The Case for Making a Splash Now (And for Yu Darvish)

There have been two large schools of thought on the Cubs offseason. One has been that the Cubs should execute a cautious approach. This approach is what the Cubs offseason has largely looked like so far. They have chosen to invest in short term deals with slightly higher AAV committed to the players. They have favored upside plays with considerable risk in both Chatwood and Morrow. The virtues of this strategy has been extolled by Jared earlier this week.

There is a lot of logic in this approach. The organization is going to have to spend a lot of money on the core of position players in upcoming years. The team has taken very calculated and reasonable gambles that could play up huge. A few rebounds or breakouts from the existing talent happen, and this is perhaps another super team like the 2016 vintage. If those don’t happen there is still plenty of talent that should result in a fourth consecutive playoff berth, and once you reach the postseason anything can happen.

There is also the matter of perhaps the best class of free agent talent ever in the upcoming offseason. The Cubs will certainly be players in a market flush with impact position players (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson) and pitchers (Clayton Kershaw can opt out). Overspending in this offseason could take them out of landing another potential core player. These are all legitimate reasons to play it safe in terms of committing future dollars or years of control over young talent, but it is not the only possible or logical method to fine-tuning the 2018 Cubs.

The Cubs could land an impact player through free agency or trade that dramatically improves their chances at another title in 2018 instead. These types of moves carry long term drawbacks such as the hypothetical mega-deal built around Addison Russell for Manny Machado. There is little to suggest that this is something that either front office has considered, but the hypothetical deal provides the obvious downside to this type of move. Yu Darvish would not cost the team anything in terms of talent. It would not cost the organization anything in terms of draft picks or international bonus pool money (There would be effects in terms of international bonus pool if the team goes over the luxury tax threshold, but the Cubs are currently projected to have over 44 million available under the tax threshold according to Cots). The only cost would be the opportunity to spend future dollars on another player. That isn’t nothing, but it is a far more hypothetical cost than trading Addison Russell.

Yu Darvish seems to be an actual target for the Cubs. Reports are circulating from a Japanese site and Bruce Levine that the Cubs are “kicking the tires” on Darvish. These are the first solid reports besides the speculation from national writers of the fit. It also makes sense given that Theo Epstein and crew often circle back to targets. They did this with Justin Grimm, Dan Haren and Tommy Hunter to name just a few in their time at the helm of the Cubs. The Texas Rangers blew away the Cubs bid, but they were second or third depending on the reports you choose to believe. The question becomes then: how aggressive should the Cubs pursue Darvish?

There are some that think he isn’t worth anywhere near what he will likely command as one of the two best starters available in free agency. MLB Trade Rumors predicted a 6 year, $160 million deal when also prognosticating a Cubs landing spot. That seems like a reasonable expectation that would just beat the deal Jon Lester signed 3 years ago. The Cubs should not be willing to pay absolutely any dollar amount, but if the contract is and around this figure then the Cubs should be aggressive.

The 6 year deal is where many of those in the conservative offseason camp balk. The odds are small that Darvish or any pitcher is going to be worth the dollar or tax figure that he will be earning at ages 34-36, but the Cubs have the ability to absorb those dollars. Darvish will likely perform at a high level until the Cubs reach the end of their competitive window. At that point they should be able to absorb the remainder of the deal where his salary exceeds his output. Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood are all poised to enter free agency after the 2020 season.

The year and dollar amount carries risk given his injury history and recent performance. Yu Darvish’s 2014 season was cut short by elbow inflammation and missed all of 2015 following Tommy John surgery. He has yet to duplicate the performance of his 2013 season where he probably should have won the Cy Young over Max Scherzer. He also was shelled in the World Series, and the entire reason you spend on Darvish is to increase your odds of winning after game 162.

Injuries are a concern with any human who makes their living by pitching, and Darvish threw 186.2 regular season innings last season. The number of times that Tyler Chatwood has thrown that many or more that is zero. The number of times that Alex Cobb has has thrown that many is zero. The number of times Yu Darvish has thrown that many or more is three. Darvish also saw his velocity increase since coming back from Tommy John surgery. Depending on the source, last year was either the highest or second highest average fastball velocity from Darvish.

Darvish’s results have not matched the extremely high level he pitched at before Tommy John, but he could be poised to return to that level. His walk rate has been significantly better the past two seasons. His strikeout rate dropped below 30% for the first time since his rookie season, but the main issue was a jump in homers. Yu Darvish did pitch half of his games in the Ballpark in Arlington. Globe Life Park isn’t the launching pad it used to be, but the improved results in Los Angeles suggest that the home run problem isn’t permanent. He also wasn’t the only pitcher to see a spike in home runs given up. There is plenty of reason to think that Darvish can handle pitching at a high level for the next several seasons. Those seasons are the most important to consider.

The Cubs don’t need Yu Darvish. The roster is good enough to make it to the postseason, and anything can happen once you are there as the saying goes. However, that saying reduces the playoffs to being a total crapshoot, and that is probably also not accurate as well. The past couple of postseasons have clearly had very talented teams that were deserving of their championships. The playoffs also are a different beast than the regular season. Depth, which was required to make it through 162 games, then becomes far less important than the talent at the top of the roster. The addition of Darvish adds a weapon for the postseason unlike an Alex Cobb signing would.

Now some argue that the Cubs best chance to maximize their chances for titles is to wait for the next free agent class. The 2019 free agent class is indeed very exciting, but the Cubs are not going to be alone in pursuing those targets. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are largely sitting out of free agency now as they attempt to reset their luxury tax clocks. The Dodgers trade this afternoon has them under the threshold for next year, and the Yankees deal of Chase Headley should give them plenty of room to add an additional starter like Alex Cobb this year while remaining under the tax threshold. The Cubs best opportunity to find value at the top of the market might in fact be this year’s class.

Ultimately this either-or proposition of spending now or later isn’t the way this or any front office views an offseason. That is far too binary thinking, but the Cubs are going to do everything to add another starter before the 2018 season opens. It may be a trade involving young position player talent for a more long term solution than a 31 year old free agent. More likely though it will be a free agent signing given the difficulties in finding a match in talent and thinking between two organizations. Alex Cobb is reportedly looking for $20 million a year. He may get it or close to it with a robust market with the Yankees clearly back in along with the rest of the AL East teams besides Tampa. Darvish would add a bonafide front-of-the-rotation starter for next season and more than likely the remainder of this competitive window. It commits future dollars to diminishing performances later, but it also maximizes the chances of fulfilling the dynasty talk of just a year ago.

Comments

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  • I guess it comes down to the actual dollar cost per year and value of that dollar.

    If Cobb is at 5 years/$100Mil and Darvish can be signed at 5 years/$133Mil (down from 6/$160Mil), then It seems like a better value to sign a 1-2 type vs. a 3-4 type when you are talking abour a difference of $6Mil per year (or .75WAR).

    I don't know if the Yankees have any more money without another move since they resigned CC for $10Mil today.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    They have 17 million to spend if they can't find any other salary to dump.

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    In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Is that 17 million figure separate from the arbitration eligible dollars that will be paid out?

  • In reply to Terry Rosdail:

    The 17 million is with Cots estimates for arbitration.

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    In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Thanks MB!

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    I think you need to look at the overall. Cubs do not want to trip the cap this year so they can trip it next year, little doubt. Though now they have about $34M left in the cap for next year with current payroll that without this year's current adds either by trade or FA. This year there is $33M left not counting any mid season budget for acquisition which i think is $8-10M.

    The smart move is neither Cobb or Darvish since it blows either budget this year, the smart move is trade for Salazar or Archer depending on player cost.

    I now see the Cubs if they get Harper at $35-40M Cubs will have to trim their budget, first will be Heyward's $23 AAV,

    Cubs still need to sign a backup MLB caliber catcher (Rivera $2M) and a 5th OF'er (Bourjas $2M).

    That would leave $21M this year. Darvish might squeeze in there or do you want Wade Davis at $15M and Salazar at $5M and have more money for 2018?

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    In reply to rnemanich:

    Isn't 2019 when Cubs may get their own TV station? Caching.

  • In reply to CrownTownBob:

    2020

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Banghart:

    I just read an article by Sharma. He said Cobb would also cost us a 2nd rd pick & international pool money. Is this true? Especially the international $.

  • If the Cubs decide to spend, is Darvish a better choice than Arrieta? Are they expected to get similar contracts?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Darvish is projected to get closer to 27-30mm AAV vs. Arietta’s 25mm on the high end. Whether either are worth it, is debatable.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    It doesn't sound like Montgomery is going to be the 5th starter. So if it comes down to similiar years and money for darvish and arrieta it's a no brainer, Arrieta is the guy.

    I would prioritize Davis on a 2 yr deal as well.

    Our low level starters better come through in a few years. Otherwise our payroll will be insane by 2021.

  • EXTREMELY well thought out. Great analysis.

    I'd sell my mother to know how the FO projects the arms coming up....

  • In reply to TheCHISportsFan:

    What AAV and how many years are you seeking?

    :)

  • fb_avatar

    Maybe it comes down to who is the better pitcher, Cobb or Darvish? Forget money, just focus on that. To me, Darvish is, and if that is so then let's go out and try and sign him. I'm guessing it would stoke not only the fan base but the players themselves just like Houston players reacted when Verlander was traded for at the deadline.
    The more I think about it the more sense it makes. Theo and Co. wants to win and not delay even one year to wait for next years FA class. Let's do it!

  • What is Machado, chopped liver?
    I have read the pros and cons, I think I am starting to like it. Maybe, tis the season. But having a Cubs WS in my pocket already; Boy, that infield, for even one year, would be specatcular.
    Why not zig while the Yankees and Dodgers are zagging. Trying to get under the luxury tax, just so they have the luxury of paying 20% extra next year when they go over.
    The Cubs have never been over.
    I think Cobb’s price will come back to them, closer to 13 then 20. And them 3-4 extra wins from Machado, with Cobb, would make the Cubs the NL favorites. They’d be some creative bookkeeping away from staying under themselves.....
    The Cubs are going to dump Heyward, while he has a limited no trade, regardless (as the Yankees and Dodgers showed, it can be done). He is just to risky.
    If you believe Bryant is headed to the OF, in a few years, and in Schwarber, Machado may make more sense long term (over Harper). Regardless, it does not preclude the team from signing Harper over Machado. But it may put them over the top in 2018.

  • Care to expand on dumping Heyward? Because that won't be happening.

  • In reply to Bobcubs08:

    I think you are mistaken if you believe the Cubs will not try to trade Heyward next year with eating a large portion of his 2019 salary.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Heyward won’t be nearly as difficult to trade as some think. He’s about a $13-$14 AAV mil player on the open market so if the Cubs are willing to eat $50 mil, and they should, there will be multiple clubs interested.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Only $50m, shoot, that's hardly worth mentioning.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    It’s not that much in the form of $10 mil year. The Dodgers have eaten a ton of salary and now will be paying $22 mil each of the next two years to Kemp. If you’re talking about paying Harper $400 mil an extra $10 mil
    per for the ability to add a player like that means very little to a big market team

  • In reply to TC154:

    Dodgers also have Kershaw to worry about. Wont do them much good to sign Harper and lose Kershaw at the same time.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Frankly I think they'll try hard to sign both. Kershaw isn't going to cost a lot more in AAV, he's set to make $35.5 mil in 2018, 2019 and 2020 now, it's going to be the years there and they may front load some of his money if they ends up making sense. I'm guessing he gets 7/$260 mil so the net increase isn't going to be crazy. Harper is going to get at least 10/$400 mil so while that's going to mean a $40 mil increase the young players are going to have some cost savings to offset. Again with Saturday's move I don't think there's any question that they'll be in on Harper. He's a perfect fit there.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Agree. I can see them eating $8-10MM a year until he opts out and/or the deal ends.

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    In reply to TC154:

    I don't think 50 mil needs to be added. I suggested a trade the other day with the Braves. A deal of Heyward to ATL for a couple of lottery arms makes too much sense. The Cubs could include 8.16 mil for 2018, then an additional 20 mil after 2019, if he doesn't opt out of the deal would work. ATL gets a familiar face, a hitter in his prime with a very successful track record there (wanting to resurrect his stroke), an elite defender (they have discussed this issue and want to address it specifically), a leader for a young club and a return home for a homegrown talent. I think it could be done, especially if the Cubs were willing to take on salary (Markakis and/or Kazmir).

  • In reply to Ray A:

    I don't think it makes a lot of sense to trade Heyward this year. My $50 mil number was based on next year and him regaining a little value in 2018. No one is going to want him if he's less than a consistent 2.5-3 WAR player at least and you can't quite use the $8 mil per WAR value marker when so much of it is from defense. Also Anthopoulos doesn't know Heyward from Adam outside of numbers. Could he be a draw in his hometown? Maybe, but any fit for him is a team that already has it's solid middle three bats in place with a couple of them coming from the infield. RF is an offensive position, if you're going to go defense there it has to be picked up somewhere else.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I think he has a limited number of teams he can be traded to next season. He will be difficult to move.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I don't buy that. Sorry. And they can always ask him to waive his NTC to a team as well.

  • In reply to Bobcubs08:

    Heyward has a 12 team no trade clause in 19 and 20. As compared to Adrian Gonzalez and Kemp, he actually has some value.

  • I have long agreed...i for think we should go after machado instead of harper...i believe in shwarbs in left drop Hayward even if we pick up 3 quarters of his salary...who cares where they play our outfield with Bryant is good enough and an infield of machado Russell Baez and Rizzo is all world or trade Russell for machado and leave Bryant at 3rd either way.

  • In reply to bigbluebear2929:

    I don't think they will go after Harper or Machado. The team has plenty of offense with the young players needing to be extended.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Out of 8 position players, only 2 are solid -- Rizzo and Bryant. The other 6 have had their moments. Contreras is arguably solid leaving LF, CF, RF, SS, 2B as question marks. If you can move one or two and secure a 7-9 WAR player, Theo will do it. Everything is not black and white as you want to make it.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    To me, if you're going after the big fish and I believe they will, which guy you go after is dependent on what Schwarber does this year. If Schwarber puts up .270/.350/.575 with 45 HR Machado would seem to make more sense. If he doesn't make that leap from his 2017 second half numbers then Harper would. Also while both these guys are getting huge money regardless, their 2018 numbers are going to have a say. Steamer projects both to have 6 plus WAR seasons (6.1 for Harper, 6.3 for Machado). You have one guy putting up that kind of WAR every year and two would be phenomenal. Also if you did sign Machado Russell would then become a valuable trade chip. He'd be the guy I lean towards right now but only because I'm more confident in Schwarber than Russell for 2018.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I agree with you. I would add that it is still reasonable that Theo goes after Harper regardless of Schwarber and tries to keep Russell and Baez up the middle. Machado may make more sense opening up trade avenues if Russell were the big chip to move. They have to get something past the 1 year of control.

    It's going to be fun to watch and see how Theo and Jed navigate this situation.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I have Addi as odd man out too. I do like him, in fact, he I figure that he is one of the top 5-15 ss in the mlb. We have one that is better. Is Harper $400m better than Schwarber?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The real question is -- is Harper $350MM better than Heyward? IMO, the answer is unequivocally YES.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I agree with you. Last year we scored the 2nd most runs in the NL with several having off years. We need to plan how to keep as many current players as possible. Adding elite position players won't help much and will cost an arm and a leg. IMO not worth the additional cost.

  • In reply to John57:

    That is misleading John. Beating teams 12 -2 and then scoring 0-2 runs the next 2 games is not a good offense. You say, well we average 5 runs per game. But you probably lost 2 of those games. The offense was weak and inconsistent at best.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Excellent!

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    They have plenty of players to have an elite offense.

  • The Cubs did go over the luxury tax threshold in 2016, the year we won the WS.

  • Pass on both Darvish($160m) and Cobb($100m) too much money and too many yrs. Be patient! There is a pitcher value out there somewhere in a trade or short term FA.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I like the thinking. We all want extreme talent at cheap prices!!!

    Who is the pitcher(s) you reference via trade or short term FA?

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Only Jed and Theo know and they might not know, yet.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I believe a trade will be made

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Jhoulys Chacin would be my pick.
    29 years old and in my mind is less of an injury risk and has the upside of both Chatwood and Cobb, for a 1/4 of the money.

    https://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=2608&position=P

  • I like Chacin too but that spot might have been filled by Chatwood already. Not sure we can depend on both of them on a WS contender.

    I agree with your comment on Machado. Everyone is hell bent on Bryce “the d-bag” Harper when we already have a surplus of outfielders. I know he really wants to play SS but having him at 3B would give us 3 SS’s and Rizzo- that’s a hell of an infield. But I’m not sure we give up Russell for him this year. I’m still a little butt hurt over giving up Gleyber for a rental even if it did bring home a ring.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    As my momma used the say, If Cobb makes 100mm the REST of his career, I will stand on my head and spit pickles.....

  • Yu seems to be making more sense as the pricing points develop.

    I enjoy Jesse Rogers' articles, but his reasoning is really flawed on the possible trade.

  • You would think the longer these FA’s are still out there and available the lower their value and cost should be. Jake winding up somewhere in Texas wouldn’t surprise me but he won’t be getting 200 big ones from anyone. FO’s know Boras sells snake oil.....they don’t want another Carl Crawford deal....

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    That pretty much sums it up. At this point Heyward and Lester are most likely overpaid, but will continue to be useful and good teammates. Those contracts, that outlive their value still have to be met. This is not a good time to add another.

  • Could a deal be built around Russell, Montgomery, Maples, DeLaCruz for Machado, Gausman, Britton?

    If Theo grabs Darvish, I believe you have to make the deal for a Machado.

    Cobb at $20MM — no thanks. That is ridiculous. Maybe he wakes up after CC signed with the Yanks for $10MM.

    I like the Chacin recommendation too.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I wish. But the O’s depend on young cost controlled players like Gaussman. Pretty low chance they include him.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Yes, going forward they hopefully do the “package” deals to offset the 1/2 & 1 year rentals they’ve been doing w/their trades. Whether it’s Gausman or 1 of their top prospects. If they don’t have the pitching prospect fit for the trade, then get 1 of their top hitting ones that Cubs can either hold onto or flip...

  • I agree that as the price tags converge for Cobb & Darvish, it makes a ton of sense to consider Darvish. I think that the process of tapering off has begun for Lester and , against that backdrop, you need more than a #4 depth , type arm to fill in Jake’s shoes. One of the great points in the article is around talent at the top of the roster. Wouldn’t you feel much more comfortable with Yu, Hendricks, and Q facing Scherzer, Stras, and Gio than you would with Lester in the mix? All that being said, this isn’t a blank check situation and I think you have to closely examine the trade market if discussions escalate out of Cubs comfort zone. I just don’t feel that someone like Cobb is an adequate replacement for Arrieta in a rotation that seemed a notch or two below our top competitors last season.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I think the pessimism of Lester is a little heavy. Theo & Co signed him b/c they felt he will age better than most pitchers due to his effortless delivery. Sure he will taper off a bit, but I’m guessing he will remain a productive pitcher through the entirety of his contract.

    And also, Gio had a career year last season. He is due for regression. Not that worried about him.

  • In reply to good4you:

    I agree on Lester. I think he will be a solid 3 into his late 30’s. If only so he won’t have to hear it from Lackey the rest of his life....

  • I would be open to Darvish if the price has dropped and is within a reasonable range. 4 years with a higher annual salary would be ideal.4 years maybe a vesting option for a 5th. Darvish velocity isn’t declining like Arrietas and he’s a better strikeout pitcher, tweak a few mechanics and I think Darvish could be a strong #2

  • In reply to bolla:

    Tweak a few mechanics? Do you see flaws in Darvish's delivery? Don't tell anyone yet in case he goes to another team.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Darvish was tipping pitches during the WS.

    https://deadspin.com/report-yu-darvish-tipped-his-pitches-in-the-world-seri-1821216289

    Something like that should be easy to correct.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    Yes, I read that also. I agree. Should be easily corrected.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    re grip every pitch

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I was about to say what Hoff did. Darvish was tipping pitches off during niot only the WS, but basically through the entire post season.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Too bad the Cubs did not pick this up in game 3 of the NLCS.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Tipping pitches is not a long term problem and is easily corrected. I only have a couple of issues with Darvish and the first is that he throws too many darned pitches. Someone needs to tell him you don't need seven pitches in your arsenal. Come up with your best four and throw those. Maybe save one of the others for the playoffs when you can surprise someone. Less is more. I think he confuses himself sometimes. The other thing that concerns me slightly is the number of innings on his arm. I'd be looking for four years and only go for the fifth if I had to.

    The reality is that the Cubs have options, even if they aren't all equal. After coveting him for some time I've come to accept that Archer is not realistic and if he moves he's going to be a Phillies player because they have a boatload of prospects not far away. Salazar is the best "stuff" option that's been discussed but he's high risk/high reward. If he's healthy he's a true #1, if he's not he's a liability. Cobb isn't any better than Chatwood IMO and he's looking to parlay a great season years ago into a big contract. He also only throws two pitches and unless you think the changeup will come back he shouldn't be an option at all. Stroman is interesting but I doubt he's available until the deadline. The guy has a 60% GB rate, you can hear Theo and Jed salivating from here, but the K/9 is not ideal. Fulmer to me is a lot like Archer in that you'd need prospects, If Archer doesn't go to Philly it wouldn't surprise me if Fulmer does. So that basically leaves the FA in Arrieta and Darvish. I far prefer Darvish. Bottom line is I like the risk reward on Salazar and I think Darvish is the best value in FA. One of them needs to be a Cub before father time rings in the New Year.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I hear you and you make fair points. I have a question --

    How do you reconcile trading for guys to be a #1 and they both sport ERA's over 4? Those are not #1 guys to me. I think they are MOR and have moments or flashes of brilliance saying they "could be" TOR candidates. But they are not. I think because they are locked on friendly deals it increases the cost to acquire them versus their true value.

    DeGrom is that guy for me. Carlos Carrasco is more appealing than Salazar, IMO.

    What about Greinke? Could you swap Heyward for Greinke? I know the initial reaction is no due to Dollars and Length. But he's a true "ace" and true aces cost money, unfortunately.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Let be clear I don't necessarily think Archer or Salazar are currently #1 pitchers, Archer is closer, but I think they both could be. It's all about the peripherals to me. First I look at FIP and xFIP more than ERA. Both of these guys have lower numbers there and pitch better than their ERA suggests. Both have high K/9 (9.74 lifetime for Archer but he hasn't been below 10 in some time, and 11.08 for Salazar) which I think is a necessity for a #1 starter particularly in the playoffs. Both guys average almost 96 mph with their fastballs. Salazar has a great changeup while Archer throws a good slider. Bottom line is that, to me, whoever you throw out there in game 1 of a playoff series better be missing some serious bats and throw heat. Darvish has a lot of that too. The Cubs don't have a guy like that on the roster. You mention deGrom and Carrasco and sure, both guys fit the bill, but there's a lot less risk so teams rarely trade guys like that. Sometimes you have to squint to see the guy you want to avoid a price tag that you don't.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Heyward for Greinke? What are you smoking or drinking? No chance.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Don’t appreciate the douchebag reply. Back off.

    I­t­ was offered in the rationale of acquiring a true TOR ace pitcher. Try to follow along.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Good time to step away for a second. Well over 100 comments in, this might be when it's time to just agree to disagree and move along.

  • It's fun to think about all the different hypothetical situations, although at the end of the day as fans we're missing the most pertinent piece of information, which is how willing ownership is to go over the luxury tax.

    Using Cots tax tracker, after the Cishek signing, the Cubs are about $37 million under the threshold for 2018. So, the question isn't necessarily whether they can stay under the cap this year, it's about how any signings this off-season impact 2019 and beyond.

    If the Cubs were to not add anymore payroll this off-season, but were able to land Harper next off-season at $35 AAV, that would put the Cubs right at the 2019 luxury tax threshold (if not slightly over) after accounting for arbitration raises and team options surely to be picked up for Rizzo and Quintana and likely Strop.

    So, to me it seems that if the Cubs are intent on pursuing Harper next off-season they are comfortable paying the luxury tax for at least 2019. The question is, at 20% tax for the first 20 million over, are the Cubs only willing to pay say a million or two in tax in 2019, or go all in for the 2019-21 years of this competitive window and sign a pitcher like Darvish this off-season and be willing to pay $4-$5 million or more in tax for 2019, plus the actual additional $25 million or so in actual salary.

    For my money, I think the plan is to stay under the cap for 2018 (which they can do even if they sign Darvish), and then go all in for 2019-21, paying the luxury tax. The question is how deep into the tax, and for how many years are they willing to go. "Only" going $20 million over as a first time payor, "only" results in a $4 million tax bill. With the renovations wrapping up in the next couple years and the new TV deal coming into focus around the same time, I'm hoping the RIcketts are gearing up to throw some serious money around.

  • In reply to 2lf6reedyt:

    Whether the Cubs are willing to get into the Harper sweepstakes next year remains to be seen. Depends somewhat on what Schwarber and Happ do as well. Bryce is good and will cost in $$ and years. Let the team live on its own money, which is the best option in the long run. Dept is disparaging for a franchise and money out of the owners poecket is not the same. It's been tried and mostly fails.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I don’t want to see them go after Harper at all.......not with what they will be facing trying to sign the young core. Boras reps both Russell and Bryant and at their ages can you imagine what he will be asking for?
    I think it is safe to assume at least one of those 2 will be gone and if you are going to throw 300 mil at anyone it should be Bryant, not Harper. Rizzo and Baez will deserve a lot more as well.......adding another huge salary now or next year will cost us a center piece.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    They are hopefully going to land Darvish and then go after Harper next season. They can stay under the cap since I think Zobrist's No trade clause expires and Heyward's goes to a partial NT. When do guys like Russell, Baez, Almora, Quintana and Contreras become arbitration eligible?

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I think that is why they will sign one of Harper, Machado or Kershaw. If anything, signing a big FA will extend the window and make it more appealing to Bryant. But you’re right, Bryant will likely hit FA, so a big signing or three leading up to it is prudent.
    I think Russell will be traded if they cannot extend him at some point. The key extensions will be Contreras and Baez and AA, if he takes a step forward.
    All their top picks, really have no incentive to extend.

  • I don't think they go after any of the high priced long term free agents.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I think the front office would want to sign Harper for him to become the new long term centerpiece of the team knowing there's a good chance parts of the young core will not sign extensions. Ask yourself this, would you rather have Harper from 2019-2028 at say $350-$400 million for his age 26-35 seasons where the first three years of the deal overlap with our current young core, creating a potential juggernaut? Or would you pass on Harper, foregoing a potential dominant three year window from 19-21 hoping to extend Bryant on what would be a similar mega deal, except Bryant will be a free agent heading into his age 30 season setting up a potential Pujols-like crippling deal.

    I think they're envisioning a scenario similar to the former. I could even see giving Harper an opt out after the 2021 season so he can assess the direction of the team as the young guys hit free agency after 2021

  • In reply to 2lf6reedyt:

    The Cubs are already throwing serious money around

  • If you believe some statistics, pitchers peak at age 26 and decline every year until 35 when they level out. So would a 28 year old Mike Montgomery be better than a 31 year old Darvish? Or if not better, close enough and significantly less expensive. This history of big contracts for 30+ starting pitchers. Is bleak. Pass on Darvish.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Agree, frugality is a preservative.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The Red Sox have Price under contract for 5 more years, at $30m+. Ouch. He’ll be 32 this season.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    32 is the last year of a players peak and age 33 starts the decline - some gradual and some fall off the cliff

  • The fact that Darvish's fastball velo has increased three straight years despite a TJ surgery in there means a lot to me. Especially in comparison to Jake, who is trending the other way.

    Boros is selling Arrieta's postseason record, as he should, as a big game pitcher. But this year, mixed results. Jake was his old great self against LA in gm 4, keeping the Cubs alive for one more game. But just a week earlier, against Wash, with a chance to clinch at Wrigley, not good. That was the "Strasburg is sick and if he doesn't pitch he's a wuss" game. Stras was unhittable that night, but it didn't help the Cubs vibe watching Jake throw 90 pitches and 5 walks in 4 innings. Darvish went on to have his own meltdown in the WS.

    If the choice came down to 4 years for Jake or 5 for Yu at similar AAV, I'd prefer Darvish.

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    If you’re going to spend on Arrieta or Darvish, to me, Arrieta is a no brainer. Similar wear and tear over their career, but Jake had a proven track record of postseason success as well as a favorable injury history when compared to Darvish. I think it may be best in the long run to sign neither, but if their going to go big on a FA starter this year, I’d choose Jake over Yu.

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    I feel like the plan is and always has been to use the new TV deal to land Harper and lead the push into the "second half" of the window. Hopefully extended with extensions to Bryant and Rizzo and young players filling in the holes of departing Russell, Baez, and Schwarber.

    Heyward has clearly hurt that plan. (The timing on the opt out there really is telling.) But I think they can still make it happen. But that means this is just not a great season for the Cubs on paper. Theo has admitted they've seen this season as a problem for a while. So I'm not sure going overboard to boost our chances this year slightly if it costs us Harper (and Kershaw?) is the right move.

    I caught grief for saying that going all in with Quintana was a bad move. But this really is the result of that. The farm system is bare and we're near the luxury tax with holes to fill. So this is a down year while we wait. It sucks, but we still probably compete for the division title. And who knows, maybe with some patience Jake or Darvish or Cobb will fall into our laps on the one-year Fowler deal.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't see how you can fault them for going all in last year, and not landing Quintana last season means having to find 3 instead of 2 starting pitchers.

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    In reply to Mike Banghart:

    You're assuming a static world, but it wouldn't have been. They'd be going after three starters with Jimenez, Cease, Paredes, and whatever they got for Jake, Davis, Lackey, Jay, and Duensing. Possibly Uehara who looked okayish at the deadline. So they have a lot more top end prospect talent to make it happen. In addition, I'd be shocked if they didn't get a cost controlled back end guy from those moves, so you don't need to go grab Chatwood and that money is available for the other two starters.

    Among the things that are not silly at that point: making a move with the Rays for Archer, Odorizzi, and Colome to fill in the holes then using the Chatwood money to further strengthen the bullpen.

    Realistically, they traded away competitiveness this season or going hog wild in next year's FA class to go for it last season. Maybe that was the right call, maybe not. I think not because winning last season was going to take a miracle. With the farm restocked, I think they're in much better position this year. But I it's pretty clear that was the trade off.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Wait your argument is that they should have sold at the deadline? That is not something I can get behind. While I vigorously dispute the notion that the playoffs are a complete crapshoot, there is no substituting taking as many cracks as you can. You can say that they could have set themselves up but you never know what is going to happen each season. The only thing you guaranteed by punting in 2017 was that they wouldn't have won.

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    In reply to Mike Banghart:

    So, two points.

    (1) Theo has said they were one bad road trip away from selling, so it isn't like they didn't consider it.

    (2) How do you reconcile that logic with support for the rebuild? The only thing they guaranteed by punting in 2012, 2013, and 2014 is they didn't win. (And God knows they didn't.)

    My own logic is that you have to look at percentages. Think about a silly example, if you can decrease your chance of winning a championship this year by 1% and increase your odds next year by 50%, you take it every time. If you have to decrease your odds this year by 50% to increase your odds next year by 1%, it's a foolish proposition.

    If the Cubs odds were 5% to win the title in 2017 (That's probably about right) and they punt to increase their odds in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 by 5% each year (again, I don't think that's unfair), I would take that gamble.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I am aware of each of the points, and I think it is pretty easy to reconcile. The odds of making the postseason much less a title where tiny in those years. They punted those seasons to build a core that had a chance to win it all. That core is here now and there is a limited amount of time that core will be in its peak. The reason you don't punt while you have a strong chance of making the postseason is that the entire reason you rebuilt was for these seasons. The calculus changes of course if you aren't going to make the postseason (hence the one losing streak away from selling), but they didn't. And with just about everything going wrong in the postseason apart they still managed to win 4 games against the best two teams in the NL. If Justin Wilson doesn't completely lose it the moment he put a Cubs uniform on, and perhaps things change quite a bit in that playoffs.

    I understand your point of view. I just don't agree with punting a season where you had a legitimate chance (in comparison to the outlook of the franchise in 2012-2014).

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    In reply to Mike Banghart:

    I agree. If we hadn't turned it around after the All Star break we probably would've been sellers. Q pitched a great game against the O's to start the second half and we were off and running. If we hadn't got on that run and weren't in contention for the wild card, I think the fans would've understood if we started selling off expiring contracts to restock our farm system.

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    In reply to Terry Rosdail:

    But when they got completely outclassed in the NLCS (a series they shouldn't have gotten to because the umps blew the Javy call in the NLDS), Joe Maddon said that it showed the importance of getting off to a good start because when you have to make a late comeback it takes too much out of you in the playoffs. They must have known that and knew full well just making the playoffs made it unlikely they would win.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I wanted to sell last year too. But I’m generally considered a quack version of chicken little. I thought 2017 was a bust from the moment Gardner hit that shot off Rondon. The year felt off. We were lucky to get by Washington, only to be predictably embarrassed by LA (hurray or something). It didn’t feel like 2016 at any point last season. Plenty of valuable expiring contracts could’ve given us the tools to compete in 2018 and beyond. And I loved me some Eloy.

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    In reply to Stubbs:

    People consider me a contrarian but in fact I'm just a rigorous statistical thinker. I loved the Chapman trade -- regardless of the enormous cost -- because he was the last piece on the best team in baseball. (And, in fairness, they got the absolute best at his position instead of getting a guy that they hoped/thought would be better.) Boosting the odds in 2016 was a spectacular bet. But going all in on that disaster 2017 team was getting pennies on the dollar. I think you have to be realistic about where you are.

    In fairness, there is a human dimension that I sometimes ignore. It's possible that waving the white flag would have upset the players and caused issues down the road. But, based solely on probability, I just don't think you can justify a push last year. There's too much of this window left to worry about.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Great move by the Cubs for trying to win 2017. Trading for Quintana was huge. Going into the playoffs I believe the Cubs had the second best record after the break. That would make them one of the favorites to get to the world series. They were peaking at the right time. Maybe if Maddon had started Lackey against LA it might have turned out different. It would of given the other starters another day of rest.

    When you have a chance to win a title you have to go for it. Those chances do not come very often.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    It took a 2nd half run to make it as a WC team in 2015, a year earlier than the FO expected to compete. 2016 didn't require a 2nd half run as they pretty much coasted into the playoffs. If 2017 was the 2nd year of that expected playoff window, why wouldn't you try to go for it? 2016 was so magical that anything less than a WS appearance in 2017 would be a disappointment. I'd say there was a bit of a WS hangover. After winning their first WS in 108 years there was joy in Cubville, but there were also expectations to repeat. If we had stumbled badly out of the gate in the 2nd half, I believe Theo would've been fielding calls from contenders before the trade deadline.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    re: your last paragraph:

    How would you sell that to Ownership, Players, and Fans? I don't think it can be done without sending a horrible message.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    @rbrucado "The newest CBA has put punishing restrictions on large market teams which make it difficult to simultaneously win and sustain a healthy organization. [True] As a result, every year we need to be realistic about our chances of winning to maximize the long term health of our organization if it is a down year. [In fact, he said essentially this.] The front office's job is to put together a team capable of competing ever year. Painfully, we feel that we have failed on that count this year. This is our failing and not the players or the manager. However, we need to worry about the next three years of Cubs baseball in addition of the next three months. Given the current state of the league, the former is a better bet than the latter. Therefore, we will begin the work to strengthen our young core in the coming years."

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Fair Reply, Mike.

    The negative repercussions for Theo and Ricketts would be insane and over the top as they sold "the rebuild" for long-sustainable growth and then the year after a WS, they fire sale at the break with a chance to still get in the playoffs. I just don't see how that flies.

    When your prices to pay for game and go to games is Top 3 in baseball, how do you look the fans in the face and ask them to support you, but we are admittedly putting an inferior product on the field for the last half of '17? And you try to take the blame off the players, but anyone can see right through that and know if they performed worth a lick they would have had a 10 game lead at the AS break.

    That is one tough sell to a huge fan base.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    You're leaving out the fact that the Quintana deal is as much about the next 3 years as it was about 2017, and I don't see you can say having Quintana means you're punting those three years. I just think you're selling Q short.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I get the argument but they traded an absolute elite prospect for him. If you're going to trade a guy that good you need to either get (a) the key piece to a championship run or (b) a legit ace. They got neither. Q is a middle of the rotation guy with the stuff to be more.

    And that ignores the prospects they didn't get by selling Arrieta, Davis, et. al.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    The Cubs had a better chance to win in 2017 than you are giving and you can't predict future chances. They did the right thing by trading for Quintana, Wilson, Avila, etc and going for it while they had an opportunity to win.

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    Agreed on the TV deal statement. Does anyone think the Cubs are going to consistently try stay under the cap? I do not. They are still being frugal because of that financing deal Rickets had to take to acquire the club. But that will be ending soon. The new TV deal will flood the team with cash.

    But with that said, you want the right players leading the way. You don't just spend money for the sake of spending money. Both the Dodgers and Yankees quickly realized doing so would hamper your team with aging veterans that you are stuck with for the long haul.

    Richard Justice wrote a column the other day where he saw a trade for David Price with the Cubs giving up Schwarber. Not sure I'd go there but if the Red Sox wanted to discuss Sale then we'd have to really consider trading Schwarber and other pieces needed.

    You get your true #1 and could then blow up the bank to land Harper. Jeff Passan even talks about how silly it is for folks to think the Yankees or Dodgers really want to stay under the cap when they have a revenue stream right around $500M.

    I don't know what the Cubs could have in revenues just yet until we hear about that TV deal. But we gotta believe it's gonna be huge. The Ricketts have been known to put most of that money back into the team.

    Are we large market or not? Spend the money on the right guys and don't look back. It's good for baseball to have an evil empire in 3 cities! LOL

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    Well, the penalties for staying consistently over are brutal. So they have to be careful about it if they want to sign Harper and stay over it for 3-4 years while they push. That's why the Dodgers and Yankees both went under this year.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I disagree with you. I do think the Cubs will consistantly try to stay under the luxury salary cap. The new penalties are more punitive.

  • In reply to John57:

    They aren't bad until you get to the 3rd year. I think the Cubs will go over next year almost for certain. Next year's FA class is looking to be a monetary slugfest between the Dodgers, Cubs and Yankees all with a clean tax clock with the Phillies in their as well with obviously no tax issues at all.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I don't think they are being frugal and have one of the highest payrolls in baseball

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I think the Cubs are spending like a big market team. Make some more trades instead of spending on big money long term deals. Also start extending some of your young talent.

  • Staying under the cap is not just about the financial tax penalty. I believe it's more about the loss of draft picks, draft pick slots and IFA signing ability. I think one of the penalties for going over the tax limit for 2 consecutive years is a loss of 10 spots on the teams first draft pick. Moving from the #25 pick to #35 is potentially a huge long term issue. Not that I've looked all that hard, but I have not been able to find all of the new rules for the revenue tax. If anyone understand the new rules and can lay it out, I'd appreciate it. I thin most of us believe the tax is just about a few million here and there.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I studied them early this offseason but would have to go back to speak intelligently, but roughly here are four tiers of monetary penalties, 20%, 40%, 50% and 92% (sometimes written as 95% so I'm not sure why the discrepancy). There are also implication in the draft where your top pick drops ten spots and there are implications for signing QO free agents as well as international slot money. The bottom line is that the Yankees and Dodgers really needed to reset the clock in order to be active next year. Had the Dodgers been in on Stanton or a big FA they would have been paying some of their tax at a 92% rate. They were already over 50% in the tax for 2017. People called me crazy when I said they couldn't spend this year but here we are. Their move with the Braves was brilliant. They're clearly looking to go for both Harper and to retain Kershaw next year. On another not I hate to say it but I would think the Cubs chances at getting Harper went down considerably with the Braves-Dodgers money swap.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I don't think they go for Harper or Kershaw.
    The luxury tax goes up to 197 million in 2018
    They should be able to have a WS contender and keep under the tax

  • I think the lowered draft picks only occur if a team goes over by more than 40 million, regardless of how many years they've been a tax paying team. This is my understanding of the penalties:

    1. Up to 20m over year one tax is 20%, year two is 30%, and three plus years in a row is 50%

    2. $20-$40 million over same penalties as above but an additional 12% tax for the dollars spent above $20m.

    3. Over $40m above same penalties from numbers 1 and 2, but a 95% tax on any dollars spent above $40m over the threshold, plus 1st round rounder moves back ten spots.

  • In reply to 2lf6reedyt:

    There is an additional penalty for signing a free agent with qualifying offer if you go over the luxury tax threshold. The Cubs will hopefully be involved in that bonzanza, but it is far from a guarantee that the Cubs will be able to land one of those talents.

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    In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Folks might be missing the point. I said that spending money on the right players is worth paying any penalty. Are we going to worry about a draft pick if we are signing Harper or Clayshaw or Keuchel? This is especially true for the win now mode we are in and should be in for the next 3+ years. Eventually every team needs to rebuild and take their lumps. (example Yankees).

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    You’re right. The Giants have been over the cap,for a number of years, and if they were to sign a FA with. QO they would lost both their second and fifth pick.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    “They would lose”

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Cubs set up a 2018 WS entry or not in the next 6 weeks

  • Bob Nightengale said the cubs are talking to several pitchers but their prices are too high

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    In reply to bolla:

    If they're patient they might get what they want. The closer we get to spring training, with Darvish and Cobb on the board, the less likely Boras's usual tactics are likely to work.

  • I think the cubs are smart being prudent. The market is slow those prices will eventually drop a little or some team will blink 1st and give out the mega contract

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    Travis Wood DFAed. Cubs interested?

  • In reply to Ray:

    Maybe to hire him as a special assistant.

  • In reply to Ray:

    no to Travis Wood

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I'd say that the Cubs got the best of Travis. Good job by Joe. Sometimes his out of the box creativity doesn't work(leading off Schwarber), but often it does work.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I believe this kicking the tires on Yu Darvish is nonsense. Its a smokescreen to get Alex Cobb to lower his price. The Cubs want Cobb and Cobb wants to pitch for the Cubs. I would love to see the Cubs trade for Christian Yellich, although it would cost an arm and a leg to acquire him. Both players would fit in great in the Cub organization.

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    As far as going after Harper after the 2018 season I have my reservations...we have already missed on one big contract with Hayward, hit on Lester's contract for the first half of it, and totally wiffed on EJax's deal, but I don't blame the FO for trying to make something happen when they signed him. Don't get me wrong, Harper would look good on anyone's team. I know he plays hard and gets dirty, but to sign him to the kind of money he will demand, means we will be hamstrung for quite a few years with a huge contract that will be hard to unload. We would definitely have to move Hayward's contract (or better yet, for some strange reason he would want to exercise his opt out) before being able to entertain the idea of signing Harper.

  • In reply to Terry Rosdail:

    If Matt Kemp and $42MM can be moved and the Yankees dumping Chase Headley and his $14MM to the Padres, then have no fear there will be a deal to move Heyward.

    The best thing would be for Heyward to hit .280/.350/.450 and then let him opt out for another deal or we have flexibility to deal him given coming off a good year. If he doesn't, the Cubs eating half of the deal making him a $12MM/year player is reasonable as that only assumes he is a 1.5WAR player with 1 WAR valued at about $8MM/year.

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    Here's hoping Chili can get Hayward back to hitting like he did in his last year with the Cardinals. That would make Chili a hitting whisperer!

  • You don't want to dump Heyward for another bad contract coming back

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