agent market better represents what the Cubs lack most -- the ability to get on base -- than Choo.  He has done so at a remarkable .416 clip (14.5% walk rate, 23 HBPs) so far this season.  He also provides extra base pop (.171 ISO) to go with his 16 HRs.  He's a good base runner -- unless you ask him to steal bases.

The down side is that he is 31 and will turn 32 next season.  The Reds have tried him at CF, a position he lacks the athleticism to play right now, so it may not be fair to judge his defensive rating for this season.  Shoo is a solid athlete but lacks the speed to play CF full time.  He's a fit in either corner at LF or RF and his strong arm will play at any of the positions.

A three year deal seems ideal for the Cubs, but it will likely take at least 4 to sign him given he is among the best of a weak free agent class.  The Cubs could stick him in LF and still leave CF open for Almora and RF open for either Jorge Soler or Kris Bryant with Bryant also able to play 3B if both players pan out.

Jacoby Ellsbury

.299/.358/.426, 7 HRs, 46 SBs, .343 wOBA, 113 RC+, 4.9 WAR (Fangraphs)

The front office, of course, is very familiar with Ellsbury, who was drafted by the McLeod/Hoyer/Epstein team.  Ellsbury is a bit younger than Choo and will not turn 30 until the end of the season.  He's a better athlete who can handle to CF with enough bat to move to LF when Almora is ready.

The ability to play CF gives the Cubs some flexibility because LF is a less demanding position defensively.  The Cubs could try a number of bats in LF, from Junior Lake to Ryan Sweeney to Bryan Bogusevic or some combination thereof.  All those players can play CF, however, so it isn't essential that the Cubs acquire a CF'er.

After a down season marred by injuries, Ellsbury has bounced back this year and is having a solid season, though that 30 HR power hasn't returned and likely won't.  Ellsbury is more of a speed player with extra base pop.   The walk rate is almost half that of Choo's, but still solid and around the MLB average at 7.6%.  He is a superior defender at this stage (12.5 UZR in CF) and has the type of athleticism this front office likes.  However, he lacks Choo's OBP skills and power (.127 ISO) right now -- two traits that are high priorities for the Cubs when evaluating offense.

Conclusion

Both players are represented by Scott Boras and are likely to be expensive but Ellsbury's youth and status as a CFer will likely drive his price and length of contract up.  I think he has some traits the Cubs would really like to have in his athleticism, defense, and speed but will the Cubs overpay for a premium position when CF is not an essential need?

The very things that make Choo an imperfect fit, his age and his relative lack of flexibility on defense, may put him more in the price range the Cubs want given the current position of the organization.  The Cubs aren't really looking for long term solutions here anyway.  They hope to fill that long term role from within the organization and Choo is a perfect go-between.  He can be that bridge into the next generation of players while also providing what the team most sorely lacks in the short term -- that uncanny ability to get on base.  He's also simply the better overall player on offense as suggested by his wOBA and RC+ while his defense should be more than adequate in LF.

The Cubs situation is different this time. This isn't a 3 year window situation where they go for broke, as they did in the 2006 offseason. This time the Cubs have created a foundation that will stream in fresh talent and create new windows as old ones close. In the end, I think Choo is the best fit given the choices available for the outfield in this year's class and the current state of the Cubs organization.

So the decks are cleared and it's time for this front office to make their signature acquisition.

Which player do you think is the better fit?

Filed under: Analysis, polls

Comments

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  • IIRC, Choo was relegated to signing a 1 year deal this offseason w/ the Indians. I don't expect him to lack multi year offers this year but can you recall the reason(s) teams shied away from offering him a longer term contract? My memory isn't helping me here.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    D.U.I.?....

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    In reply to Good Captain:

    He wasn't eligible for free agency. He was arbitration eligible only.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Thanks guys!

  • I voted for neither... Unless either is willing to sign a very term deal (which isn't likely) I think we're better off going in another direction.

    They s/b able to continue their value signings al a Schierholtz. That's one specific example of good scouting and sber-guru's coming together to exploit a market deficiency.

    Signing Nelson Cruz on a 1yr (possible option for 2nd) re-establish himself kind of deal makes more sense to me than Choo or Ellsbury.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Hoosier,
    I was thinking of a possible Cruz signing myself. 1 year plus an option & could be a trade piece if the season doesn't work out.

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    CFD, I don't mind Cruz providing hes willing to do a re-establish-type contract, just remember, Hes basically a lot like Sori, very streaky and not that good defensively.

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    I voted neither. I love Choose but at 31 im not too keen in offering anything more than 3 yrs and in a weak FA class he going to get 4-5. No.

    I like Ellsbury, but I think he's going to get paid like the 30hr one-year-wonder Ellsvury. If that's what happens then we should take no part of it. Similar to the mucheal bourn situation last year buy less defense more offense. Rather let Junior Lake or later Brett jackson play there till Amoral is up.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Agree.

    IMO, even if Ellsbury had never had the 30 homer year, he still gets 15-20 million a year for at least five years for what he's done this year. I think he goes back to Boston.

    I think both Ellsbury and Choo get the QO.

    Choo is a good player and would be a decent Cub, but I'd rather hold the money back to go after a huge gun when the organization decides it's time to do that. I think Choo (who benefits from his home ballpark) winds up with the Angels. I think they second guess letting Hunter get away, and he would replace him pretty well.

    The Cubs don't need big money stop-gap guys that cost a draft pick. Keep following the A's model. Maybe Sweeney turns into a Reddick. It's possible.

  • In reply to Kodak11:

    I agree I think if Sweeney can get a full season of AB he can put up surprising numbers... Sweeney even made a recent comment about how he started hitting more homeruns and harder balls when he realized he should just start swinging hard. It was working before the rib.

  • In reply to Cubswin2015:

    "Sweeney even made a recent comment about how he started hitting more homeruns and harder balls when he realized he should just start swinging hard"

    LOL. It took him until age 28 to figure that out? C'mon, he's a big-bodies outfielder whose power number have been disappointing his entire career, and NOW he has an epiphany?

  • It seems to me that signing a veteran free agent now would be a throwback to the Hendry/Kenney/McDonough era. Signing Choo or Ellsbury might sell a few more tickets a t shirts, but would do very little to improve the product on the field. I fail to see how a 3-4 year signing for one of these guys will put the team in a significantly different situation than going with another "value" signing like Dejesus or Schierholtz.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    It's not that simple. This FO is not against FAs or veterans. They're simply against wasting money. They gave a big contract to Jackson last year because they needed a guy like that and he was healthy and relatively young.

    The Cubs need a guy like Choo--not just now, but going forward for the next few years. They also value what he brings to the table probably more than other teams do, and they need his skillset more than other teams do. And there are no other places on the roster where it makes sense to spend big (for a number of reasons). I would be shocked if they don't go after Choo very aggressively.

  • His injury issue I believe in 2008 & 2011 appears to be a contributing factor.

  • I prefer Granderson. I'd prefer someone for the middle of the order who can take pressure off Rizzo and Castro and any youngster they call up. In terms of years it would probably be more palatable than Ellsbury or Choo. As a LH I think he'd be a nice bridge piece to add all the Cubs RH hitting farm hands to the lineup. Grandy has his warts, but on a 3-4 year deal. It would look pretty good. He can play CF and/or move to a corner.

    I like Ellsbury, but 30+ years old with his value tied to his legs, I'm not such a fan. He's a tweaked hamstring away from mediocrity, and it doesn't usually age well.

  • I voted for neither. We already have Bryant and Almora as Boras clients. Enough said.

  • I voted for Choo because John made so many good points, but if Hoosier is correct about years and dollars I could be happy with neither. Spare me PED cheaters.

  • Choo was injuried in 2011, only played 80-some games and was not good in those. He bounced back and played 155 last year ending with a solid slash line but was inconsistent, posting a weaker second half. Still not sure why he only got one year and Epstein and Hoyer did not target him last winter.

    One split they may like with Choo is his daytime slash, .324/.464/.511 over 47 games.

    I'd rather the Cubs overpay on Choo for 3 years, like 3 and 48 with an option, rather than lock either of these guys up for 4+ years. Ellsbury will need at least 4 years and at the end of that contract you have a speed guy with old legs who is blocking Almora in CF. Almora could(should) be ready 2016-17.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    I think this would be the only way to make either of these happen.

    You can overpay for a guy two ways. The Soriano way of having the contract too long. Or the $ per year.

    I would be willing to pay either of these guys 3 years, $50 Millionish as that is roughly the time when Almora should be breaking into the lineup. Coupled with Bryant/Baez and Soler, we could have a killer OF lineup.

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    Choo was a 4th time arb eligible last year. Injuns traded him mostly because they fet he wouldn't re-sign with them.

  • Been reading the blog through the year, and love it. Thanks.

    I voted neither for several reasons. Too much of a gamble for players with some negative history, either injuries or makeup-DUI, but seems to be a good team player. And if this is going to cost the Cubs a 2nd round pick, I just don't think its time for the Cubs to do that. What kind of talent could they get in return for P. Johnson right now, or Zastrryzny next year? I think they should look for the best talent that doesn't require loss of draft pick, maybe Pence? Esp. if you lose that pick and money associated with it, to the Reds. I just don't like it at this time in the rebuild.

  • In reply to couch:

    Thanks for the kind words. And as far as your thoughts, I can buy that. The 2nd round pick is still important to this team and maybe they find a way around it -- but I don't think Pence is the type of player they want.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If they could get one of the competitive balance draft picks, I'd be all in on Choo. Just a thought, but could a team trade IFA pool money for a comp balance pick?

  • I voted Choo, but it's really close for me. The big feathers in Ellsbury's cap is that he is a much better fielder and a tad younger. Choo has to go directly to LF in my opinion and I don't really feel confident in any current options, outside of Sweeney, in CF. Ultimately, though, I trust Choo's bat more. He has shown consistency where Ellsbury has not and has been clearly better in terms of power and patience over the past few seasons. Ellsbury remains a question mark as to what his ultimate offense will be. As an icing on the cake, I always love to take away a star player from another team in our division.
    I don't believe that the Cubs can pass on both of these guys though. Having Choo around to show patience to the youth will be a big positive and I could see him being really key to the youth transition.
    It is a tough call.

  • Only for a 2 year contract, which will not happen

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    Given that we just moved David DeJesus for $2.5 million, I wonder how much money is going to be available. I'd like to have Choo -- but I'm not sure even he is in our price range.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Not buying that's going to be a major issue given they've already shown the willingness to spend big -- to the point where Ricketts himself made a trip out in an attempt to overpay Sanchez. Once the Cubs are assured of their renovation money, they'll drop the cry poor act

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hope so.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I dont think that indicates a spending pattern. All things equal, who wouldn't take $2.5mm, without really having to give anything up? In fact, if the goal is to lose games and/or give tryouts to Lake/Bog/Sweeney, then they gain by letting DeJesus go.

  • I like Choo if the money and years fit. With Cubs payroll low, they may be able to overpay him a bit in exchange for taking a year off the deal.

    I'm not worried about prospects right now. I don't want to be the Royals who wait year after year for prospects to pan out. They should be proactive here, in my opinion.

    The foundation allows them a luxury they've never had -- the ability to create short term windows and then extend them with that pipeline of talent. I do think they need to start thinking about creating short term windows as long as there is financial flexibility. They're a big market team. They don't need to play this like the Royals. I like how the Cards do it better -- they're not shy about adding a piece or two from outside the organization (Beltran, Holliday)

    Will write a similar article later on Price vs. Stanton -- though I'm not convinced the Cubs will do either one unless the trade cost makes sense.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Perfectly said about not being the Royals.

    In addition, Shin-Soo Choo has the 4th highest OBP in baseball!!! Please, lord give me that.

  • In reply to Denim Dan:

    Two things would help the Cubs a ton next year -- OBP and a consistent bullpen. Choo is a huge step in that first pursuit.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Well said. I'm as excited as anyone about our prospects but you can't really block guys that are in A ball unless you're talking about signing these guys to play AA. Obviously you hope Almora and Soler are ready in the OF before these contracts are up but you can't bank on it! I love to fantasize about these 2015 homegrown lineups too, but they're not reality. Acquiring the best assets available applies a the big league level, too. Just because they're signed to 4 year deals doesn't mean they can't be unloaded down the line if the OF is bursting at the seams like we hope!

  • OT, but MLBTR is reporting that N Ramirez is the PTBNL from the Garza trade.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Interesting.

    He has appeared in 3 games since coming back from the DL.

    7.2 innings, 10K's. 8 hits. 2 BB's.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    ...and 5 ER's.

    Obviously, the Cubs have checked him out and fee that he is healthy.

    Fingers crossed...

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    Multiple twitter folks say Cubs get Neil Ramirez to complete the Garza trade.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Great news!

  • Choo. I feel very strongly about this.

    Above we see the season stats. What you don't see is the fact that Choo has been remarkably consistent every year.

    Ellsbury has often been injured and his poor seasons outnumber his good ones. He is very much overrated.

    Four years of Choo does not block Soler and Almora. We have a lot of time to see which prospects will pan out. But good lord, we need offense desperately. Choo produces!

    Baez and Bryant could fill 2nd and 3rd by the fall. Alcantara took a major step. Our infield looks strong.

    We need an outfielder. Let it be Choo.

  • As usual, it always depends on the contract.

    Even with a depressed budget, the Cubs are going to have a lot of money to burn in the next few years. If the length is right, the Cubs should 100% be willing to ante up the AAV a bit to perhaps entice the player, maybe even sweeten the deal even more with some moderately reachable incentives.

    Let's take Choo for example.

    If Boras is trying to get 5/$75 for Choo, but the market will only bear 4/$52, then the Cubs should seriously entertain him if he will agree to something like 3/$45. Only $7M difference in total contract value (ignoring possible incentives), but the years are shorter, and the money is spent when the Cubs have plenty of room for it (even in spite of a depressed MLB payroll budget). It also allows for Choo to get perhaps another contract a year earlier then he would have at the market bearing rate.

    Same applies for Ellsbury.

  • In reply to Monkey Shines:

    Im betting Choo will be this years Michael Bourn. Ive got a gut feeling hes not going to be an early signing, and hes not going to get his initial asking price. Im betting Ellsbury gets similair $ to Choo, but neither is a $20 m/yr player.

  • I voted neither as well. Seemingly a popular vote after treading through the comments. I like both players to a certain degree but am not crazy about them. Not that he'd want to come but I'd like Beltran on a two year deal rather than Choo for four or Ellsbury for five. Plus I think he'd provide nice veteran leadership, especially for young latin players.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Good idea, Ihadt thought about Beltran, but his career numbers at Wrigley are really good. Another name that comes to mind is Corey Hart, if his injuries haven't set him too far back.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Corey Hart's another good name that would certainly come cheaper as well as providing a little back up 1B value. That's a good call! I think at this early stage these would be my hopes:

    1.) Sign Beltran to a deal no longer than two years. (He will get better offers from contenders so I know its unlikely)

    2.) Sign Murphy & Hart or DeJesus & Hart

    3.) Choo

    4.) Hunter Pence sleeper alert (not crazy about him but he's a good player) or Nelly Cruz on some sort of Melky-ish discount deal.

    I don't really give a shit who they sign as long as they get on base. It will all depend on that player's willingness to accept whatever offer the Cubs make. As far as Choo goes, I'm not sure why he'd want to play for the Cubs instead of say Texas, Cincinnati, Yankees, St. Louis, Boston. I think its safe to say that the Cubs will be the "worst" team vying for his services. Money does talk though.

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    I am a little concerned about giving up the draft pick to sign them. (Especially when the Cardinals get free draft picks because Jerry Reinsdorf sucks.) Eventually we're going to have to do it, though. The minor league system is at a point where the 40th pick or so is going to have a relatively small impact on the system. So, now is as good a time as any. If Bryant and Baez hit the majors next June-ish (third and second, respectively?) that team might just compete.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    If you are implying that the Cardinals would get the draft pick then you are mistaken. A team with a free agent can make a qualifying offer. That offer is determined annually by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the previous year, last year it was $13.3 Million.

    The Free Agent player can then accept the 1 year offer or Sign somewhere else. If he signs elsewhere the team acquiring him forfeits their top draft pick (unless it's top 10 protected) but that pick does NOT go to the players former team. The draft pick goes NOWHERE, and the draft round gets condensed.

    If however you meant that St. Louis might get a Competitive Balance pick from the Competitive Balance Lottery next year which are the picks designed to help small-market and low-revenue teams become more competitive, then that is possible, but they will NOT be receiving a Compensation pick for giving Carlos Beltran a qualifying offer.

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    In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    It should have been obvious it was a reference to the competitive balance lottery.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    After re-reading your post it is quite obvious that's what you meant, my bad. Someone the other day thought it was the former.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Pretty clear from his post he meant the latter.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Oops. Mike's comment wasn't up when I started my post. I didn't mean to duplicate.

  • I voted for neither of those two, while I realize the market is thin, both are represented by Boras. I wouldn't over pay for either one, as far as Cruz is concerned, hopefully the FO draws the line in the sand against anyone suspended for drugs of any kind. Let's look for someone needing to reestablish themselves and sign them on a term deal.

  • Article on Neil Ramirez acquisition is up for those interested.

  • Greg Maddux was a second-round pick, so I wouldn't be inclined to minimize the value of the pick we would forfeit to sign a free agent requiring compensation. I don't think adding Ellsbery or Shoo would make us a playoff contender in 2014, although they might put us over the top in 2015 or later. I'd rather take my chances with Perez or Bourn, or any other useful piece that only costs money.

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    In reply to cubsin:

    Many, many more second-round picks never become near as good as either Choo or Ellsbury.

  • I wrote on here the other day that when DDJ got let go that Choo was my first thought. I like the value that he brings for the price and I like that he's not a crazy long term commitment. Could be a deal similar to like what the red sox made this offseason. I think the F.O. will be semi aggressive as it relates to free agent signings this offseason. They've gotten progressively more aggressive the last two off seasons and I expect that to continue with more core pieces and better (although still not great) chances to win. I'm not super familiar with this free agent class, but the pattern does not seem for any class to be great.

  • I have only 2 criteria for signing Choo. One is no longer than a 3 year contract, or no more than $15 mi annually. 3/45 is actually an overpay, but the market is extra-thin this year and a trade might be a better route to take, providing that Baez, Soler, Almora and Bryant are untouchables right now.

  • Man, I can't wait for the day when we need that one piece to, in theory, put us over the top. Choo seems like a nice piece, but not the kind of player that will protect our youth. Not a big name guy and does a lot of 'little things' right. Not sure if getting on base and hitting 20HR a year will take much heat off Castro / Rizzo.

    I want the Cubs to win more than anybody, but I don't think signing either of these guys now helps much with that effort. BUT, I do agree that you can't just call up your prospects, sign some FA and everything falls into place. I think we are in a good spot with SP - with Jackson / Shark / Wood all likely to be around for the next 3+ years. I think / hope Rizzo and Castro bounce back in 2014.

    I just don't see a player that can be a big impact right now - the bummer is that the 2015 FA class isn't great either...

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    Just my thought but I don't think the Cubs will use free agency to acquire impact because it's so inefficient. Recent impact FAs like Pujols, Fielder, Hamilton have proven to be bad investments. Rather, I think the Cubs will use free agency to find pieces that fit what they want philosophically -- more complements than saviors. And that, in a sense, was part of what I was trying to convey by signature signing.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The market is so inflated for top end guys but you can find solid guys that make you a better team (like Choo) because 20 teams don't want to give up a 1st round pick to acquire them and most of the other 10 are small market teams that don't want to give that player the money needed to sign them.

    It seems like the real way to acquire an impact player is via trade.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Nate S. DDJ. Hairston. Feldman. Might be the trade market eventually for a big timer.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think you're probably right. I think that's the way managment wants to play it. That's what the Cardinals would do, I think, and it's the idea they most want to emulate about them. Awesome post. You're a fantastic writer John; can't give you enough props.

    Even though what you wrote is correct; even though what you wrote is how the Cubs are going to play it, I have a problem with it.

    The Cubs don't have a star to build around. I think they desperately need one. Wasn't that the entire reason that Tom brought up Choo and Ellsbury in the first place: to "protect" Castro and Rizzo? I don't see how either one of those two players accomplishes that goal.

    Sure the Cubs get a little better, but I just don't see it being worth it. I wish the Cubs would sign a star. Everybody will hate this, but I'd rather have signed Hamilton than Choo or Ellsbury. It's the doggone Cubs. You should be able to afford a mistake like that. Hamilton might just be amazing the next couple of years. His struggles certainly would have taken pressure off of Castro and Rizzo, if that's truly the goal.

    I would just rather the Cubs keep building like a small market team or turn this thing around the way a big market franchise would. Pick an avenue and own it. Don't try and fool the "true" fans with a band-aid. Ticket sales may be down a bit, but it's as bad as it's going to be. Cubs fans aren't going away. We can wait on the kids without waisting $15-$20 million on a player that's only keeping you from securing a pick in the top ten and taking away your present second-rounder.

    Ellsbury is too injury prone for a poor team to build around. He's a finishing touch. Choo adds 3 wins to a bad team. If you really want to "protect" the young bats, sign Cano. If not, stay the course, build, and then spend all of the saved money when you're ready to play with the big boys.

    Everyone is running down the Angels right now, but I bet you they're right back where they've been next year. Stars play in playoff games.

  • In reply to Kodak11:

    Thanks very much for the kind words, Kodak.

    It's a good point and I'd have to ask Tom to be sure exactly what he means by that. Maybe Tom and I differ slightly on what we think the role of free agency should be or maybe it's just a matter of semantics. Maybe the Cubs don't need a guy to carry the burden for the young kids so much as they need a player or two to share it with them. I think someone like Choo fits the latter description.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Probably semantics. Keep up the good work John.

    I'd stay the course. Sign Morse.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I see your point. I just don't see what either player does for us in 2014. I actually hate the argument of 'what does it matter if they give us 4 more wins when it only gets us to 77..' - but I think is valid here. Neither of they guys are true difference makers or will take much heat off Starlin / Rizzo. This is why I don't understand the Sori trade. We got, at best, a late inning reliever and only saved $7M. Which means we are basically paying his entire 2014 salary. We sit here and talk about filling the Sori void, like he was a FA we couldn't afford or he retired. Seems like is off the field value was worth more than anyone realized...

    What Castro / Rizzo. need is a proven vet that can A) Produce and B) Take the microscope off of them. That is a guy I would pay a premium for. And even a longer term'ish deal. Like a McCutchen / Posey / Pedroia / etc. Those guys just aren't available though (obviously). BUT they likely would have been 10 years ago under the old FA model.

    I think the Cubs have 16 more months of goodwill left before fans really start to get agitated. I think they stand pat this off season unless someone falls in their lap. I think 14 months from now they either sign a big FA or trade for elite young talent - Stanton / Price. If they roll into 2015 with a payroll of $60M, I and most fans will be extremely pissed. OR, our prospects better be can't miss and ready to step onto the field and nearly dominate. I could care less what the payroll number is, but you can't trot out DFA / waiver wire pickups for 4 straight years if you are a big market team. The Seagulls will outnumber the bleacher bums...

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    The problem is that you can't build a roster in one year. So if we stand pat this year, it just leaves that many extra holes to fill next and the year after that.

    I'd also disagree slightly with the idea that cubs fan have another year of goodwill left. Season ticket holders are leaving in herds.

    Maybe the television watching fans have the patience, but the folks shelling out 20K per season don't.

    But that said, I don't think Pedroia or Shoo are particularly attractive options.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Don't know why my brain always interchanges Pedroia and Ellsbury.

  • I'd vote for Choo because I think you can get him for less years. I'd like to see a 3 year $42 mil with a 4th year team option/$3-5 mil buy out. The market for Choo isn't going to be that big like it wasn't for Bourn who had to settle for a 4 year $48 mil deal because 20 teams don't want to give up a first round pick for a good, but not great player.

  • If we have to I'll take Choo. Lefty bat, something we really need. That OBP is really nice. Love to see him leading off or hitting second. Seems to be an all around good player. Good example of the approach the Cubs want at the plate.

    Would like to keep the 2nd round pick though.

  • Go neither. Find a young (younger?) under performing player that is approaching arbitration. Change of scenery type. This is the type of guy who you could get for a B-Jax or a Vitters, or both, and you may need to throw in some ither 'meh'. If it works out, great, if not, you didn't lose anything you were counting on.
    Ex: Logan Morrison. 26 years old. Huge disappointment, big power potential, and may become too expensive for Miami. I am sure there are more just like him.

  • In reply to djriz:

    I think you can try for those guys every year -- but at some point, why not an established player rather than a flyer? Why not act like the big market team they are and take on some financial burden in exchange for more certainty?

    I wasn't a huge fan of the McPhail era because every acquisition with him was pretty much a flyer or a bargain free agent. Never really got out of Minnesota mode -- some worked and he started building a foundation of young talent -- but he was always reluctant to spend and get that veteran that could have made the difference.

    I want the Cubs to build a foundation and find efficient ways to fill out a roster the way good small market teams do but why not use the tremendous resource advantage they have over their division rivals. They're just doing those guys a favor if they don't spend money and add significant pieces.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Very valid points.
    Yes, they should start acting like a big market team.
    That being said, I just don't think these guys are the guys I would spend my money on. Just my opinion.

    I wonder if they could get that Soriano guy cheap? (at least for June thru September).

  • In reply to djriz:

    Logan Morrison seems like an Ian Stewart type player and personality to me. Not sure I would want him around.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    That could be true. he had a 'twiiter' problem a few years ago. I was really just using him as an example. I'm figuring the Cubs are due to get lucky, ala Chris Davis-like lucky.

  • You either sign both and actually try to compete for the wildcard next year or you sign neither and go instead with bargain signings. Adding one is a half measure.

  • Neither. They need to add a run producer with some pop and neither fit the bill. They need to improve the linup, but not sign someone just for the sake of signing a "name" free agent. I would pass on these and explore acquiring a bat thru trade, maybe Cubs can get lucky and some team wants to unload a contract.

  • In reply to Behn Wilson:

    They have pop. They lead the NL in extra base hits and are second in HRs. What they need is people to get on base.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I disagree, the middle of our lineup is a joke and needs some RBI / clutch guys in there. A lot of those estra base hits/homers came from Soriano and guys that are gone or wont be back or geetting as many at bats if they return. We had a lot of fringe guys that hit 8 or so homers that added up like Ransom, ,Murphy, Villanueva, Hairston. The only true thumper we have is Rizzo. The current ML roster is a pop gun offence.

  • In reply to Behn Wilson:

    Front office has been talking about improving OBP pretty much the whole year. It may not be Choo or Ellsbury, but a middle of the order bat isn't coming this offseason because there aren't any out there. At least not the kind of hitters they like and nobody they'd sign for more than a year.

  • If possible, I would still try signing players other teams gave up on
    and hope for the best. Our 2nd round pick is still worth alot

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    for everyone here who's dreaming about Soler/Almora/Baez/Bryant as The Coming Of The Savior(s) just around the corner, making any significant free-agent signings such as Shin-Soo Choo unnecessary, please take a deep breath. let's not forget these guys' numbers in A+ - AA:
    PA BA OBP Slg HR
    491 ..297 395 .493 12
    435 .274 .353 .497 17 (# 4 prospect)
    245 .306 .336 .524 7
    350 .314 .413 .480 8

    Brett Jackson, Ian Stewart, Tyler Colvin, Kevin Orie
    I could add Mike Olt, Gary Scott, etc etc etc etc- but the point is, you can't just throw away seasons as you sit and wait for the perfect time to win. The Nationals found that out last year.
    Now I'll hear from a bunch of guys telling me Bryant and Almora have better "approaches" at the plate than those guys, and the system is better at "developing" players now than it was then. No. Stop it. The fact is, prospects are a wish and a prayer and nothing more. The FO has an obligation to every fan and every guy who wears the uniform, to put a winning product - or at least make an effort to put a winning product - on the field every single year. To say, "Oh, we don't need Choo because he'll demand 4 years and we'll have Almora and Soler in a coupe of years" - is just plain wishful thinking - and every bit as emblematic of past Cub failures as the short-sighted signings of the previous FO.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    This is one of the more sensibly written posts I have read today.

  • In reply to Monkey Shines:

    Who wants to be sensible. Leave that to Jed.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    This. Sign Cano & Choo. That should help. Id also like Halladay on a reclamation project if possible.

  • In reply to plymkr:

    Now we're talking!

  • In reply to plymkr:

    agreed. honestly, beyond a little more pop, Choo's not that different from DDJ & wouldn't feel that bringing him back next year was a sign that the FO was dropping the hammer. sure, higher SLG, but enough to justify the higher rate and/or contract length, on its own? not a fan...

    that said, if you acquired Choo in addition to a similarly-vintaged guy like Cano, who hits for a higher avg, has the power to replace Sori and plays a pos of immediate need, you'd be adding two quality offensive pieces while making a statement.

    agree the "blocking" concern is misplaced at this point & that the Cubs have been hitting the ball hard w/o many runs to show for it. increasing the overall OB profile of the lineup while replacing Sori's power should do the trick.

  • In reply to ratay1:

    Agree. Cano's worth giving up a 2nd rounder for and Choo's worth giving up a 3rd rounder for.

  • With the prospects inching every so closely to the majors, and the potential for a good pitching staff and improving defense, I think it makes sense to at least take a look at one of these guys on a moderate 3-4yr contract. With Bjax's near bust status and Almora being far away, I think we can safely slot Choo in there, much as we can safely slot EJax as a back-of-rotation mainstay. I don't really see money being an issue here, and I think we need to take a conscious look at upgrading at offense, granted we don't have to spend like drunken sailors, but we also don't need to penny pinch and sign Grady Sizemore types.

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    Here's the thing.

    Baez and Bryant are coming soon. They'll join Rizzo and Castro. At that point, the future really is now. You've got four players who you expect to provide significantly above replacement value at their position. Alcantara may come soon as well (pushing Baez to third and Bryant to right) and really stacking the deck.

    Maybe they're a year or two from being as good as they're going to be, but if we sign Choo to a four year contract, he'll be there as they develop and be providing a lefty, top of the order bat. (Something we desperately need, even if our prospects develop -- Choo-Alcantara-Rizzo would give us 3 lefties in the lineup.) I prefer Choo, but you can largely put Ellsbury in here and get the same argument.

    We're really not making the signing to boost our chances next year, we're making the signing to build the team that is going to make the big push.

    People talk about the value of the #2 pick -- and that is real -- but anyone we pick there is two or three years away. We need a lefty bat long before that if we're going to compete.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's pretty much my stance to this as well.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yep, Choo at 3-4 years is not truly going to block anyone. Especially if the Cubs don't give him a NTC. That way, if he's performing well, can always move him to plug a hole elsewhere. That's a super nice problem to have.

  • I guess it depends on what your definition of 'soon' is.

    I don't think either of those guys see action before September of 2014. Personally, I could care less what Baez does in AA/AAA next year (obviously I hope he dominates) - but it shouldn't get him a call before September. Given the length of time since the Cubs were relevant, compounded by the fact that we are in a massive rebuild, with a roster full of DFA pickups - it is imperative that Baez / Bryant have worked out any kinks and are as close to ready as they can be. Yes, every rookie will struggle and guys will have a sophomore slump - but the success of these two are huge. Probably the most important two prospects I can ever remember (I'm only 32). Maybe similar to Prior / Wood...

    I completely expect one of these guys to be league average / fizzle out - but ONE of them coming close to their ceiling is imperative. I don't want them to get called up in July 2014 and three years later still trying to figure out a way to lay off the slider in the dirt or cut down on their K's or fine tune their throwing mechanics.

    These two, along with Soler / Almora need to be as polished as a rookie can be...

  • Less than 5% of second round picks have had 5 war total major league careers since 1980.
    Elite players are what the cubs need to compete, to combine with their quality draftees. They don't come on the market often, so it is not like you can just say, ok we are ready to spend money now. You have to get them when you can.
    There are two elite players this winter. Cano and Ellsbury. I pay a 30 year old Ellsbury $110 mil for six years. He is a great player. I like choo, but too old and not as good.
    Someone mentioned the cardinals. While the media likes to portray them as this great homegrown system, that is a myth. They have 4 players earning $13 to 19 million a year(3 of them on 75 million plus contracts) another making 9 mil and a 6th on a 40 mil contract. They drafted 2 of these players, one of them 13 years ago.
    The cubs have to aquire some top players, combined with good quality guys like Nate s. who work well in platoons. And hope the power bullpen arms produce.

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    I wouldn't be upset if they signed Choo, but I also wouldn't be thrilled. Besides the age and positional issues you mentioned above, he's also essentially a platoon player. He kills righties but in one third of his ABs this year (against southpaws), he's put up a .538 OPS.

    Another thing that has to be considered is how tight the Cubs finances have seemingly become. Is signing Choo going to hinder our ability to go after big FA's in the future?

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    If Choo (or Ellsbury for that matter) hinder the Cubs chances at signing another big ticket free agent or two and locking up homegrown talent 2-4 years from now, then things have gone terribly wrong in so many facets of the organization.

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    Your last comment is the million dollar question. For years I assumed that we would eventually return to a top-5 payroll - but that could be a pipe dream. The so called 'smaller market teams' have basically caught up with us. Detroit: $150M, SF $142M, Rangers $127M, Toronto: $118M, STL $116M!!, CIN: $111M -- All higher than the Cubs. With Baltimore / Milwaukke / AZ / ATL within $10M of us.

    Is the debt service such a massive burden? Nearly all of the above teams have signed FA or their own young talent to massive deals - Posey / Cain, Verlander / Cabrara / Fielder, Darvish, Wainwright / Holliday, etc.

    I'm not advocating a Pujols contract. I'm just wondering what the long-term plan is...

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    This is my point. I do see the upside in signing either, but if there is only so much money, these aren't the guys. Unlike the rest of the world; I loved the Soriano signing. There was never a time where I was in the trade him camp (unless the other team was picking up at least half of his contract, or sending back a major piece). He worked his tail off, kept in phenomenal shape, never said a negative word to the media, stood up for his teammates, owned up to his mistakes, has a great swing, quit hopping when he caught the ball.

    Last one was for humor, but seriously; his signing signified something. The Cubs were no longer letting Maddux go and signing Guzman. They were players in the market now.

    Fine, they're not players anymore, but be that. Don't let a temporary fix get in the way of being able to sign the big fish when he wants to play for you. If you build it, they will come (or give them a bunch of money). It's one of those two.

    It's hard not to see the recent trade of Soriano as a cry for money. He was a good Cub. Let's say the $7 million the Cubs got from the Yankees goes toward Soriano's deal next year and they sign either one of Ellsbury or Choo for $15 million (which is about what it will take). That is a total of about $26 million for an outfielder instead of just giving Soriano his $18 million next season and probably saving some money on his deal at the deadline if the Cubs don't compete.

    This situation is like putting an elevator in an outhouse. It don't belong.

  • It's going to hard to sign a good young FA's to a rebuilding team
    unless we overpay with money and years. I don't think we
    should do it unless, the FA is no more than 31 and the contract
    no more than 4 yrs. I don't think this will happen.

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    Choo would be my choice. I think the Cubs need to spend some money for a number of reasons.

    1. They need some veterans who are more than just stable ponies to help take pressure off the kids and show them how to win. David DeJesus is a stable pony, and so is Nate Schierholtz to some degree.

    2. They need to add OBP, and if they can add OBP and SLG, that's even better.

    3. It's a sign of good faith with the fan base that they aren't just going to be the Royals.

    I think it's perfectly fine to overpay for Choo if it shortens the length of the deal.

  • Also John, you mentioned the renovation money. This is really the biggest issue with the future of this team.
    Until the stadium issue is settled, this will hang over the club like a pox. I hear recent talks with the rooftops went from bad to downright ugly. The Cubs are just not going to spend one dime until they know they won't wind up in court.
    There is almost no chance any construction will start this offseason. Best case now is after 2014. This mess has to be settled, one way or the other.

  • Choo was on bad Indians teams for years - so not sure he is a guy to show the young guys how to win. He isn't a big enough name / doesn't put up enough stats to take the focus off Castro / Rizzo - in my opinion.

    Ellsbury has been on championship teams and probably has more name recognition with the casual fan.

    But neither is a difference maker for the Cubs in 2014.

  • I'm not someone who keeps track of the entire leagues' personnel, but philosophically I think it is foolish to place any hard moves on what farm hands might do. To me they are no more than wishful thinking. I certainly agree that rebuilding through the minors is the sound approach, but trades and FA acquisitions need to be based on immediate plans and economics, not which of the kids might develop into everyday players. This is never really knowable.

  • Choo is the one significant FA who is a perfect fit for the Cubs, IMO. His skillset is exactly what they need, and he plays a position they need. I think there's an excellent chance the Cubs will be the highest bidder for his services.

    There's less of a need for the Cubs to sign guys for other positions. Starting pitching is pretty well covered, with Samardzija, Wood, Jackson, plus guys like Arrieta, Rusin, Villanueva, Grimm--and possibly Hendricks, Cabrera and Vizcaino later in the season.

    They have holes at 2B and 3B, but Baez and Bryant are likely less than a year away, and they have plenty more candidates behind those guys who are also close, in Alcantara, Olt, Villanueva, etc.

    The bullpen has been ugly the last couple of years, but the Cubs also have some guys who are probably ready now (Schlitter and Lim), plus others who will be soon (Rosscup, Rivero, and possibly a wildcards like Hatley, Batista, Zych, Dayan Diaz, etc.). Strop and Parker have been pretty convincing recently as late inning guys, and guys like Cabrera and Dolis will be out of options.

    They may add a veteran middle reliever or even a set up guy, but I don't see the Cubs spending big on any relievers when they still have a losing team--especially when there are a lot of in-house guys close to the bigs who have nice arms.

    Which means that the only likely place for them to invest substantial FA dollars would be in a corner OFer, and Choo is the obvious choice, in terms of having a skill set that perfectly fits the club's needs.

    They've shown last year with the Jackson signing that they are not adverse to spending $$$ when necessary to bring in a piece who can help the team for several years and stabilize a club weakness.

    Choo has been very consistent as a hitter in his MLB career, only once posting a sub-800 OPS (in an injury season). I don't see any reason to expect a sharp dropoff--it's not like he relies on speed as a primary part of his game. He will be in decline, but there's no reason to expect him to go off a cliff.

    I think it's reasonable to expect an 800+ OPS over the next three seasons or so, with a dropoff into the mid-700's perhaps in the final year of the contract. As a fan, I could live with that.

    Keep in mind that many of the young guys who are close (Baez, Bryant; perhaps even Olt if he pans out) are big power guys. Having a guy like Choo getting on base ahead of guys like that could be huge.

    My guess is that Choo will get a contract in the 4 year/60-70 mil range. That would be for his age 31-34 seasons. IMO, it's a worthwhile investment/gamble for the Cubs, and I expect them to go after him aggressively.

  • How about a 1yr "show me your healthy" deal for OF/1B Corey Hart?

  • fb_avatar

    Julie DiCaro reporting that Cubs won't spend much over the off-season. The joys of being broke. (Or pretending to be.)

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    I voted neither.

    I'm conflicted about it, though.

    On one hand I totally get that having a team comprised completely of young guys that came up through our system is as problematic as it is statistically unlikely.

    And I get that waiting to see where your "holes" in the system are, doesn't mean there will be FA's available to fill those holes.

    I like Ellsbury a lot but i have ZERO confidence in his ability to stay on the field for a whole year.
    I realize this year has been a healthy one for him but that actually makes me MORE nervous. In my years of watching pro sports I've noticed that there's something about that big contract year that gives athletes the ability to play great and stay healthy (or perhaps they're just playing through pain). I really feel like if we give Ellsbury a nice contract, he'll end up playing in less than half the games the contract covers.

    Choo is just on the wrong side of thirty. Really as simple as that. He's an OBP machine, towards the top of the league in runs produced. I can't pick on him too much.

    If he's willing to accept 4 years or less, sure. But someone will offer him more, in all likelihood.

    And if he gets a QO, I don't think he's worth sacrificing a draft pick. Not even a second rounder, since out #1 will obviously be protected.

  • My viewpoint is this is the exact time to do what the Cubs are doing with this gutting and restocking of the farm system and not following the majority who think the team should be spending as a big market team.

    In 2014, I would like to see Choo and Cano if they are going to try and spend money. I could see Nelson Cruz like some said--but I doubt they try that. The big point is there are really too few options out there this year to generate impact to this team, so why overspend on the available guys this year?

    In 2015, there may be guys like Hanley Ramirez, Chase Headley, Sandoval, Nick Markakis, and that's about it for position guys. Pitching will include possible FA's Brett Anderson, Homer Bailey, Billingsley, Cueto, Gallardo, Kershaw, Masterson, and Scherzer.

    The next two years are bleak in terms of immediate FA help. I wish the fan base as a whole could see that. The current path may have more to do with the value of what is out there rather than the financial state of the team.

    Who knows, maybe the FO will spend heavily on guys like Choo, Ellsbury and Cano as they are the only attractive offensive options in the next two years?

  • Not crazy about either one of these guys and not just because we're going to have to significantly overpay to get them. Choo's OBP is nice, but it's also 30 points higher than his career mark. (Last year his OBP was .373.) Ellsbury is a speedster type, and while I'm all about that type of player, that's not going to relieve any pressure off Castro and Rizzo. If that really is a motivating factor here, I think their approach will be to just generally improve the offense, in which case either one of these guys would help, but neither guy alone.

  • I voted neither simply because I don't believe either of these guys will get deals under $50M. I wouldn't mind $45-48 for 3 for Choo. But as everyone has pointed out, it ain't happening.

    I think it's much wiser short and long term to go with Sweeney, Lake, and Sherholtz. I'll be curious to see what Neal can do next year, and Jackson is still a good defensive outfielder with possible OBP skills, so he could fill the 5th outfielder role. And this regime has shown a good ability to pull guys from that scrap heap that make good bench players.

    I'm not for spending money, just because we have some to spend. That rarely works out well. The short term benefits are more than off-set by future hindrance if we go more than 3 yrs with either of these guys.

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    My preference is neither one.
    Not until our system becomes a little more top-heavy, and we get a better idea of what Bryant/Soler/Almora can provide.

    I understand our OBP issue as well as providing protection for Rizzo and Castro. If I had to choose, I'd pick Choo. That stability in the outfield allows Shierholtz to be platooned more deliberately, while still giving Lake a chance to audition.
    Choo's approach would set a great example for the "Cubs way"
    I'd take Choo for 3 years. No more than 4. With the likely scenario that he's trade bait by 2016.

    Ellsbury requires way more years and money. And without the power tool, and the increased injury history and poor walk rate- He's more risk than reward.
    Even with a young improved bullpen in 2014, Choo/Ellsbury, another starter to flip midseason...I still expect to be neck and neck with Milwaukee near the bottom of the pack.
    Although, I'm betting we start playing much better when we start seeing Baez, Alcantara and maybe even Bryant.

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    In reply to Eric Foster:

    While my opinion has been in 100% agreement with this, the more I think about it, the more I like the Choo idea.

    John has mentioned before you can't expect the right FAs to be around when you think the timing is better, and an even bigger reason is that it appears that hurricane Baez will be hitting the windy city sooner than many thought at this time last year, and it would be nice to have Choo there already to set an example to Baez and any other young, turbo-aggressive hitters. His approach is probably as close to a match of "the Cubs Way" that exists outside of Boston and his OBP skills is probably what Theo dreams about at night.

    Guys we already have like Lake, Bogu, and Sweeney could benefit right away. And when Baez, Soler, and Bryant come up they could learn a lot. (I expect Soler and Bryant to have better, or at least least aggressive approaches than Baez, but that doesn't mean they can't still learn.)

  • John, great piece! This is what I've been waiting for and hope FO is listening!

    One nit to pick: we all knew we'd regret last two years of Sori's deal. We all said it, but nonetheless applauded it at the time cause Cubs went all out to win it all. And, yes, 2007 and 2008 were the most wonderful, glorious years since 1984. Those teams kicked ass (until, of course, for the playoff heartaches).

  • According to Julie DiCaro the Cubs won't spend at all this offseason and will not raise payroll significantly. That's what she "hears"

  • I also voted for neither, but for consideration, and if money were no object, I would recommend signing Ellsbury over Choo, since both are leadoff hitters, and while Choo has a higher OBP and BB%, Ellsbury gets more hits, strikes out less and his 46 steals would open holes in the infield to help Cub hitters, even though Choo has scored more runs this year. Another player to consider would be Kelly Johnson, as a lefty-hitting utility man with 16 HR's in each of the last two seasons, came up through the Braves organization, and has had success with TB this year.

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