As always, expect the Cubs to pursue value

It seems that we are all pretty familiar by now as far as how the Cubs go about doing things.  It has practically been a mantra on this blog since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over.

The key word when it came to building what may  now be the strongest organization in baseball has been value. The Cubs are where they are because they consistently extracted surplus value in free agency and in trades.

That should not change after a winning season.  It shouldn't change just because the Cubs are a so-called big market team.   If the Cubs are to remain competitive year in and year out, then they need to continue  to come out even or ahead on the value ledger.  Squandering that away at the first sign of success goes against everything this organization has professed for 4 years.  The Cubs term has always been long term sustained success, not short term windows.   The more chances you get, the better the odds are that come playoff time, you'll be the team playing the best baseball.  As Jed Hoyer stated in this Bruce Miles article,

"The second take-away is you have to get there every year or almost every year because what you really want is to be that team, the hottest team. The Royals got really hot after they were almost eliminated by the Astros, and they rolled through people.

"You make it every year, and you have much better odds of being that hot team that can sustain three series."

Yes, the Cubs will kick the tires on David Price and Zack Greinke.  They'd be crazy not to.  But don't expect them to engage in a bidding war for their services.  And if a bidding war on top tier pitchers means the Cubs can be opportunistic on a second tier pitcher such as Jordan Zimmerman, then that becomes a possibility as well -- but the Cubs won't have the market dictated to them.  If they get a top tier or second tier pitcher, it will largely be on their terms.  That is unlikely, but never say never.  Sometimes pitchers slip through the cracks -- and in a free agent year with a lot of good starting pitches, you have to keep an open mind that an opportunity that makes sense presents itself.

Names we have read about as trade possibilities, pitchers such as Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, Julio Teheran, Sonny Gray, etc. are also very appealing -- but only to a certain point.  In the case of pursuing a trade for a young cost-controlled starter, there will be a hefty cost in terms of cost-control that the Cubs will have to sacrifice.

And yes, you have to give up something of value to get something of value in return, but that is not the same as getting a player at all costs.

Hoyer has indicated that they will pursue multiple starting pitchers, but with a caveat...

 “There has to be a level of common sense when thinking about what we’re going to do. We’ve been linked to everyone already.”

That common extends to how much they're willing to give up in terms of young players as Hoyer clearly stated he was wary of giving up too much depth.  There are too many variables to any  season when it comes to injuries and regression, but that may be especially true of a young team like the Cubs.  Whom do you trade?  No matter which  name you pick, there is significant risk involved that the Cubs will give up a great deal of long term value.  The more depth you trade, the greater the risk that you will give up value and the more vulnerable you  become should there be injuries/regression on the position players side.

As Hoyer stated,

“That depth is going to be something we’re very reluctant to get rid of because of that. Because everyone always writes down a starting lineup on paper and a rotation and an eighth-inning guy and a closer and say, ‘There’s our team.’ And I think when you watch baseball over a long period of time, you realize that so rarely does happen when you start those same five guys (pitchers) over and over or guys in your starting lineup don’t get hurt or perform badly. And I think that having that really long lineup, that really good roster 1-25, that really wins the marathon.”

“I do think we’re going to be reluctant to get rid of too much of that depth because I think that’s a real strength in the future.”

It makes sense and the Cubs owe to themselves to keep an open mind and explore all avenues, but they cannot start chipping away at something until it no longer is a strength - and that is true whether you are talking about payroll flexibility or position player depth.  Still, there has to be a balance.

“You want people to know right away that you’re interested,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to look to improve the team within reason.”

Within reason are the words we have to keep in mind here.

And what we come down to is this: We should expect the Cubs to pursue young, talented, cost-controlled pitching while still preserving their position player depth to the greatest extent possible.  It is going to be a difficult balance as Hoyer understands the Cub need to also improve their rotation depth,

"We could add a couple of guys at the major-league level. As far as what we hope to add to our 40-man roster, we're going to look to add considerable depth.

"One of the great things about our season was that we were really healthy in our rotation. I think we're realistic to know that's oftentimes good fortune, and we have to prepare for seasons where we're not as fortunate as far as starting-pitcher health."

The Cubs have found value in post-hype pitchers with the most notable example being Jake Arrieta.  I don't expect the Cubs to try to fill out their rotation with flyers, but I think we should expect at least a similar acquisition or two.  On the free agency front, I believe they will sign an undervalued mid-level option and not a top of the rotation starter.  They'll get some present value for the rotation along with some near MLB ready depth -- and Hoyer indicated as much in the quote above -- but if the Cubs have the simultaneous goals of preserving their depth and long term payroll flexibility, then they're going to have spread that currency out as much as possible to fill those multiple needs.

I expect the Cubs to be creative.  They'll explore all possibilities but in the end they'll make deals that make sense.  They'll get value in return.  In other words, I expect them to stick with what got them to a 97 win team that has some of the best young talent and most financial flexibility of any  team in baseball.

Why veer away from what has worked so well so far?

 

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  • Confused on everyone saying that the Cubs and Jeff Samardzija having mutual interest. Pretty sure I recall him being a nuisance in the clubhouse and I would assume that's against what the FO wants. Correct me if that was wrong but I feel like I seen that here in the comments section a few months ago.

  • In reply to SpencerGoCubs:

    Shark a nuisance?... Only if you consider his unwillingness to sign an extension.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I wonder what he thinks of those "crappy contracts" now.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Maybe nuisance was the wrong word. Just thought I remembered seeing here that players had problems with him in the clubhouse. Not a shot fired at him, was just curious.

  • In reply to SpencerGoCubs:

    I don't think Shark was ever considered a nuisance but no thanks, I'll pass. After watching him on the north side all these years, I get the pattern. Short stretches of absolute dominance sandwiched between longer stretches of WTF Was That?! As that other team near Indiana just learned this year. Pass...

  • In reply to SpencerGoCubs:

    I have heard about him being overly cocky, and thas from people who personally knew him from nwi.. and either way especially after our trade of jeff would I want him in our rotation unless he's. 4 years 50 million.. he never deserved a big contract

  • I guess the question is from 1-25 depth at what point do you consider the current rookies as established and therefore true depth? Rizzo wasn't really Rizzo until year 3. By no means are the rookies finished products and you have the 2nd wave of prospects coming up from behind such as Torres Contreras Candelario McKinney Almora and Happ. Who is truly expendable in a trade?

    If the Cubs think no one then it is a free agent market. If they have a different pain threshold then trades.

  • In reply to Gator:

    They'll do a little of both.

  • This article should serve as a primer to the Hot Stove League. Well done John. Agree completely.

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    The Hoyer comments are baseball's version of a Rorschach test. If you want to believe they're gonna go all in, you can read it that way. Jed is getting really, really good at saying nothing while he appears to give away the team's entire strategy.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I wonder if Jed helped write that scene with Costner and Robbins on the bus from Bull Durham(cliches)?

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Exactly. Jesse Rogers took the "within reason" quote to mean the Cubs are likely to sign Price or Grienke, but not both. John isn't as definitive, but seems to lean toward only if the price is reasonable (jo pun intended). Which is probably right, but then everyone's etimes reasonable differently. The only thing I think we can be sure of is that the Cubs will add starting pitching. It should be a fun offseason.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think it's pretty clear. They'll look at guys but they're not going to chase them into big money territory. It's his way of mollifying fans who want the Cubs to sign Price or Greinke, they leave room for a possibility that they can be had for a deal that makes sense -- and I am sure they have a basic number in mind, all the while knowing it almost certainly won't happen.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What if Price is serious about coming here? What's the highest you se Theo going? $150m?

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    In reply to Oneear:

    That's the question. I think everyone is just guessing. They've said they have money to fill their needs. But what that means, exactly, is anyone's guessing. My guess is that they'd be willing to give Price more than Lester, but not as much as Scherzer. But I could be completely wrong and they may actually prefer Zimmerman, who is likely cheaper. Or trades and then someone like Lackey. I think Moody is right: Hoyer speaks in such generalities that you can take out of it what you want.

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    In reply to Oneear:

    Wouldn't be awesome if Price pulls a Dawson? I've seen a couple of quotes that make it seems he'd love to play for Maddon again. That would make it pretty easy if he says, "I want to be a Cub. Pay me whatever, and I'll sign"

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    In reply to Oneear:

    How much money do think Price will leave on the table to come to Chicago?

  • In reply to johnsmithcubfan:

    That's almost impossible to say. I think all the talk from his camp is more or less to let other bidding on him that the Cubs are indeed a suitor for his services. I believe he would want to come here all things being equal but if someone offer him 7/$230, and I think someone will, why would he turn that down to take less money from the Cubs? Maybe if the Cubs were offering the same term at $210 he'd leave some money on the table but even then $20 million is a huge sum of money. Unless the predictions of the pitching market at the top are completely out of whack I see almost no chance Price signs here.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    No, I'm with you. But -- I think like you -- I get there based on their previous behavior. For me, if I were given Jed's statements last Friday in a vacuum it would be very difficult to interpret exactly what he planned to do.

  • Great article, John. The FO values value, wants payroll flexibility, likes to keep draft picks, likes multi-position players and wants to keep and improve depth. Those tasks gets more difficult daily. That's why this talented FO has succeeded in the past and was brought in to map our future.
    If free agents are signed, I expect them to be free of draft pick compensation. I'd rather have 2 starting pitchers and 1 multi-position player signed to a combined $100-120 million than one marquee acquisition at $180-200 million no matter how great they are, how fabulous of a human being they may be or how much they may help the TOR or OF defense. I expect to be very happy with the acquisitions we make. If we look at Theo's track record of trades back to his Boston days, he always seemed to trade from excess value not premium value.

  • Of importance is the fact that a good MOR starter will be of great value. Had Lester & Arrieta won games 1&2 with a day of rest before returning to Wrigley for 2 losses, Lester would have started game 5 and Arrieta game 6. That's why we should probably not expect a Price or Grienke which would be a huge inflation of payroll. One good MOR starter would be sufficient.

  • In reply to veteran:

    "Like" or ❤️ Or⭐️ Or whatever. Agree.

  • When you are losing 100 games a year, you can "afford" to take a few flyers on projects. But guys like Arrieta don't happen too often and they cannot expect it.

    The Cubs are at a stage now, where they need another proven starter. No risky "projects for Bosio." Going all in on Price is going to be expensive, but he is proven, relatively young, and isn't going to cost them a draft pick or a rostered player in return. They have the money. Go get him.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    At $x.00 they would certainly get him. If someone else offers 2*$x.00, then good for them and Price. There is no reason to act desperate. The Cubs would like Price, they don't need him.

  • In reply to Cincycub:

    Arguably, they do. No one would put them closer to top. Obviously there are budgetary constraints and a point where you have to walk away. On the other hand, I can't think of any other pitcher worth busting the budget to get. Perhaps the biggest reason is it would not cost them any of their top prospects...there is huge value in that alone.
    I just hope they go into negotiations with strong interest and back it up with a strong offer.

  • Value and production per dollar spent is important when building a quality team. What you want is high production at a few positions for a low cost, which lets you spend big money in other positions where you need to invest heavier.

    As such, I think an interesting thing to think about for us is a possible us of a platoon in CF. That would also provide us with potentially another bench piece.

    While a switch hitter, Minnesota's Aaron Hicks would seem to be an ideal fit for us as the right hand side of a platoon in CF. He is young, cheap, and a much better hitter right handed than left handed. I also think Minnesota is a really good potential trade partner for us, as they have weaknesses at both catcher and SS, 2 areas which we potentially have depth. A deal centered around Castro for Hicks, with other pieces added on either side as needed, would seem to make some sense to me.

    Adam Eaton would also make a sensible trade target, assuming that our White Sox neighbors would deal with us. They also need help in their infield, and would potentially match up in a bigger deal involving some of their higher level young starting pitching.

  • In reply to thunderbird1245:

    There was a fairly sensible article out from Phil Rogers that touched on a trade for CF.

    http://m.mlb.com/news/article/156654330/5-ways-cubs-can-get-better-this-offseason

    He threw out Kevin Kiermaier as a trade target. He may not add a lot offensively, but would be fantastic on defense and can provide some speed, contact, etc... He also may be a low cost option for CF.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    KK is very good defensively, maybe the best, at a very low cost. TB will not just give him away. He will cost us plenty.

  • First off,John, you're by far best Cub blogger out there.

    That being said, I'm going to slightly disagree with you here. I think given where CHC is on the competitive curve , coupled with the depth of this FA class & weakness of subsequent ones, it behooves them to be a bit more aggressive than they have been, to date.

    Looking at the payroll situation, they've seen a significant pickup in revenues; they've got EJax & Hammel coming off books after next yr; and a notable lack of opportunity to improve SP depth via FA after this offseason.

    WRT to trade market, I think they're mentally prepared to deal someone of Soler's stature to acquire that young, cost-controlled SP. It shouldn't really cost much more than that.

    I get the crux of what you're saying but there are multiple circumstances that'd suggest it might be time to be more aggressive/proactive. Just my .02.

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    I was a little surprised when I read about Sarmardjiza, but I guess I could see the argument. After a bad season, he's probably way undervalued. The Cubs know him and If he goes back to his career norms, he could be a steal? Maybe?

  • In reply to NepthuTheWizard:

    To me, the negative feeling about Samardijza is his tendency toward arrogance--thinking that he is better than he is. He was a star in football, and he can't get over the feeling that he is still a star. And he gets petulant and not fun to be around when he isn't the star

  • In reply to JayPea:

    Shark is very confident. That is a good trait. Also he is on good terms with Bosio who he works well with. That is good too. He is a bulldog who doesn't back down and is very durable. I would take him back if we get a very good deal. Something in the neighborhood of 4 years for 48M. He would be a good innings eater. Sort of what we tried to get EJAX for. If someone gives him what he wants, let him go. We don't have to have him but we will take him on Theo's terms.

  • In reply to John57:

    Projections have him forecasted at 5 for $85. Or roughly what he turned down before being traded to OAK.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    The 5/$85 is likely his max value and the Cubs understood that 17 months ago. Because of the QO and the perception factor after a subpar season I think he gets closer to 5/$72. He's arguably the 5th best pitcher available in this years FA class and the 4th, Jordan Zimmermann, probably will get the 6/$120 being projected. That makes Samardzija a tremendous bargain at almost $50 million less in total compensation. It does not surprise me at all that the Cubs are kicking the tires. Of course they won't be the only team that sees that value, or at least I don't think so.

  • John , keep getting administrator approval messages after I post.
    Any workaround?

  • Sign Heyward and Price. Don't trade any of the young position player core already at the MLB level.

    Heyward CF everyday; plays RF late in many games
    Scwarber LF 5 days per week, C 1 day per week
    Bryant 3B 4 days per week, LF 2 days per wee RF 1 day per week
    Rizzo 1B everyday; 2-3 days off per year
    Soler RF 6 days per week
    Montero C 5 days per week, Ross 1
    Castro 2B 6 days per week
    Russell SS 6 days per week

    Baez 3B 3 days per week, 2B 1 day per week, SS 1 day per week

    Everybody gets 1 day off per week except for Rizzo and Heyward. Cubs have 9 true starters for 8 positions so they should take advantage of it by keeping guys fresh and insuring against injury and or poor performance. Find a top notch defensive CFer to play late in games and Price (or Greinke or Zimm etc) and let's get Spring Training started!

  • In reply to ElvisSanto:

    Play Baez at 3B 4 days per week to give Bryant the day off I said he had.

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    In reply to ElvisSanto:

    This is a good plan except for that many weeks they only play 6 games to begin with.

  • In reply to ElvisSanto:

    I think Rizzo and Bryant need more rest than they got this past season. Both looked exhausted by the NLCS

  • In reply to ElvisSanto:

    Every year. Prince Fielder, Shin Soo Choo, Michael Bourn, now Price and Heyward. Amazing the Yankee strategy still gets promoted.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    When the Yankees were winning, they augmented homegrown, cost controlled players with top free agents.

  • In reply to ElvisSanto:

    But they also had the biggest revenue stream of any team at that time. So they could absorb many misses with top free agents. Cubs can not. We have to be very careful. I trust our FO to do a good job.

  • In reply to John57:

    That was an era where players magically peaked at about age 35. For some strange reason that peak is now 29. So paying $30mm/year until a guy is 40 doesn't work out as well anymore.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    Sorry wasn't meant as a reply to you John57.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    That gives the Cubs' young core a 7-8 year window to win the WS and times perfectly with a 7-8 year star FA contract or 2. 9-10 years from now be damned! I see Heyward as the solution to CF and leadoff. Price I'm not as set on but I would rather the Cubs sign him than trade MLB players for a young stud pitcher. I'm stuck on the Cubs young position players and don't want to see any of them moved. It would be selling low IMO.

  • In reply to ElvisSanto:

    I really like this plan! Costly, but attacks their needs without sacrificing the core.

  • In reply to ElvisSanto:

    You're taking somewhere between a $400 and $430 million outlay at one time and still leaves the back end of the rotation fairly weak. I don't necessarily think that they have to add two pitchers in the offseason but if not the second one will have to come in a deadline trade. You're plan would come close to assuring that they wouldn't have the money to make that in season deal even if half of Hammel's $9 mil went with it.

    I can see an argument for signing Heyward in that his value should remain consistent with some peak years in the early to middle part of the deal. I'm not sure I'd do that but I see the value. I can also see an argument for Price in that you will have basically 3 TOR starters for 2 years and then say goodby to Arrieta or 1 year and trade Arrieta next offseason for need. It can't be both guys and think to extend Arrieta, in fact it's difficult to imagine signing both guys and not re-signing Jake. That would mean in 2018 you would be paying $110 mil for 4 players just as Schwarber, Russell and Bryant are arbitration eligible. The math simply doesn't work.

  • I just read Hoyer as trying to re-establish the trade value of the team's depth. It's like other teams think that the Cubs have to sacrifice value of a Baez or Castro or Vogelbach, for example, and Hoyer is saying "Hey, not so fast. As you saw in the NLCS, we're just an injury away from having to play both Baez and Castro. We're not giving a guy away just because YOU think he's blocked." I can easily see Baez move around the whole field (if he can provide a competent bat) or else go back down to Iowa, for example.

    Anyway, I don't see a top-tier pitcher being signed unless Price really does greatly want to come to Chicago. And Price certainly falls in that level of comfort they like (and had with Lester), given that Joe coached him and Johnson coached him at Vanderbilt. He's gone now, but I'm sure they were asking him about Price during the deadline.

    Lackey makes too much sense. If Price isn't necessarily going to be highest bidder, he might too. I still think Heyward makes too much sense too.

    Also wondering if Hammel might possibly end up in the bullpen.

    That quote the other day from the FO about adding pitchers at various levels of the organization...haven't heard anyone really talk about that. Seems to me that the Cubs are planning to perhaps add some AA or AAA pitching (near MLB ready pitching?).

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    I think they have a pretty good idea of the value already, which is why this is the time when specific names are discussed. They're not going to change their perception on value based on his words to the media.

    I think we'd all want Price at a reasonable price (and by that, I mean it'd still be an overpay in free agency -- as they almost all are, just not a ridiculous one), but just don't think we should hold our breath on that.

    i think they'll wind up spreading out some of that currency, spending it on a couple of starters, CF, and depth in rotation/BP and behch.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I assume that if the asking price had been one the Cubs were more comfortable with they would've traded for Hamels this past trade deadline. Am I wrong in that assumption?

    While I am in no way clamoring for Price--I'm clamoring for Heyward--I can see a clear case one could make for Price:

    Price is about a year and a half younger. On one side, Hamels only has four more years on his contract at about $22M/yr. I've seen one place project Price to make about $9M/yr more. That would totally disgust me, and I'd rather the $ not be spent on one pitcher, but again, looking more at a devil's advocate here using Hamels.

    Quite easily, any player the Cubs would have had to given up would have at least bridged the gap (and more) in terms of the $/WAR over each of those four years. The last three years are different, of course. We're essentially talking about paying for 3.5-5 WAR for age 35-37 seasons. Hamels will be playing his last year at that age 35.

    Then there's the issue of WAR inflation and general inflation of the $.

    One could argue that the Cubs would have had to trade up to say 26 WAR (assuming an ultra-conservative $5M/WAR; a $9M/WAR= 14.33 WAR difference total in Hamels' remaining contract and a 7 yr, $32M AAV contract for Price. I have to believe the Cubs easily would've given up 14.33 WAR to obtain Hamels.

    All that said, back to value, I think the end of Hamels' contract is the biggest difference/factor in all this. His contract ending before that new TV contract and right before the kids get paid I think provides that "hidden" value difference.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm not talking about value for other teams, John. I mean posturing by other teams. I think Jed is making it clear that they will not undervalue players and trade them at less than what they consider fair value simply because they have depth at a position.

    And I do think GMs do assign a relative value to players, with depth affecting that for both sides.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    They certainly have some interesting prospects that they could flip for minor league pitchers. I made note of that statement too.

  • John, I have to disagree with you slightly here. I think when you consider where they are on the competitiveness curve and what this yr's FA class looks like, relative to the next couple, it makes sense to be a bit more aggressive . They really can't assume they're going to have the same kind of luck they experienced last season.

    When you look at the payroll flexibility, there really isn't going to be an opportunity to flex their new financial muscle in the next couple FA Mets. Furthermore, they'll see the contracts of EJax & Hammel coming off the books next offseason.

    I'm not advocating an indiscriminate "spree" but they have the resources to improve an area that needs additional depth, if not quality, in a mkt that's dripping with quality.

    As far as the trade mkt, I think they're comfortable moving Soler and that should adequate, perhaps with a secondary piece , to get a quality , cost-controlled young SP( I.e Salazar, Carrasco, Ross,Gausman, or someone of that caliber).

    The window is open and the mkt is offering them what they need.....

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I always think it's a mistake to build your roster with the idea that one player will put you over the top.

    Despite so many teams succeeding without going after the top free agents, why do people still think that is necessary for contention? And with so many teams finding out the hard way that buying rotations is a high risk, short term proposition that usually doesn't pan out, why do people still think that is a good gamble -- especially when this team is set up for a much longer run?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    "Winning" the offseason rarely coincides with winning the actual season.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    So how do you explain the signing of Lester and Jackson?

  • In reply to xhooper:

    They've signed a TOR guy and two MOR guys since they took over. We've only seen the first year of the TOR guy, so far so good there, but a long way to go. The two MOR guys both still have a year on their contracts. One (Jackson) the Cubs are paying to pitch somewhere else. The other (Hammel) is a guy 90% of Cubs fans think isn't good enough to win a playoff game. And the Cubs have been fortunate that none of the three guys has gotten hurt.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I am saying they should spend, but I don't believe they have as much to spend as people seem to think they do. And I think they should spend whatever they have on a starter -- and probably two, maybe a CF, and SP/bench/BP depth. Can they do that if they spend a ton on Price? I don't think so.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    The desire and ability to shed Hammel's contract is also going to be a significant factor.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Do you think the cubs would like to shed hammels contact? If they are I would think montero would be a trade candidate too.

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    In reply to 2lf6reedyt:

    I have no idea if they want to. But it's $10M so, if they do want to move him and replace him with the cheaper Hendricks at the bottom of the rotation, that opens up some money to play with.

    Montero provides a lot of value beyond his raw stats, most notably framing, game management, and veteran leadership. He's also the only real starting caliber catcher currently in the organization. If Contreras tears up the PCL this year we'll probably revisit this conversation in November, 2016.

    Man I'm tired of applications.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I thought Hammel will make 9M next year. It is close but a little less than 10M. And at 9M I think he is a pretty good value.

  • In reply to John57:

    But compared to Hendricks' value and contract? That's the question. If the Cubs add two starters, those two will be fighting for that 5th spot

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, and I think they will spend wisely. They have players and prospects to use in trade in addition to money. Why just deplete one source? Everything seems to scream balanced approach to me.

  • Lester had pitched 1600 innings before he signed with the Cubs.

    Fister 1085
    Zimmermann 1094
    Cueto 1420
    Price 1444
    Greinke 2094
    Lackey 2481

    The list of potential free agent pitchers in 2016-2017 is not impressive. This may drive up the price for this years class.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    There is a lot of FA pitching talent this year. I would guess that would drive the price down like in any market where there is a good supply of a commodity. Scarcity will drive prices up next year. If the price of pitching drops, I expect our FO to pounce fast on a good deal. Got to get value. That will make the team stronger in the long run.

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    Hi John,

    It's been a few years since I've posted anything. I still read daily, and thank you for your efforts. Here is my question for anyone interested in chiming in. What do you think of adding a buy low candidate like Justin Verlander. He seems like he is finally healthy and started to look like the old JV in September. He does come with risk, but I also think the tiger front office would understand this and the price would be great reduced. He has 3 years and 70M (ish) left on his deal. If the Tigers covers some of that salary, I would think he might cost us an Underwood and a lower level position player.

    I love the upside and I really think the worst is behind Verlander.

  • In reply to Jordan Dutcher:

    Verlander will be 33 at the start of next season and has 4 years 112 million left on his contract.In other words no way

  • In reply to Jordan Dutcher:

    Verlander has lost a ton of velocity and while he did look better late this season he does not look like he has much left in the tank to me. Prior to this season he looked done to me, now he looks semi-done. No thank you.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I certainly should have looked up his contract the 4/112M might make things unworkable, but I have to believe Tigers would pick up a significant chunk of his contract. I grew up in Michigan and have watched more JV than the average guy and I can tell you with certainty that what you saw for the better part of two years was a guy dealing with an Achilles injury and then recovering from the injury. He has regained some of his velocity now that he appears to be healthy. His numbers this year were very similar to the average of his 2011-2012 seasons with regards to K rate, walk rate, and his FIP is a tick under 3.5. Now I don't for one second presume this deal is without risk, but I believe JV is back (even if he will regress a bit year to year with age, I like him for 4/82M. I like also that we can probably get him with less of a hit to our prospect pool and our current 25 man.

  • In reply to Jordan Dutcher:

    The Tigers are already eating a bunch of Prince Fielder's contract. I don't see them doing the same with Verlander.

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    I like the idea of getting KK for CF. What is a reasonable exchange? If we get him what about Heyward? If we get him then it seems like Soler would be out of a job, unless he plays LF while Schwarbs is catching or trade him for pitching. I've said before I really don't like the idea of trading either Baez or Soler. After a year of ML experience they both should be much better.

  • Hot Stove season is a lot like politics. It all depends on what your definition of "is" is.

    For instance:

    " I do think we’re going to be reluctant to get rid of too much of that depth"

    Reluctant doesn't mean the won't,but could be swayed. What will sway them? "Too much" - how do you define that? One guy? Two guys? Four guys?

    "We’re going to look to improve the team within reason.”

    Within reason. Whose reason and what do you consider reasonable and unreasonable?

    Lastly, only Theo and Jed know what the budget is and what Rickets is allowing them to do, furthering specualtion of what makes sense and what doesn't. It is possible that Price at 6 years $180MM fits into the budget and is "reasonable".

    It is fun to speculate but impossible to figure out what the parameters of the team might be.

  • Very good article... They have to do their due diligence when it comes to trading one of the assets... It's not as easy as trading Castro, Baez or Soler...

    If they trade Castro, the risk is that there's no guarantee that Baez will pan out, plus, you're adding another 200 strikeout a season bat.

    If they trade Baez or Soler, you're also afraid that they're gonna bloom and breakout in a major way for some other team because they haven't had enough playing time with the Cubs for that yet... Then you end up feeling like they sold low on either one of them.

    So they shouldn't just trade any of them just because they can. They need to make sure the return will be worth it if any of those scenarios happen.

  • In reply to Caps:

    They'll make sure. They're top 3 Front Office's in baseball. Whatever decisions they make, the consensus of the fans will be more than satisfied IMO.

  • In reply to copinblue:

    I am not so sure the consensus of fans will be satisfied. Most will complain no matter what is done. The fans who read this site will be satisfied, but the average fan I doubt it.

  • In reply to John57:

    I usually keep in mind these guys know what they're doing way more than I do, even if I disagree with any particular move... But I can't say the same for everyone else, some fans and writers will keep complaining no matter what.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Of course they have to feel trading one of the young players makes them better, not just for next year but going forward. They were unwilling to trade one for short term help at the deadline. Sometimes you do give up a young stud for someone who can help you more. I really don't like using Cubs history but Joe Carter was traded for Rick Sutcliffe and went in to an outstanding career. Sutcliffe helped the Cubs to two division titles and was mostly excellent for almost 6 years. I'd say that was an excellent trade.

  • John, I understand your point but , given where the rest of the team is, there is a baseline of improvement in the rotation that is necessary. I'd love to find the next Arrieta ( via trade) or Liriano( via FA) but the mkt is getting more and more efficient.

    To your point about value, this mkt is deep but there is a clear bifurcation between the guys with picks attached & those without. Would you rather give
    Shark , Chen , Zimm 80-120 million along with a pick or give Cueto 140 without? For me, the way to keep the window open longer is to leverage your financial resources by focusing on guys without picks attached. I think this yr is a unique opportunity , given the makeup of the FA class. I don't think something along the lines of signing someone like Fister & hoping he rebounds is sufficient.

    I'm not advocating they aggressively "reach" for an FA or trade target but they clearly need help & depth. Personally , I'd like to see them be a bit more aggressive on trade front & maybe pick off someone like Kazmir( no pick) for back end. Either way, I think the MO will be a bit more aggressive than @ deadline. As it stands , they're one SP injury away from being really exposed.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    In two interviews over the last few days Hoyer has said he doesn't see the pick as a significant obstacle and I think it's the only thing he said that sounds like the truth. Their pick is fairly low and they just signed the equivalent of a 1st round pick, maybe a top 10 type, in Eddie Julio Martinez. The top free agents don't make sense to me financially when it's almost overkill and limits their financial flexibility this year and beyond. Signing the guy they want, as opposed to worrying about compensation, makes sense. Samardzija and Salazar or another young pitcher of that ilk in trade seems a balance approach that allows them to sign Span and still leave some money if they need to add at the deadline next year.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Not to mention. That when Fowler declines the QO and signs elsewhere, the Cubs essentially get that first round pick back if they do sign a player who received the QO

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    Exactly. With a pick likely coming back it becomes even less of a factor. As far as pitchers I wouldn't rule out Zimmermann either, especially if he stays in the 6/$120 range. He and Span combined would be about the same AAV as Price and probably $50-$60 less in total commitments. I don't think anybody would be too upset if they got Zimmermann, Span and traded for Salazar. Add a few bench improvements and that's a better team.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I'd love to see that kind of offseason haul. What I really don't want (or expect) to see if the Cubs taking flyers on 2 mediocre pitchers and hoping they catch lightening in a bottle. The absolutely need that 3rd pitcher that you can trust in a playoff series to give you a quality outing. I'd take either Zimmerman or Salazar in the 3rd start... Fister or someone like him... not so much. Also, I've seen some love for Lackey and while he's pitched pretty well, his age and losing a draft pick puts him pretty firmly in the "no" category for me.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Ideally I'd like to trade for Salazar and sign Zimmermann and Span and only have to give up Baez. Realistically I think it's going to be trade for Salazar or Teheran and sign Samardzija and ideally sign Span but be prepared to trade for the CF.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I meant to add Soler will probably be the player that has to move.

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    In reply to Carl9730:

    I'd argue it's a more complicated situation. The young position players on this team figure to slowly improve through age 27-28 seasons, at least. Which means this team will have a monster offense in 4-5 years. No question they'll be very good next year but even then they have scope to be better.

    We already have one contract on the books (Lester) that makes us better in 2016 and worse in 2019. If we sign Arrieta, which we probably should do, there's another. Do we want yet a third (any of the pitchers you mentioned) and sacrifice a draft pick to do it or do we want to get a younger guy who will contribute a little in 2016 and a LOT in 2019 as Lester and Arrieta fall off?

    I mean, if Zimmermann falls into their laps at a bargain price, I'm sure they'll take it and not look back. But my suspicion is that first priority this winter is filling in the holes in the pitching staff with younger players, even if that means waving goodbye to Soler. Then they'll revisit things next year and for 2018 when the TV contract will be better in focus.

  • Other pitching free agents I think are worth us discussing:

    1. John Lackey: post season, big game experience with ties to our current regime. Short term commitment compared to the higher end guys.

    2. Scott Kazmir: LH, 4th in the American League in ERA last year I think, and won't require losing a draft pic. Also came up through the Tampa system with Joe Maddon, and coming to the NL is likely to help him even more. Likely will sign for 3 to 4 years at around 50 million total commitment.

    3. Tim Lincecum: Probably can be had on a 1 year deal. Perhaps he can be fixed by Chris Bosio, or perhaps he can have a second stage to his career as a reliever.

  • I saw interview but my argument would be that sacrificing the pick is fine if you're acquiring somebody who can really move the dial( I.e Heyward, Grienke) but how would you feel about coughing up ~$90 mill and a pick for someone like Shark , Chen, or Brett Anderson? Getting back to topic of article, could Cueto, crazy as it sounds , be the value guy this offseason. Mkt is buzzing with questions about health of his elbow & uneven performance since getting traded. If meds check out & our scouts/coaches can identify "fixable" reasons for erratic performance , does he get tempting in that gray area between 1st & 2nd tier?? That's an example of the type of value I'd be hoping to extract.

  • Mike, broadly speaking , we're in complete agreement. I differ from John-if I'm understanding him correctly- in that I might not be as tight-fisted as he would in giving up prospects to get that cost-controlled SP. If somebody is leaning on us for a McKinney, Almora, or Underwood to supplement Soler in a Carrasco, Gausman, Gray deal, I'm probably willing to overpay A BIT.

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    I've kinda gone back and forth on this one. The Cubs can be selectively aggressive if they decide they really want someone. So a Price could be a choice. But as John said they never overextend themselves. They seek value. Price has a lot in common with Lester. Durable, no pick attached, ties to some parts of the org with Maddon. He seems like someone who will age gracefully. I don't think they would try to outbid the Dodgers for him. The trade market is likely too, of course the FO also won't pull the trigger on trading Soler or Baez or another prospect without hefty value. So I agree they will be smart, but a big FA run is not totally crazy if there is value.

  • Indians president of baseball operations said they will trade a starting pitcher to improve other areas of the team and said it's not something he wants to do.

  • Assuming they're able to land a young, frontline SP via trade , I'm really struggling with how you approach the FA mkt for the 2nd tier guy. I really have a problem parting with a pick for one of those guys. That essentialy leaves you with either Leake or Kazmir. Both of those guys are fine but I imagine that Leake will get a pricey for what Theo/Jed are looking to spend for the 4 slot.

  • The offseason offers an opportunity for fans to consider long term solutions rather than react to the current game/s. But a can't think of a GM who wouldn't believe value as their prime motivation moving forward. Of course the definition of value to the 2000 Cubs vs the 2015 team has considerably changed.

    The past few seasons our FO has brought in a number of players considered "projects". With a much deeper roster the hole available, we are less in need of wholesale changes and more focused on specific needs. We don't require much more than tinkering in the infield and behind the plate. We must settle the outfield defense and it appears CF is the optimum position that will be addressed. Hopefully he'll settle our leadoff spot also. I've felt Span was a quality candidate presuming the medicals don't eliminate him. It would be a plus to add a premier closer and with the return of Ramirez, that should be enough.

    Obviously we are focusing on SP. But do we go for a TOR starter or add 2 MOR hurlers seems to be the question. Here, it seems money will be the issue. Personally, I'd like us to pursue Shelby Miller after his difficult season. Atlanta needs offense and the depth of our system would make this trade very possible.

    Finally, which of our youngsters will we make available. The FO will have to decide whether our guys are worth the market value we perceive them to be. Can we get enough for Soler or Baez as their long term projection is to us.

  • In reply to tharr:

    I actually like Shelby Miller but the metrics actually show he had a pretty good season. He's sort of the poster child for the W stat being meaningless. His 3.05 ERA and his 3.45 FIP show he was far better than his record. John Hart brought him in and he did nothing to dissuade him from wanting as part of their future. Now the guy they might be willing to give up is Teheran who DID have a rough season and isn't Hart's guy.

  • Unless he is hurt and I missed it, I think the Cubs should try to trade for Kevin Gausman. The Orioles have mishandled him and I think they have devalued him. If you can get him at a fair price, do so. Also, sign one of the top free agent pitchers if possible. Even though Arieta is arb eligible it's not like he'll get $20 million in arb this year. Next offseason if you don't get a hometown discount, trade him. Boras will try t get him max money in FA after the 17 season. At 32 at that time it will be his only chance to get long term big bucks. I don't blame him but I don't want to be the team doing that with any pitcher that age. And please don't spend money on the Shark.

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    I am probably the only person who finds this funny. But Bobby Evans, the Giants GM, has openly said that he wants to get more pitching. And he has said the team will explore free agency, trades, and the international market. There is a lot of speculation that the Giants will sign Grienke or Price or Zimmerman. There is also now a growing belief that instead the team will sign free agent first baseman Chris Davis, and the trade Brandon Belt for a younger pitcher who they can control. And people like the younger pitchers on the Indians. Davis would also be good because they can move him to the OF when they eventually want to move Poseyto first. Of course, as with the Cubs, Evans isn't tipping hos hand, and everyone is having fun speculating.

  • What a great article, John! What are talking about here are value and flexibility.

    Value was described very well here. You want an Sports Utility Vehicle. The new one has the high sticker, but, if they are stuck with inventory and start dealing, you might jump in. Otherwise, you will buy the low mileage used one.

    Flexibility means you can value hunt. Heyward is high, go for Span. Something weird happens, like a flooded pitchers' market, then grab Zimmerman. All is high, then trade. But trade as a last resort or to get that really good long-term asset.

    Last year we had to have Lester. This year we can shop. But we won't pay full retail. Leave that to the Dodgers or Yankees.

  • Give me a low risk lackey 2 year 30 million, denard span the same.. and a Zimmerman 90 5 year off season and I'm happy. .

  • In reply to Maddon4Mayor2015:

    I might take that right now and head for AZ

  • The cubs should try to get value in their 5,6, and 7 starters. Some interesting guys that might make up that back end are Cahill, Fister, and Rich Hill.

    Cahill showed some dramatic improvement, most likely from Bosio's help. Fister is a buy low candidate, with a decent track record. Last, Hill opened some eyes when he pitched some amazing games for the Red Sox late in the season. I saw that the Cubs were scouting him last year, so he is probably still on their radar.

  • Here are the four guys I would like to see acquired. .. Zimmerman, Shark, Span, and Jake McGee.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    That works!!

  • I want Shark and Span and a good lefty arm in the pen. To me, Shark is the best value pitcher out there. He is on the wrong side of 30 but didn't pitch a ton in his teens and early 20's when a lot of the damage is done. He is probably the best bet of the starting FA pitchers to pitch as well in the next 5 years as he did the last 5. He was a 2.5 to 3 WAR pitcher the last 5 years and I would not be surprised if he performed the same (or better) over the next 5. Price, Cueto, Zimmerman, Greinke will all get paid for the last 5 years productivity but probably produce much less value than their prior 5 years. Shark is a big, powerful dude with a clean arm history and not many innings on him. And can be had for $100M less than Price, leaving flexibility to add mid-season if needed.

  • Just to be clear, Zimmermann is the pitcher, Zimmerman is the 3B turned 1B with an iffy shoulder.

  • I trust the FO but I can't come to grips with trading Soler or Baez. Considering their age and promise is awfully scary to trade. How often does players that young and with that power come around??? Of course there is risk but one that should be taken. Imagine the power the in infield can have with Bryant,Russell,Baez and Rizzo.

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