The Frozen Hot Stove

Mother Nature has provided the perfect metaphor for this offseason with the deep freeze this past week. It is hard to talk about much else since one of our favorite pastimes in the winter months has been so boring, but it isn't just our imagination that this previous year's activity was different.

But those numbers don't even fully encapsulate just how slow this offseason has moved with only the flurry of relief pitchers signings to keep us warm. The top 20 by this measure have been signed even slower.

This is an arbitrary measure to be sure. There is a huge difference in value of the top two free agents this year and the top two free agents next year. However, the monetary value of contracts isn't an arbitrary measure. As of this moment the largest contract has been the 3 year pact the Phillies signed with Carlos Santana for a whooping $60 million. The last time a deal of only $60 million was the high for the offseason was all the way back in 2005-2006. Paul Konerko's 5 year and $60 million dollar deal (matched by Kevin Millwood's deal when including the option) was the high at a time when the revenue of MLB was nearly half of the present $10 billion plus.

$100 million deals are the norm in MLB these days for top talent. At least one such of these deals has been signed in every offseason before January going all the way back to the 2009-2010 offseason. That is the only such year since the aforementioned 2005-2006 offseason where not one $100 million contracts had already been signed at this point in the offseason. The 2009-2010 offseason was highlighted by the John Lackey signing of a 5 year $82.5 million deal that was signed on December 15, 2009. There was one $100 million deal, but that was the Cardinals extension of Matt Holliday signed in January 2010. The Paul Konerko and Kevin Millwood deals in 2005-2006 were also signed before the first of that year. Kevin Brown signed the first $100 million deal back in the 1998-1999 offseason, and there is no example where the most valuable contract bested the top signed before the first of the year by $40 million since that time. This is unprecedented the way that MLB teams have collectively waited out the free agent market.

There have been a lot of theories about why this has happened. This has been a unique offseason given the posting of Shohei Ohtani and the trading of Giancarlo Stanton. Many theorized that these two extremely unique talents availability was what held back the market. It had a certain logic that a 23 year old that signed for at least a hundred, if not hundreds, of dollars less than available on the open market would hold up the starting pitcher market. A 28 year old reigning MVP under control for at least 3 years could certainly hold up the position player market as well. And Stanton's trade to the Yankees did pave the way to the free agent relief market dam breaking. Brandon Morrow's 2 year deal with the Cubs lead to a flurry of 2 year deals being signed in the middle of December, and then the market went cold once again. Carlos Santana and Zack Cozart were the position players to land deals, but the big bats still remain on the board in J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, and (figuratively big bat) Lorenzo Cain. The biggest contract signed by a starting pitcher remains Tyler Chatwood 3 year $38 million deal.

Jon Heyman wrote about five possible reasons for the slow market last week. He speculated that the top free agents not signing is one cause. That certainly makes sense but it also seems more symptom than cause. After all, there are some unique cases here in terms of valuation like Eric Hosmer, but virtually everyone agrees that the top pitchers were worthy of a $100 million plus on the open market this year. There has not been an offseason in this millenium where not a single top pitcher signed by this point.

Two other reasons listed by Heyman really dovetail together in several big market teams are sitting out this offseason and every team is waiting on the free agent class next year. Again this could certainly be a factor as the two teams spending by far and away the most in baseball have been slashing payroll the past several seasons to reset their luxury tax hits. There is also the belief that the stronger penalaties for going over have converted the luxury tax into a fake salary cap. Those trends are reflected in the chart below which shows the average opening day payrolls of MLB.
average-payroll
The top line shows the top five teams in baseball's average payroll, and it has remained relative stagnant since the Dodgers payroll exploded to over $270 million in 2015. That trend is likely to continue as both the Dodgers and Yankees are poised to dip below the tax threshold for the first time in five years and ever respectively. The bottom line shows the bottom five payrolls and that too has remained relatively flat since the overall jump in payrolls between 2013-2015. The middle two lines show the remaining twenty teams broken into two even groups showing the relative growth of payrolls in the middle. These trends seem to be occuring independent of external factors like revenue growth. As this article from Fangraphs with this graphic showed while payrolls were growing, players share of revenue was actually decreasing.
mlb-player-share-1994-20141

Things haven't improved much as Scott Boras asserted that MLB players salaries was just 43% of total revenue in 2016.

There is something different about this year though, and it still doesn't really explain the lack of movement in the starting pitcher market this year in a historic manner. Teams always need starting pitchers, and there are two clear cut top of the rotation starters available right now for just cash. There is also little hope that the market will be that much better next year as Clayton Kershaw remains unlikely to leave the Dodgers even if he opts out. The collusion word has been mentioned in a few places. Marc Normandin was the most recent to suggest it is a possibility for this strange market. He also mentioned that the Marlins firesale might be another roadblock. MLB teams have been aware from the start of the offseason that the Marlins would be unloading lots of position player talent, and Chritian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto represent incredibly desirable position player assets. But again this doesn't explain why teams are unwilling to sign any starting pitchers this offseason.

Now Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, and Alex Cobb are not without their flaws. Age, injuries (in two of three cases), and ineffectiveness have all affected these top starters. This could simply be a case of the players and teams not being able to agree on the proper value of their talents. The information available to us is imperfect and incomplete, but there is an interesting trend that suggests something else is happening. Or at least that the difference in valuation does not seem to be tied to the average annual value of the deals. Wade Davis just netted the highest average annual value of any relief pitcher at $17.3 million. Carlos Santana netted $20 million per year in his deal. It seems doesn't seem like teams are willing to invest large amounts per year in players. The collective restraint in the market seems to be teams unwilling to issue longer term deals.

There are few deals to analyze to conclusively prove that this is the trend, but this seems to be the issue that is holding up many deals. There is evidence to suggest that this is a trend. The Cubs are reportedly jumping back in (or they never left, or they are showing renewed interest, or whatever) on Jake Arrieta, and maybe among the top two teams bidding for the services of the presumed former Cub. The Cubs offer or maximum unofficial offer at the moment according to one source is a 4 year $110 million deal. If the Cubs were mostly concerned about the luxury tax this seems like the exact opposite type of deal to be interested in. The club would be much better off going for longer years to lower the average annual value of the deal, but instead seem to be following this trend of resisting long term deals.

Many fans have reacted positively to the financial restraint shown by these clubs. Praise for teams being wary of investing large dollars in declining assets, to use the parlance of our time, is not hard to find. It is easy to point to players earning large dollars for their relatively weak production. These deals certainly provide a warning for unlimited spending, but it doesn't reflect the way this franchise has been successful in the past. The Cubs have made the postseason in back to back years just twice in the previous century. The runs in 2007-2008 and the current run starting in 2015 were each directly preceded by an offseason of large spending in free agency. The 2016 team is the first and only Cubs team to exceed the luxury tax threshold. Spending money in free agency is not a panacea but it is also a method that a large market club deep in the heart of a contention window should be exploited.

The Cubs are certainly not sitting idly during this time, and the track record of deals signed in January and February tend to be more favorable for the club. The Cubs have an opportunity to take advantage of a unique marketplace caused by a variety of factors, whether collusion is one of those factors or not. There should be disappointment if the Cubs don't land one of the premier free agents in this class.

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    I think the Cubs are playing this perfectly. They didn't jump in with a $100M plus contract but rather have waited out the market and see what it's saying---and it's telling them (and Scott Boras) that maybe the massive $30M plus AAV are just not happening this year. I think that will change next year with Harper, possibly Machado and Kershaw but these are future HOFers, and Jake and Yu are not.
    A very good recap Mike and puts everything in perspective.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Its just not the Cubs but every team playing this perfectly. Soon talk of collusion will come up.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    this isnt the early 90s. Collusion isnt going to work considering the releif pitchers are getting paid. its just the starters and position players struggling, largely as Mike says, they want 6/7 yr contracts and no one wants to give those out, except for someone like a Harper or a Machado.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Most players haven't signed - collusion will be a possiblity

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Look at the free agent classes the next 2 years, that will tell you why no one is signing. There are also no generational talents in free agency this year.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    2 players don't prevent over a 100 players from getting signed this late in the off season

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    If the 2 players you are referring to are Harper & Machado, the classes over the next 2 years include more than just those 2.
    Donaldson
    Keuchel
    Arenado
    Blackmon
    Kershaw
    Kimbrel
    A. Miller
    ....

    Its far from 2 player class, the next 2 FA classes have multiple Hall of Famers, this years class has 0. Why risk your budget and/or roster on marginal players when in the next 2 years you could get 1-2 HOF type players.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    You will not hold up this class with a any players 2 years away from free agency

  • fb_avatar

    Have to believe that the doughnuts will start tumbling soon.

  • Another factor, rarely mentioned, is that maybe the agents and top FA players are being a little stubborn and holding out for top dollars, instead of taking a really good multi-year contract.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    Actually I think it's the opposite. Teams seem to not want not to offer the extra years but instead up the AAV as a sweetener. Wade Davis contract is a case in point.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I think you nailed it here. Players of 30-33 years old are looking for long-term contracts that cover their declining years. Teams have seen too many players sign for the big money and then decline rapidly - underperforming but tying up team payroll, making it difficult to get someone else. Smart FOs avoid that by offering shorter contracts, or at least contracts with some options.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Albert Pujols, Hamilton, Wilson with the Angekls, what 3-4 yrs ago? Annibal Sanchez, who we almost signed in 2012, declined even worse than Ejax did. Take last yr as an example-Edwin Encarnacion, one of the best bats on the market last yr 3/60 with the Indians, and he produced. They likely wont regret that contract, unlike the ones the Angels signed several yrs ago. Maimi traded Stanton because they figured hes quite likely to decline in 4-5 yrs, and cant DH over in the NL.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Wade Davis signed a 3 year / $52,000,000 contract with the Colorado Rockies, including $52,000,000 guaranteed, and an annual average salary of $17,333,333.

    So did he seek a 4 year/ $60M ($15M per year AAV) vs. "settling" for less money overall but a higher AAV?

    I'm guessing he was looking for a $60-$70M contract no matter what the amount years, and found out he could only get 3/$52M instead and maybe had to settle for less money but higher AAV.

    Anyway, I think he did pretty well in getting "Top Dollar" no matter how you look at it.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    He has a fairly easy option and should get 66 million over 4 years

  • In reply to TC154:

    In Colorado's thin air, Davis's stuff won't be the same..The spin/break on the breaking ball wont be there. As pitchers add years they must subtract velocity on their fastball..Colorado will not be happy with this signing...Davis? He laughs all the way to the bank.

  • In reply to Hey Hey:

    I couldn't agree more. The Cubs would never offer this much for a closer. Colorado had to overpay and will regret it.

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    In reply to TC154:

    And this is demonstrable of why there is no collusion. Teams are paying good money. They just aren't willing to give on the number of years.

  • Here is another reason. Political division, economic uncertainty, and the feeling that this country and the world is about to blow. Hard to tell what that would look like, but look at the NFL and to some extent the NBA. It would suffice to say that it's probably not the best time for long term commitments. The bigger fight right now is for the soul of America.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Meh. Although I agree with the sentiment in general, for these guys, owners and players, they all just got a massive tax cut, so they’re okay.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    And, yet, unlike many other companies out there, none of these guys are spending more for employees. There's a message there.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    The Cubs made $340m in revenue in 2015, according to Forbes. Assuming that hasn’t increased, which is a very poor assumption, with a 15% cut in the corporate tax rate, the team will clear $51m in additional revenue, enough to pay for all the free agents. They are likely to increase ticket prices, concession price, and make even more.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Income taxes aren't paid on "revenue," they are paid on the profits. Since the team is a privately-held corporation, we'll probably never see the figures, but I'd venture their operating costs ate up a large percentage of that $340 million in revenue.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I didn’t know that, thanks. Actually, Forbes said their revenue was $434m in 2017, with operating income of $83.5m, which would make profits of $351, and still around $52m in tax savings. Or not. This could be off, i’m not an accountant. But they have plenty of money.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    That's an estimate because, as Cliff pointed out, the Cubs are NOT going to give that number to Forbes, but an operating profit of $83.5m is close to their profit. It's technically their earnings before interest and taxes. I believe -- but am no tax accountant -- that they get to deduct interest expense from their final tax bill. In the Cubs' case, that would include interest on the enormous loan they took to purchase the team, so their actual taxable income could be fairly small relative to revenue.

    Still, my initial point remains, with growing profits AND a more favorable tax environment (Blue Jays players must be PISSED), it's significant that signings are stagnating.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike, what is your take on why the signings are stagnating? If I remember, you have your PhD in Economics, right? I'd imagine you have an interesting take on this.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I mean, in general, I think many people have hit it. It's a combination of the new CBA working as a soft salary cap and the big spenders getting ready to go insane a year from now. So it may not ever be this bad again but I think the middle class free agents are going to take a hit until the CBA is changed (if it is). If they get a salary cap -- which I think is more likely than not at this point -- the salaries for the Eric Hosmer's and Jake Arrieta's of the world will plummet.

    In general, the sports leagues are a perfect example of monopsony, where one buyer of labor (draft rights) drive down salaries. The problem with that is free agency which was taking up a lot of the money they saved on younger players, so the last two CBAs introduced some rules which were designed to reduce demand for free agents. We'll see going forward how successful they were, though the early indications, obviously, are that they were very successful this time.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    09.......This may be an easier way to understand what is likely to be taxed at the Federal level.

    All Revenues - Cost of Goods (Likely Player's Salaries, Worker's Comp Insurance) = Gross Profit

    Gross Profit - Company Operations (Sales Staff + Marketing Costs and Staff + Management Costs and Staff + Occupancy Costs such as Rent, Utilities, Supplies, Bank Costs, Credit Card Fees) = Net Income (EBITA = Earnings Before Interest Taxes Amortization & Depreciation)

    Net Income - EBITA leaves "X" Dollars (which is taxed). And that's not assuming there are previous years losses that can be carried forward to offset current year profits.

    Great accountants find all of the legal avenues to get their corporate clients at 0 or a loss yearly.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    In what world does operating income of 83.5M equate to profits of 351M above. Operating income takes out costs of good sold and other operating expenses. It does NOT take out taxes. It is what income taxes are paid on. Nor does it take out interest expense. So when they say 83.5M in operating income they had operating expense and cost of goods sold in sum total of around 351M. So let's presume a 20% effective tax rate (just a GUESS). That would make net income around 65M (assuming no interest expense). I have no idea if they have any interest expense they have to pay. But I'd be surprised if they have none. So let's say 60-63M in net income. And before you say that's a ton of money, they also have to take into account how they intend to use that money in the future beyond players - facility improvements, etc. It isn't chump change, but I think far too often fans are just way off in how they view the actual finances.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Politics aside, it's all business, and right now, business is good. The stock markets are setting records, housing starts are skyrocketing and the indicators say the economy looks strong for the next few years. Team owners and FOs are looking to take advantage.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Im in the sporting goods biz. I can say, in the last year, our business has almost doubled. Certainly far better than before 2017.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I'm sure your success has more to do with quality merchandise, competitive pricing and world-class customer service than with economic circumstances!

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Amen to that assumption!!!

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Absolutely not. This is a joke, right...?

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I was only pointing out that it could be a factor in Orgs resistance to long term contracts. I don't want a political discussion.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Those sentiments could apply to any year in history, some more so than this year

  • In reply to Lildude:

    I guess, 2017 seemed a little more atypical.

  • It has been crazy slow. I still feel like the Cubs will end up with one of Darvish, Cobb, or Arrieta. Either one of those three blinks and accepts what the Cubs consider fair, or another team gets antsy, overpays, and the Cubs may have to up their offer.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I think one of the three OR a trade for a pitcher. Either way they aren't done. I'm on record as saying I don't think Cobb is good enough and I get the feeling the Cubs don't believe he is either. My money is on Darvish.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Just a gut feeling; I think the sticking point on these negotiations is the number of years. For Cobb, the Cubs are willing to go three years. For Arrieta and Darvish, it’s four.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I can see going 5 on Darvish. Jake I cant, he throws across his body and those guys tend to end up with arm problems eventually(Jakes delivery reminds me of Kevin Browns, a good pitcher who eventually blew out his shoulder)

  • In reply to TC154:

    I think a trade for a pitcher happens. Don't need to tie up money long term for a starting pitcher and trading a position player gives regular playing time to the remaining position players.

  • I agree 100%. One of those 3 will be a Cub come opening day. People seem to think the Cubs have had no interest in Jake this offseason, I think thats far from the truth, the FO is just sticking to the 4 year guaranteed length, very possible they go longer but anything beyond 4 wont be guaranteed.

    Bold prediction:
    Once a starter is signed another domino will fall for a position and/or bullpen arm. Gut feeling its either Machado or Yelich. Yelich seems more likely (simply because Baltimore is difficult to trade with) but I think with either, players like Brach, Guasman, Bundy, Straily or Barrclough could be involved. I think Russell & Almora will be the centerpieces of those deals.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    I've had that same feeling. Idk if it will happen, but the the the lineup has too much inconsistency and swing and miss to it and needs to be lengthened. I like Yelich and you probably correct about the odd men out if it does happen. Theo, Jed and Joe are bold.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    Yeah, if they got Machado & it cost them a package of Russell & Almora, I’d hope they’d get a pitcher back as well. And they probably would sign a Lorenzo Cain to leadoff & play CF. That would be some lineup w/those 2 added.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    They are getting a pitcher back because Baltimore is asking for pitching.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I dont see Baltimore trading Gausmann or Bundy, they already have enough starting pitching problems already, with Britton gone Brach becomes the closer. If the Birds manage to trade Machado, Russell is a definite likelihood, maybe Montgomery and a minor leaguer(possably Azolay, since hes likely going to be in the bigs in about a year).

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Meant to say Baltimore won't trade a pitcher because that is what thy want in a trade. I don't buy the rumors of the Cubs offering 3 players for Machado

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    In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Brian Roberts for Sean Gallagher, Sean Marshall and Ronnie Cedeno.
    These two clubs match up real well.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    IF the Cubs can get Jake back on a 4-year contract,... I would love it. While he's not quite the 'young' horse that he was when the Cubs first pried him away from the Orioles,... he's generally been healthy and consistent. Fans love the guy too for obvious reasons. Can't argue with a 68-31 W/L record, a decent (even in an off year) ERA and 30+ starts each of the last 3 years.

    I'm not as sold on Darvish,... but as per usual I will trust the management's judgment again IF they can get him on a 4-year contract.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    My issue with Arrieta is that I think he's already on a slow decline. In order to throw across his body like he does he has to maintain incredible core strength which of course, to this point, he has. The guy is a workout monster. He's also going to be 32 years old in March and you have to wonder how long that core strength can be maintained at that level. A physical therapist acquaintance of mine, and a Cubs fan, thinks that his core strength is already eroding and that the lost of velo over the last two seasons is the result. He also thinks that eventually Arrieta will be injured because he'll try to throw harder than his body will allow. It makes sense to me.

    Darvish, while also always an injury risk, seems to be the better choice because I think his issue is that he throws too man pitches. If Hickey can get him to throw his 4 best pitches rather trying to mix and match the 6 or 7 in his arsenal I think his best season is still ahead of him.

    All that said, given the dire needs of the Cubs rotation, I think either guy on a 4 year deal would be a good get and probably make this team the second best to the Nationals in the NL, at least on paper in 2018. Darvish would make me feel a little better beyond 2018, but like you I trust in this FO.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I agree, I prefer Darvish to Jake too. Thats is nothing against Jake at all, love the guy! While I do worry about the injuries, its the walks, short-outings and not be able to find the zone at any moment that gives me worry. When he is in the zone consistently and able to locate, even with reduced velocity he is above average but take those away...yikes.

    In 2015 he was like Maddux on steroids (not literally) but he had the movement and control of Maddux with velocity, that is what made him so special that season.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    This is not a shot at your comment, just a reminder how great Maddux was. Jake’s ERA in 2015 would be the third best in Maddux HOF career. When Maddux posted those insanely low era’s was in the middle of the juiced ball, steroid era.

    I totally get you Maddux on steroids comment, but when you put Maddux accomplishments in perspective, they are staggering.

  • In reply to bleedblue:

    No argument there!

  • In reply to TC154:

    No argument on your points about Jake TC. And that's exactly why I can't see going over 4 years. By year 4 (possibly year 3) the risk/reward on him is going to get quite high. He could keep himself with a good enough core to make it work longer, but it's kind of a ticking time-bomb.

    But I have much the same concerns about Darvish's potential for injury. He's only made it through 200 IP once (that was a great year though) in a season, he's only a bit younger than Jake, and his arm has quite a bit of mileage on it from his time pitching in Japan. I also can't quite forget those two really bad starts at crunch-time against the Astros last WS by Darvish. Jake has been pretty consistent in October to date.

    One way or the other though - I assume management is smarter than us as regards all things baseball.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    The LA coaching staff is at least partially responsible for Darvish's issues in the WS. If Houston knew he was tipping his pitches, why didn't the Dodgers? Darvish had the same issue at Texas, which was discovered and, temporarily, fixed. LA would have know this when they traded for him. Seems like somebody on the LA staff could have reviewed film, known what to watch for and made a fast correction when they saw it.

  • Was reading that the Cubs might be exploring a Gerrit Cole possible trade. He’s got 2 yrs left on his contract & is also a Boras client. Probably cost a ton. But I like him over Archer, who would also cost a ton, but isn’t as good.

    Also Cards are looking at Jake now. Reading Cubs are holding fast at 4 yrs on him but at around 27.5 per. Not sure if that’s true or not. If I’m Jake, I’m taking that.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I have long supported the Cubs pursue Cole BUT they wanted Torres from the Yankees for him. Cole would at the very least cost Russell or Baez and probably more. Even though the Cubs are not lacking for offense I would rather have someone like Yelich for that price.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    I would only trade Almora from the top 10 position players for Yellich. Add other pieces but not from the core group. Because Lorenzo Cain is out there & he’d just cost money.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Jake is going to end up getting a 5 or 6 year deal so why would you take the smaller deal

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    He won’t get 6... If he does, it won’t be for 27.5 per. Doubt he gets 5 at that either. If he earns the 27.5 for 4, then I’m sure he could get another 2 or 3 yr deal at similar to slightly less at or around the end of it unless he’s hurt. Which is why they shouldn’t go past 4. Probably talking about the same money overall when his career is done any way... So it’s really not a smaller deal, it could actually be bigger.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I think he will get the 5 yer deal. Not putting much stock in the 4 for 110 million rumor

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I like Cole, but preferable to Archer? Cole has a slightly better lifetime FIP and GB rate but not significant enough to make up for the lack of K's which to me makes the difference between a 1/2 type pitcher in Archer to a 2/3 in Cole. Of every pitcher discussed for the Cubs this winter Archer remains at the top of my list, that said I don't think the Cubs can put together a good enough deal to land him, or Cole for that matter.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I’m not impressed w/Archer... His last 2 years have been pedestrian. #s that a good 4 or 5 might have... border line of a poor #3. Not worth the cost the Rays want for him. Sign Arrieta or Darvish. Save the bullets for when teams are ready to trade fair value for fair value.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Archer is much better than you are giving him credit for. Use the bullets now if you can get him.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    He was better 3 years ago... What’s he done the last 2? His SO/W ratio is the only credit I give him... Dingers gone up, hits gone up, runs gone up... all substantially. His ERA been over 4.00. WAR is lower than John Lackey’s the past 2 yrs combined. That is not worth the boat load cost the Rays want for him.

  • I understand the free market system and embrace it but if I were an owner I could also consider collusion. With the now average salary at 4 million a year I would be more inclined to try to send some sort of message to these agents that ok, you can ask for the moon just not all the planets too.

    Now from a players standpoint, they already know they are going to get more money than any other employment they will ever have.
    How much difference really is there between 15 to 20 million? Agents take 10%?
    Who needs an agent? If you are that confidant in your abilities why not ask for an incentive laden contract that pays even more than present asking prices? Actual great performance receives equally great compensation, then just buy an insurance policy to cover injury and loss of income which would be less than the agents “fee”.

    I know........pie in the sky......

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Well, if people are willing to pay that much money for a tickets, the players might as well accept it from them.

  • Lets hope its Darvich. If we trade a young player whoever we get
    in return must be controlled for at least 3 years and under 30

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Im betting Darvish ends up around 5/130 or so. Jake slightly less. I highly doubt either goes beyond 5 yrs.

  • You know it's funny as this FA signing period drags on I actually have more confidence in the FO to get something done than I did going in. When were hearing numbers like $180 mil for Darvish and $200 mil for Jake going around I assumed they would stay out of those markets and paint around the edges. The Chatwood signing did not allay my fears as I thought maybe they were aiming too low. Now that we see that no one is getting the stratospheric contracts I think Theo will get his man without having to settle.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Wouldn't your logic apply to all teams waiting for these players prices to drop? All it takes is one team to give the number of years the player is looking for.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Yes, but I think as a big market team firmly in a contention window they have de facto "right of first refusal" on these guys. No one they're interested in is signing without them knowing what they're signing for and likely with a chance to top the offer if they so choose.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I can see the Twins or other small market teams signing Darvish or the other big free agents this year.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Yes, I agree.It's a buyers market and the cubs can outbid the field. Dodgers & Yankees are being conservative because of the luxury tax they have shed salary. Cubs just laying in the weeds until prices drop. Darvish,Cobb & arrieta will have to lower their asking price at some point then theo can get who he wants.Just gotta be patient

  • In reply to bolla:

    Every team laying in the weeds.until prices drop if they do.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Yawns.Your contrarian gimmick is corny

  • In reply to bolla:

    Not contrarian - all teams are waiting on the players.
    Yawn on only the Cubs are the smrtest team waiting for the agents to fold.

  • In reply to TC154:

    If Chatwood pitches for the Cubs like his numbers away from Coors over the last 2 yrs, he,ll be a bargain. 5-7 3.39ERA away from Coors last yr, and he only threw his curve about 10% of the time. His Curve is considered borderline elite, and his GB rate is in the top 10 in baseball.

  • True, they can just wait until the 3 drop their demands

  • It will be interesting to see what happens regarding the free agents. I feel very confident that Theo, Jed and the boys know what they are doing and the Cubs will come out doing pretty well when all is said and done.

  • The problem with the FA market isnt the $, its the years. Stanton got traded precisely because he was going to kill the Marlins over the later years of his contract, the 10yr $300m contract was nuts to begin with, considering Stanton, as good as he is now. will likely break down with injuries before that contract runs out. Even the Dodgers previous contract with Kershaw had to make them nervous with Kershaw having gone on the DL 2 consecutive years now, and suddenly the LAD want to limit his innings. In all honestly, maybe 4-5 teams MIGHT have the financial ability to pay someone like Harper, and pray that it doesnt bite them down the road. Same today with Darvish, Jake, etc, very few teams even have the ability to do 5+ yr contracts, and the number willing to do them for pitchers is dropping.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Makes sense.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Prince Fielder comes to mind. "Retired" with a neck injury, still owed $106 million, guaranteed. That's a lot of 'tater chips!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    That is what insurance is for

  • BTW Santana is proof of my theory. Santana got Encarnacion $ because he was willing to sign a 3yr contract, which wont hamstring the Phils for that long.

  • fb_avatar

    I wonder if Baltimore is still stinging from their trade of Jake and Stropy to the Cubs. As I see it, once someone signs the others will follow and that first one will probably set the market price--and might even be the best paid. I love Jake's work ethic but I see more upside to Yu. Yelich for Almora would give us a GG CF (although I do think that AA will be one too) but a Machado at SS would give us a terrific infield both offensively and defensively.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Cubs had asked for other pitchers before "settling" for Arrieta. Cubs caught lighting in a bottle with Arrieta who even this front office didn't think he would be much more than a 5 or a bullpen arm.

  • Something that has been rattling around my head for a while...

    IF this slow free agent market is a harbinger of coming off-seasons, those hoping that J-Hey will opt out of his contract after the 2018 or 2019 seasons will likely be disappointed.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    He'd have to have a 2015 type year to opt out. His no-trade is gone after this year though. That's their best bet to get rid of him.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    will still have a limited number of teams he can get traded to

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    If the assumption that this FA off-season is the start of a trend is correct, I don´t think Heyward would opt out even after 2015-like saeson. He has a long-term deal in place. Why give up that security for a new 3- or 4-year deal? I would also doubt that he would get a higher AAV in a new, shorter deal. As a GM, would you be willing to bet that good years in 2015 and 2018 from Heyward trumps the two poor seasons in between?

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    That's a good point. He may not opt out even with that kind of year. He'd be owed something like 4/110M.

    Also, WaitUntilNextYear, I didn't realize it turns into a limited NTC with him. I wonder how much salary the Cubs would have to eat. If they think they have a legitimate shot at Harper, you'd have to bet on them moving Heyward's contract somehow.
    The best thing for the Cubs would be for Heyward to have a 4 or 5 win season so that he'd look more appealing in a trade next winter.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Trading Heyward and either saving dollars or getting value back is going to be very difficult

  • I'm probably in the minority but I don't want jake back(think he will decline and not be worth the contract) . Hope it's darvish or cobb the cubs sign.

  • In reply to bolla:

    With the way the team is constructed now it is almost impossible for a starting pitcher to throw up Bill Bonham numbers......probably at the worst, any pitcher the Cubs do sign as a starter will give numbers similar to what Lackey did last year if they go off the rails.....which in itself really isn’t too bad.....

  • Why pay astronomical $$$$ amounts for these starting pitchers and then they only pitch for 5 innings, once a week?

  • We only trade our young players/prospects for top 10 pitching
    prospects. Getting young pitchers is the name of the game

  • The deal the Cubs should make is Addison Russell and Albert Almora for Christian Yelich, assuming Janny Machado is unlikely and impractical for one year guaranteed. Yelich is a truly polished, professional hitter who could lead off. Happ goes to center or second, Javy Baez to his ordained position at shortstop. Zobrist plays second for 100 games, Happ plays 40, improvise for the rest. Maybe Chesny Young. Pitching goes to Montgomery, maybe Tseng as a backup. All of the relievers give Maddon some cushion.

    Hopefully the Cubs get Jake
    for 4 years, if not , sign Lance Lynn at the going rate. I am not sold on Darvish’s competitiveness in big games. Cobb is an unknown to me.

    I am down on Addison Russell. He certainly has talent but his emotional and physical problems may continue to haunt him. Javy has amazing range and the “it” factor that Russell will never have. Happ is a superior athlete who is nowhere near his ceiling. He also seems to have that raw competitiveness that Theo and Cub fans adore.

    Yelich is one of the most complete players in the National League. With him in the outfield and leading off the Cubs win 100 in 2018, and beat the Dodgers to go the World Series.

  • In reply to Swarf:

    Addison Russell is arguably the best defensive SS in the national league. He's leagues better than Baez at SS. And Baez is an incredible 2B. Replacing Russell with Yelich likely makes the Cubs' offense better, but replacing Russell and Baez with Baez and Happ/Zobrist makes their defense a lot worse. One of the main reasons the Cubs have dominated for 2.5 seasons is elite defense up the middle. A run saved is equal to a run scored. I'm not trading Russell's stellar glove at SS (and huge offensive potential) for nearly anyone. Not 4 years of a good OFer, and DEFINITELY not 1 year of Machado. I can't believe how disenchanted people have become with Russell.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Your right that Javy at second makes us better up the middle, but offense counts too. Zo is a quality second baseball. With both Russell and Baez in the lineup and Almora in center the Cubs are getting too right handed.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    These are my issues with Russell: 1) below average to bad hitter who has failed to progress in 3 years, 2) defensive metrics have normalized over 3 years where he is not elite, but an above average to very good SS, 3) injured in 3 straight years, and 4) some bad personal choices which impacted him and the Cubs.

    The same metrics that show Zobrist being better than Javy at 2B are the one's showing Russell is "stellar" as you pointed out. We all know that is not true and which shows a flaw of the defensive metrics and these metrics are really the only positive thing in Russell's game.

    He was in the Top 5 prospects with Correa and Lindor and he has turned out to be well below those guys. My expectations were high and after 3 years he has shown a weak bat and good glove. With Heyward being a black hole the Cubs cannot survive with a 7, 8, 9 of Heyward, Russell, and the Pitcher. If you can move him and improve the lineup, now is the time, IMO. As I have said multiple times, WHEN he hits the Cubs have been unstoppable. I just don't trust his bat. His numbers speak for them self and his mechanics are not good from what I have seen. I know others disagree and really love Russell's game. And that is OK too.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    His defensive metrics have normalized to show him as one of the very best defenders in the game. He was 2nd in Defensive Runs Saved for SS in 2017 with 15. Third was Trevor Story with 11 and Russell played 377 fewer innings (Baez and Zobrist both recorded 5 DRS in 2017... but in 2016 Baez had 11 in 383 innings, and Zobrist had -3 in 976 innings; I'd say a sample of 500 innings in 2017 is too small to conclude that the 2 are rated the same).
    Russell has been an inconsistent hitter, sure. He's also 23 and has gone through dominant streaks at the plate. He's shown the ability to be an offensive force. Most guys his age are in AA or AAA.
    The only thing I agree on is the off-field issues. But again, he's 23. I hate poor character but I also believe in forgiveness and redemption.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    His UZR/150 has gone from 22 to 16 to 7 in 3 years. A 7 UZR/150 puts him in a “very good” rating.

    My eyes tell me he is not “elite” and the normalizing of his ratings support that as well. Great hands, so-so Range, and a below average SS arm is what he is on D. The only positive is his game is his D and that is based on some iffy metrics where Fangraphs evens admits flaws. He just doesn’t scream “elite SS” where you wouldn’t consider dealing him.

    I had higher expectations than the player he is today. If you can get quality is return for “future potential” that may or may not be there, i make that move.

    I get your points. I just have a different opinion on his ceiling based on his current performance and flaws I see.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Fair enough. My eyes see a stellar SS so I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. The flaw I did see last year was with his throws.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Not being a smart-aleck — how do you reconcile stellar SS with having throwing flaws? Above i graded his arm as average because of the same flaws we saw being in strength and accuracy. He has elite hands—no doubt. But his throwing and range are average to me.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    2017 was the first year his UZR was not elite. It was still top 10, and his UZR/150 was top 5 (slightly above Lindor). Admittedly, I'm in the habit of looking mostly at DRS for defenders, which is probably not the ideal way to go. Eye test-wise... I see top tier range (I don't think the eye test is really worth much since we're only watching on TV).
    As for his throws, he's always had an above average arm. Last year was the first time it was a problem and it coincided with a right shoulder issue. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt there for now.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to rbrucato:

    To me breaking Russell down into his component parts doesn't do him justice. He doesn't have great "range" and his arm is below average (his throws tend to "arc" to 1B more than I would like when I watch him make a throw from deep in the hole). BUT, as you admit, his hands are elite. They are soft and VERY fast meaning he fields things cleanly and makes up for his lack of throwing speed by getting the ball in the air a split second faster. He also knows how to compensate by getting himself into a good position to throw. He is really good at sliding into the fielding of a ground ball and popping back up and make a throw very quickly. Other's with better arms than him might do a "jump throw" to 1B compensating for losing leverage on their throws by showing off just how hard they can throw. Both are compensating for a weakness they have.

    Another point that I keep coming back to with Russell is, oddly, having Baez as their back-up SS makes him even more valuable in my mind. A player that plays as hard as Baez is likely to get his share of injuries. If we don't have Russell who is the back up SS if Baez goes down due to injury? I don't think anyone wants to see Ben Zobrist, Ian Happ, or Tommy La Stella at SS for any length of time. This means that the Cubs have to carry a back-up SS (presuming Chesny Young isn't ready out of Spring Training). This means a roster spot used for someone NO ONE wants to see play particularly badly. Because rosters are limited to 25 players this means someone else that might be really valuable but hanging on by his fingernails doesn't make the roster. Someone along the lines of Tommy La Stella. Or maybe a bullpen arm (given Maddon's tendency to carry an extra bullpen arm). All so that we can have Menunori Kawasaki or Jonathan Herrerra regaling fans with his wit. The fact that the Cubs season wasn't really hampered at all when Russell went down last year is a good indicator how valuable it is to have a really good back-up SS. It also allowed the Cubs to carry TLS on the roster and he did significant damage given how limited his playing time was.

    Obviously if another team is willing to give us something big in return I would trade Russell (or anyone else in the organization for that matter). If the Marlins want to trade us Yelich I would consider the trade. But not sure I pull the trigger on it, though I might. While I hoped Russell would be better than this offensively--though, I acknowledge, Kramerica20 that he is still young enough to turn things around in a big way--I am willing to sit on him and have the Cubs play really good defense and see if he can put together another year like 2016.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Joel, I completely understand your points. And I do agree to a large extent. It would not break my heart to sit on Russell. However, to upgrade significantly, IMO, in getting a Machado is something I would do. To get a Yellich, maybe. I would trade Russell to upgrade the position of SS. I may look at acquiring a young SP for him, but I don't think that deal is out there. Archer is thrown out a lot, but I am not comfortable with a 4 for 1 deal which is what it would take.

    The reason to break down Russell is to legitimize or call into question why Kramerica says "elite" and I say "good to very good" as range, hands, footwork, and arm are all in play. The sum of the parts is still a very good player, IMO. I just don't see him as "elite" and spoke to his parts to show why I feel that way. Hope that makes some sense.

  • In reply to Swarf:

    I'm going to agree with every word in your post except being down that much on Addi. Baez should be on short. Russell is really good there as well.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Lance Lynn isn't very exciting either.

  • You have to be careful when you trade for a pitcher rather than get a FA. Archer is a good example. At the end of each game somebody gets a W and somebody gets a L. Archer is viewed by Milk Stout as a less than TOR. What he misses here, as do most, is that TB is not very good. Consequently Archer doesn't have a great record even including ERA. That's because he's pitching for a poor club. HOWEVER, if you give up significant talent to get Archer he has the same problem. A lesser team, depleted by a trade, now gives you a lesser Archer. In order to continue to build a good team the Cubs need to go FA for pitching and keep the key youngsters they currently have. Trading away everyday talent for pitching becomes a rather deleterious proposition.

  • In reply to veteran:

    He’s given up up more hits & more HRs. Not his defense fault for the rising amount of dingers. And he has a pretty good CF behind him.... His Earned Run average is over 4.00 the last 2 years. He’s not a ToR worth spending a boat load to get. I’m not missing anything.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Archer has a lifetime FIP of 3.46 which is actually better than Jon Lester's 3.55 and Jose Quintana's 3.51. His BB/9 is about equal to Lester and not that far above Q. ERA is a team dependent stat so I'm going to look at what he controls and the key takeaway I get from Archer is his k/9 of almost 10 and the fact that he's been better than that for the last three years. Also he put up a higher WAR in 2017 than Lester did in 2016 when we all (rightly) considered him our ace. Based on virtually every peripheral statistic Archer would be the best pitcher on this staff and I've been pretty dumbfounded as to why other fans wouldn't want him on this team. That said the whole thing is moot because I can't imagine the Cubs have the assets to land him.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Cubs have the assets to get Archer

  • In reply to veteran:

    There's a long list of teams who did just fine trading for font line pitching. There's a long list of teams who did poorly after signing free agent pitchers.

  • In reply to veteran:

    And thank you for your service. I was former Army.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Milk Stout:

    Thank you both for your service.

  • In Theo we trust

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to emartinezjr:

    Amen to that. Theo-logy.

  • fb_avatar

    I really like how this is shaping up as far as us getting value out of one of these top-tier starters. The interesting thing is that usually I'd think with a market like this, we'd maybe be able to swoop in and sign an elite player to a one-year deal, but who'd want to compete with next year's free agent class?

  • In reply to TheoLeo:

    (I wouldnt put it past Theo to scoop up BOTH Arrieta and Darvish)

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Wickdipper:

    Yes, please.

  • I struggle with the cost to acquire a TOR pitcher. Jake is in a decline so what would we really be paying for? Darvish has his warts also. I have changed my opinion and would have a go at the season with Monty in the 5 spot. I think they are good enough to win the Division today. Then if a reinforcement is needed they can look at a deadline deal. I would push hard on a Machado deal. To tie up $30MM in payroll and miss a shot at Harper would be a mistake, IMO.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Everyone keeps saying Jake is in decline. Where is this coming from? Is it his velocity? His numbers? If he's declining from his Bob Gibson-like 2015 then yes, I see it. To me it looks more like he's a 3.5ish ERA guy with flashes of dominance. He had a pretty long stretch last summer before he got hurt where he was probably a top 5 SP in baseball. Jake's numbers over the last 4 years compare very favorably to Darvish.' He's thrown fewer career innings, and he hasn't been hurt (other than his hamstring last year; Darvish has been somewhat injury prone). I think Arrieta is a much better bet to hold up physically over the next 4/5 years, and could easily be the better bet to provide more value.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I'm not saying Jake vs. Darvish. I am simply saying Jake is in a decline phase. You can see it in his pitching. And the numbers show it as well. His velocity is down. His cutter is gone (he even admitted to losing his cutter). BB's are up and K's are down. That is a decline, no?

    For the type of money he is asking a 3.5ish ERA guys is not a TOR guy for the Cubs. Heck, Jake wasn't the TOR guy the last 2 post-seasons for the Cubs. Why would he be that guy now?

    I know there is money to spend and I was all about spending on a FA pitcher or two. I have changed my mind recently as neither Jake not Darvish are all that appealing to me.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    League average ERA in 2017 was 4.30. A guy posting 3.50 is not top top tier, but it's definitely super valuable (although I agree, ay $27M AAV how much surplus value are you getting?).
    The postseason thing... I don't even know if I agree. In 2016 he had 1 decent start against SF, 1 bad one in LA, and 2 dominant (not lengthy) starts against Cleveland. Last year he was good in the playoffs, but his high BB (which admittedly scared me a lot) limited him to 5 innings both starts.
    I'm saying there are red flags, yes. But it's not crystal clear he's in a sharp decline. He's never going to be the guy we saw 2 years ago. But is he closer to June/July Arrieta (sing me up!) or high BB, low hit October Arrieta (at which point 4/$110M becomes iffy).

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I don't think signing a pitcher for $25-$27 AAV for 4 years is going to stop them from signing Harper or Machado if that's what they want to do. Also I respectfully disagree that this team is good enough to win the Division with Q, Hendrick, Lester, Chatwood, Montgomery. Maybe as you look at rosters right now but what if St. Louis sign Hosmer and Holland? I actually don't believe their interest in Arrieta is real because, while you always could use another pitcher, they need a closer and another and another bat a lot more. Martinez, Wacha, Weaver, Reyes (at some point), Wainwright with Flaherty and Hudson as rotation depth is probably a fair bit better than our staff as you propose it. Now, you add Darvish at the top and get one more pen arm and I feel confident that we win the Division by at least a few games even with the Cardinals picking up a bat and a closer. As I've said many times Lester scares the heck out of me and nothing about Q says 1/2 type to me. I like him a lot but as a solid 2. I caution against overestimating what we have here.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I think you're overestimating what St Louis has and underestimating what the Cubs have. The Cubs rotation, right now, is better. Their offense is much better, and their defense is much better.
    I want the Cardinals to add Hosmer almost as much as I want the Cubs to add another TORP. Hosmer is garbage. Seeing the Cardinals lock him up for 9 figures would make me so happy.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I like St. Louis top 3 starters of Martinez, Wacha and Weaver better than Q, Hendricks and Lester. Now Reyes is a question mark as to well he performs in 2018 after TJ but if he's even serviceable I like him better than Chatwood and Wainwright better than Montgomery. Again if you add Darvish (or Archer for that matter if we're wishing on rainbows) and put him at the top I like our staff slot for slot better than the Cardinals, but that's the difference to me. Also if Hosmer were to come in and set up Ozuna with a .385 OBP that he put up last year that's dangerous and Fowler and his lifetime .366 OBP hasn't gone anywhere. I think the Cardinals have an awful manager and we have a great one and I think our best player in Bryant is better than their best in Ozuna but they're not awful. This can be a better team than they have but without a TOR it's awfully dicey. Too much so for my tastes.

  • In reply to TC154:

    It feels like you're projecting their players at their ceilings. Ozuna just put up his first really good season. I'd say he's more likely to go back to his norms than to repeat that. Hosmer (not even a Cardinal yet) has been an actual replacement caliber player until last year. And he still led the universe in ground ball rate in 2017. Again, him repeating a .385 OBP, 4-WAR season is very unlikely.
    The SP are a matter of opinion I suppose. I'd take Hendricks over everyone except probably 4 or 5 guys. I'd take Q and Hendricks over Martinez and Wacha for sure. Wacha is average. Reyes is coming off a major injury. Weaver has been in the league for 15 minutes. He's a decent-sized question mark too, no? Wainwright is a corpse of himself at this point.
    I'd say Lester is a good bet to bounce back, and Chatwood's road numbers and GB rate are very encouraging. I don't think the Cubs rotation is miles better, but I'd take it over the Cards' every time.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Signing an expensive pitcher will have an affect on signing Harper or Machado. I don't think the Cubs will pursue either due to the length of contract and dollars per year they will be asking.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    You could be right, but I think by staying under the tax this year they are clearly setting themselves up to pursue one and if the Machado pursuit in trade is real that's another sign for me that's their plan. After all if you got that other bat for 2018 it would matter which one you signed for 2019, even if that guy is Harper. I'd do Russell and Montgomery for Machado right now in a heartbeat and put him a SS where he wants to play. If you can't sign him pursue Harper. Then you simply plan on exceeding the tax threshold for the three remaining years in your window. None of that should preclude signing a pitcher now as this team will find it hard to contend without one.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I don't see the front office signing long term 300+ million contracts

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Honestly, I was right where you are a couple of months ago but looking at how cautious they are right now approaching salary going into the "superclass" of 2019 I really think they're looking at moving on Machado or Harper, and the pursuit of Machado in a trade this year reinforces that thought. rbrucato has believed this for awhile, even if I'm a recent convert. In any case we'll all see. In the meantime I think 2018 is a golden opportunity and I want to field the best team we can.

  • In reply to TC154:

    It is not just the Cubs being cautious but all of baseball being cautious. Not sure how much credence you can put into the Machado rumors.I think your resources would be better used going after pitching rather than tying up a 10 year 300+ million dollar deal.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I am with you. I do not see the Cubs signing Machado to a 10 yr 300 million deal. He is not filling a weakness on the Cubs. That would not be a wise use of money.

  • In reply to TC154:

    You have been very consistent in your points and I value your thoughts on the Staff. I admit I have changed my thoughts on the pitching. I do believe the Cubs win the division today by 5+ games. And Holland and Hosmer included doesn't change that in my mind. We can play the what if game too for Offense -- what if the Cubs add Machado and/or Yellich? Does that make them much better and ease the concerns of the SP? I don't know the answer other than the Cubs are the best team in the NL Central and regardless of any additional signings that doesn't change it for me. I just hate the value of what Jake and Darvish would cost. If they were Greinke or Kershaw or Kluber, then heck yes go spend the money. I just don't see Jake or Darvish as a legit TOR talent and especially for 4-6 years as required to get them under contract.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Jake doesn't thrill me but I'd gamble on 4 years if I had to. I'd go 5 on Darvish because I think he's the better pitcher with better mechanics and the risk at 5 years is probably the same as going 4 for Arrieta. The biggest issue I have is that this is not a team that will easy time trading for a TOR in July. If they could it would change my thinking but those guys available in July generally go for prospect packages and the FO tried and failed to do that for Verlander last year, despite the pitcher wanting to come here badly. If I were to assess where my thinking differs from a lot of folks it's Jon Lester. I see further decline, I don't see bounceback. If I'm wrong that changes things as well.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Maybe you just pointed out one of the main differences we have—John Lester.

    I believe he will be the “Alpha Male” and lead dog of the staff for at least 1 more year. I trust how LHP can age better with a possible velocity decline. In big games I have no issue with Lester taking the bump against any other #1. I like Lester to slot #1, Kyle #2, and Q #3. We can win any series at any time with those guys.

    I can understand why you could also feel less inspired by that rotation. I really wish they would have figured a way to get Verlander too last deadline.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Well that's it then. I'm counting him to be no better than a 4 after last year and if your counting on him to lead the staff that's a huge difference. If I knew for sure he was pitching injured last year I'd probably be closer to your position but we've heard nothing about that and his FIP was 4.10 with his BB/9 creeping up for the second year in a row. Plus his average velo was down from 93.1 to 93.7 on his FB. I love Jon Lester, he's been a favorite of mine since he was a rookie with Boston. Quintana and Cole Hamels have been favorites of mine for the same reasons, crafty lefties with decent FB velo, great movement and solid breaking balls of one type or another. After a flamethrowing ace those guys are my favorite kinds of pitchers. Rock solid. The thing is father time catches us all and last year looked like he was creeping up on Jon. If he was pitching hurt, which frankly I really thought, then it's different but why hasn't it been reported by now? I get you don't report that in season but eventually it comes out and it hasn't.

    Trust me I want to be wrong on him but the more I look at the NL in 2018 the more I see a golden opportunity. I always start making spreadsheets for the contender this time of year (the cold stove is helping) and I think LA is in for a major decline. Turner, Taylor and Puig all had years that will be difficult to repeat, Seager looks to have chronic back problems and they need a LF better than Hernandez. Also I don't think Kershaw and the cast of thousands works as rotation for two year in a row. I say this by way of saying that I think the Nationals, followed by the Cubs, could be the two best teams in the NL by a wide margin if we fill our holes properly. Right now that's a TOR and one more reliever. Do that and make the Machado deal and I might like them better than Washington. I just want to see them make the most of this opportunity. LA won't stay down long, St. Louis could improve just by some additions and a change of managers (for 2019 as they seem married to Matheny for now) and teams like the Brewers, Rockies, Phillies and even the Braves are coming in the next few years. I want a World Series this year and I can taste it.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I just posted a long reply that got eaten. Maybe Mike would be kind enough to fish it out. If not I'll post an abbreviated version later.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Well maybe my post is just lost so I'll try again, albeit in a briefer version. Lester is obviously the difference in our thinking. I think he's a 4 now but if he's 2016 Lester then it's a different equation. To me it all has to do with whether he was pitching hurt last year or it was just natural decline. Jon Lester has been one of my favorite pitchers since he was a rookie with Boston. I like his "type" in general with both Quintana and Cole Hamels also being favorites. Crafty lefties with killer breaking balls and enough FB velo to keep hitters honest. If he has more left than I thought great, but I don't want to count on that as I think the NL is there for the taking this year. Washington is the class of the league but add a starter and I think we're right with them. I've started my 2017 spreadsheets for the contenders and LA looks to be a candidate for real decline in 2018. Taylor, Turner and Puig all had years they won't be likely to repeat and Seager appears to have chronic back issues. Plus Kershaw and a bunch of number 3/4 types might not get it done two years in a row. I can taste the World Series. I'd hate to be one signing short.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Lester is in decline and at 34 can't be expected to be the big game pitcher. It all depends if his decline is gradual or rapid to determine his role on the team. I don't think he is a number 1 anymore.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Don't think you get Jake for 4 years.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I've yet to hear of anyone offering him more than that. Maybe he gets five but if either of the top guys gets five years my money is on Darvish.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Most of the long term contracts are signed knowing the last couple years could be bad

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    This is true. So do you front-load or overpay in the beginning to offset declining performance and the payroll for that declining performance? Or go shorter in length? I don’t think it is smart to pay the same AAV as player age (i.e. paying $38MM for a 38 year old).

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Well I think this is where we're seeing a change. Contracts for the past several years have been for total value. For the sake of argument say you value fWAR at $8 mil (teams have their own valuations but this one is easy to look at) and you're looking at a position player that could give you 5 WAR/year for 4 years, then drop off to 2.5 for 2 years and 1.5 for a year looking at 7 years of future production. It's pretty difficult to pay for those 4 peak years in a 4 year deal as you'd be looking at a $40 mil AAV so instead teams would take the total value and divy it up over the course of the deal. So say that would be projected at 26.5 WAR over the 7 years so you'd look at 7/$212 mil with an AAV of $30ml per. You'd have surplus on the front end and a deficit on the back end but you also might think that you won't be in a contention at the end of the deal, or you could trade the player and eat money. In other words you add years to balance out the money. The trend the last 3 years though is moving away from this line of thought. Teams would rather overpay in AAV for less years rather than be saddled with unproductive players as a significant draw on resources at the end. This isn't going to work for every player though. The Harpers and Machados of the world will have to get long deals a-la Giancarlo Stanton because if you expect a guy to average say 6.5 WAR over 4 years it would be pretty difficult to pay him a $52 mil AAV over those 4 years. which might mean 30% of their annual payroll on one guy. What I think is going to happen is that the 2.5-4.5 WAR players are going to get hosed, while the true superstars will remain relatively unaffected.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I agree with what you wrote here. I believe the mindset is changing. The generational HOF players will be unaffected. The good 2-3 WAR players will get hurt.

    The key is to pay $5MM value on the $8MM per 1 WAR equation and not be burdened for a long period of time. I believe Theo and Jed are all over this.

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    I'd rather have a year of Jay again. Unless they magically land Yelich. Machado would be nice, but Cubs aren't in a small window. Sign Darvish, or trade for one. Get another BP piece.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Agreed. Darvish and Addison Reed and we'll see you in the NLCS.

  • In reply to Wrigley0923:

    Don't need Jay - already have too many players fighting for playing time

  • Just let the first of the three make a move

  • Although the compensation is less this year, the extra draft pick if we take Yu over Jake is not nothing. Minors are thin, every pick in the top 100 would help. I'd take Yu for 5 over Jake for 4.

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