Cubs Can't Afford Free Agent Phobia

"How often does a hundred million dollar contract work out?"

This is a common refrain that has been inextricably linked to the Cubs incomplete off-season. The Cubs are clearly done with their planned off-season except for a single move to bolster their rotation. There are three arms available that would represent a substantial upgrade and the Cubs continue to play chicken with this group holding firm on offers that represent a clear cut from the previous norms of the market, given the limited information available to us.

It is understandable why teams fear these long term deals. The risk presented in offering a single player over a hundred million guaranteed dollars is the greatest risk any club takes. The idea that clubs sign these deals thinking they are likely to get five or six seasons of peak performance is silly though. Teams have known for a long time about the trajectory of the average player’s career for decades at a minimum. Teams sign these deals thinking they will get a few peak seasons that make the entire contract worthwhile. Jon Lester’s 6 year $155 million deal is a perfect example of this. Using Fangraphs system of valuing production, Jon Lester has been worth $96.5 million already. There is no expectation that Lester is going to continue to perform at the level he did in 2015 and 2016. The Cubs do not need that for the deal to “work out.”

Still many applaud the financial restraint shown by the Cubs this offseason as shrewd due to not wanting to invest in declining assets. This neglects the Cubs recent success in doing just that from Jon Lester’s six year deal or Ben Zobrist’s four year deal (and also doesn’t acknowledge that the biggest miss under Theo Epstein was on a player not in the decline phase by age in a then 25 year old Jason Heyward).There is a lot that could be written about the offseason. There are certainly ethical questions raised by how the market has acted this offseason, but a more interesting question is whether this truly makes baseball sense for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. And the answer is ultimately no. The Cubs cannot afford to not land one of the top three starters, and beyond that it should be Yu Darvish that the Cubs add this week before pitchers and catchers officially report.

One reason many fans seem unconcerned by the slow market and gaping hole in the rotation is the idea that the Cubs are almost assured their third straight division crown. The level of confidence is staggering and probably not completely unfounded. But a baseball season is a marathon. And a fourth straight playoff appearance is not a “mere matter of marching.” PECOTA projections released yesterday highlight this well. The Cubs are projected to win five more games than the second place Cardinals, but the gap between the Cubs and the Cardinals is the smallest projected gap in baseball. The gap between the Cubs and third place Brewers at six games which is smaller than the gap between any other projected division leader and their runner up.

pecota

Projections aren’t perfect, but PECOTA has a fairly strong track record of success. The fact that it is projecting the NL Central to be the closest division race for the third out of the past four years shouldn’t be a source of comfort. However, even if the Cubs could manage to win the division (and they could as the projections clearly show) with a rotation giving the ball to Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery two out of every five times that still doesn’t make it an optimal baseball strategy. The largest reason is that the odds aren’t very high that the Cubs will only need five starters. Mike Montgomery as your fifth starter removes your best depth, and so then Alec Mills, Jen-Ho Tseng and Adbert Alzolay become your best depth. They might be able to provide some innings, but a team in a championship window relying on one of those options to pitch many meaningful games is the definition of suboptimal.

Trade is an option, but the Cubs have a very particular set of circumstances which makes that difficult. There are always arms on the move at the deadline, but the number of options that are likely to be better than what the Cubs could sign for just cash now is small. The rental market isn’t likely to be terribly strong with many of the free agent to be options pitching on quality teams like Dallas Keuchel, and a deal for a cost controlled starter that can take the ball in a postseason series is even more unlikely. The only pieces that the Cubs have to make that type of trade are currently on the big league roster. The needle that has to be threaded on that type of deal in the middle of the season is incredibly small. If the player isn’t playing well then the team is potentially selling low on a valuable asset. The opposite is the Ian Happ situation last year where the player is playing so well that it becomes impossible to move the player midseason or else you have robbed Peter to pay Paul with no impact hitting prospects on the horizon.

However, the damage to the Cubs chances in 2018 may already have happened if rotation is upgraded in the middle of the season. The Cubs rotation had been a surprising source of strength throughout the Epstein regime’s time. This was especially true in the first half of the season, at least until last year’s early season struggles. The bullpen had to pitch a lot of innings in the first half of the season to keep the team afloat until the second half surge. Cubs relievers threw 312 innings in 88 games in the first half of the season last year. That was the sixth most in baseball last year. The performance of the entire group suffered in the second half, and overwork is an obvious explanation for at least some of the decline. A bullpen that is counting on guys with extensive arm injury histories (Brandon Morrow the most notable) needs a rotation that can consistently shorten their night to three or few innings of work.
cubs-bullpen
The Cubs need another starter to strengthen their roster now. There are obvious benefits to doing it now, and that aren’t obvious better options available later to fill this need. There is also a benefit to making this upgrade before pitchers and catchers report instead of continuing the staring contest into March. Team chemistry has been a scoffed at notion, but the 2016 Cubs have talked extensively about the role that played from David Ross presence to the Jason Heyward speech. There is an added need to bring Darvish into the fold sooner than later. He has something that needs to be worked on, and getting more time with the Cubs very good pitching infrastructure is a good thing. The Cubs coaching have received all sorts of deserved plaudits for their abilities to work with pitchers. The value in a free agent deal comes from the early part of the contract and the Cubs should not be jeopardizing value in any way.

The only positive from this situation is that the Cubs front office is very good at their jobs. They are not infallible, but people far more connected than me continue to assure that the Cubs will not enter the season with Mike Montgomery as the fifth starter. One of my few fears about this front office early on was their resolve to make the big moves when the time came. It is one thing to collect assets, but it is entirely a different thing to pull the trigger on the big trade like the one for Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana or sign the huge free agent like Jon Lester and Jason Heyward. They have, and I have faith that will again. The hope is that it will be sooner than later.

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  • Nice article, Mike.

    I think the dilemma is the # of years of what the FA's want. I don't see Theo/Jed wanting to go more than 3 years let alone 4-7. Also, with the epic class next year, it doesn't make sense to over-invest this year which puts you in a bind for those FA's. I believe the Cubs will make a trade for a pitcher if: 1) Lester, Hendricks, or Q gets injured early or 2) if Monty fails as a 5th. Either way, I don't see a trade happening until late May or June.

    I expect the Cubs to be near the top all year and win the division with 92+ wins. I believe some of the hitters improve to take pressure off the pitching. And we are not in a "hangover" phase where every move by a Cubs was celebrated for the first 45 days of the season.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I guess I don't see any pitchers to trade for and I don't see the pieces to move if there were. I think it's FA or bust.

  • In reply to TC154:

    At this time a year ago, Verlander wasn't available. It is too early to size up the trade market when it appears the Cubs are happy to start the season with the 5 they have with a little AAA depth.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I don't think they are willing to go with that and some point someone will blink, but if you do believe that they are why aren't you furious with these guys? Going with what they have is totally unaceptable for a team in the heart of a window.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I believe they don't want to get into a bad deal. I also don't think they are ready to trade any of the young players. If they were, I truly believe a Machado deal would have been made.

    I believe they are going to be patient and then pounce as a need arises. They know they are going to win 90+ games at a minimum as it currently stands, so why do something which hampers the long-term options?

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I like that the team is not running head-long into a bad, long-term deal. The caution is well warranted.

    That being said, I don't think we can say that anyone knows anything about how many games this team will win. Making assumptions like that seems overly optimistic to me and takes for granted that the team both remains healthy and also sees a pretty nice upswing/improvement in the rather humdrum years that more than one Cubs player had last year. This being baseball, those are 2 assumptions I'm not willing to make.

    I'm not sold at all on Montgomery being a good #5. I'm not sure he's going to be able to eat enough innings. On the other hand, he has shown real value at the long reliever/emergency starter role and also has shown when he's started more than a game here or there that he's less than effective and would put pressure on the bullpen that would add up over time. In short, I think the Cubs are a man light in their rotation.

    They could, potentially, go the trade route mid-season, but while the system has useful depth, it's also not the kind of talent that other teams are clamoring for or all that rare to find. Everyone's got potential BOR guys in their system and that's likely not going to land a good pitcher. In addition, if they were to trade the 2 or 3 top prospects in the system (again, assuming *they* stay healthy and also continue on their upwards trajectory which is never to be taken for granted with prospects either) with the idea that they'll restock those players in the draft and international free agency, they are pushing the timeline for (meaningful) contribution from the minors back another year or two.

    Getting a starter like Darvish or even resigning Arrieta "just" costs the team money. If they don't go crazy, it also likely won't impact their ability to enter the fray for Harper or Machado, et al.

    Last note--I'm admittedly perhaps not as risk tolerant as some, but it seems a bit silly to hold off on having the best team we can field this year while there's still a decent chance of postseason success in order to gamble on signing Harper or Machado. The Cubs aren't the only team out there that will be in the market and it's not guaranteed you get them. While I agree that the Cubs should make sure they are able to be in the conversation and make strong offers for those guys, there's still a relatively low chance we do get them. I want them to take a good swing at this year and not just hope and pray that Montgomery is ok and that the rotation stays healthy and bet the farm on a next year which may never come.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Very good post. I agree with everything. I might quibble with your point - putting the best team out there this year. They have put the best team out there — they obviously are not willing to blindly open a check book or make a silly trade juts to cover 2018. They are being prudent for both short-term and Long-term views.

    The projection systems are so good now we do know what we can expect for the most part. If Rizzo breaks his wrist and Bryant blows out a knee, then yes the projections mean nothing. All things being equal, the Cubs win the division. And this is not me arguing with my best friend as an 8th grader in 1981 that the Cubs are the best in the NL East and will win more games than the Sox. Haha. LOL.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Hahaha! Yeah, I know what you're saying. And all things being equal the Cubs should contend for the division title even without Darvish and Arrieta. I just hope they put themselves in the strongest possible position to do so. If they don't land one of them, I have a feeling we may be looking back in October and wondering "What if?"

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    PV
    We just have to be patient. Our FO will do a good job. The problem with many is they want the best player and they want them NOW. If you don't do it NOW the sky will fall. That is how you overpay and use the team resources inefficiently.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Stroman. Greinke. Their teams could fall behind early and the teams could sell.

    Teheran, Archer, -- what if the Dodgers fell way behind and threw feeler out on Kershaw?

    I think there will be a deal to be made, if necessary. Cubs win 92+ and rest their starters that last week of the season.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I always value your opinion, and I admire your optimism. There are too many ifs on this team and the Steamer and Pecota projections haven't done anything to lift my confidence, and yet I'm higher on some of the position players than the projection systems are so who knows? I do wonder why the projections always call for regression from Bryant? There has to be something in the underlying numbers that sets the algorithms off.

  • In reply to TC154:

    The "ifs" are in the form of Russell, Almora, Heyward, Schwarber, and Happ. I would be hopeful that Russell and Heyward won't put up 80's wRC+ in 2018. If they can get to say 95, then we are in a better spot. Schwarber will not be hitting on an Interstate well into the 2nd half. I don't believe Happ all of a sudden cannot play CF or 2B and strikes out 40%. I just don't see those things happening. So, IMO, the "ifs" are negligible and expect the Cubs to roll. I think the SP will all benefit from watching the other staffs get grinded down by our O and they will be pitching with house money most of the year.

    Last year was a malaise that hung over this team. It was a bad vibe from ST until June.

    I get your angst too. You are thinking World Series and not confident we match up very well. The Stros didn't match up very well and got it done.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I really think the Cubs will sign or trade for a pitcher within the next couple weeks. You aren't making a trade in late May.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Sutcliffe — June 13?

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Not May and more of an exception and not the rule. Most trades come closer to the trade deadline.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Point is it CAN happen and has happened. If the rotation is awful before Memorial Day, i expect Theo to make a love.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    It rarely happens and the majority of the teams aren't ready to sell that early.

    Don't worry the Cubs will have another starter before the season starts

  • You're right on point with this piece, Mike. As it stands the starting rotation is simply not good enough and trying to rationalize yourself into thinking that it is a fool's game IMHO. Also the best shot at a World Series starts with Darvish, not Lynn or Cobb. You're also right that Pecota is usually pretty good but interestingly enough they usually get one of their top teams wrong because of injury or the type of regression that isn't easily predictable based on numbers. I think the Dodgers will be one of these teams. I also think they're Washington who I think are better than they project. In any case, along with the Cubs, these are the three best teams in the NL. Those two teams are complete, the Cubs are not. There is an opportunity and I fully expect Theo and company to take it, but to say this has been a frustrating process is an understatement. The other part of this equation is that I'm not so certain Milwaukee and St. Louis are done yet either. None of us want to see those gaps narrowed any further.

    The problem I see right now in the negotiations with the remaining FA is that resentment and anger have taken over the process. I'm not sure anyone is really negotiating at all. It was reported yesterday that Minnesota has just made a formal offer to Darvish, but I have to believe that the framework for that offer has been known to his camp for some time. We know Darvish doesn't want to set the market, and we know that the MLBPA is urging it's members not to panic but we're a few days out from pitchers and catcher reporting and their are four key rotation pieces remaining on the market. You wonder if they'll all miss that date out of spite at this point. I wouldn't bet against that. So that leaves us where? Do teams move out of their comfort zones, and the parameters of the market and just get some of these deals done to try to soothe ruffled feathers or does this impasse go on up to and/or past the mandatory report date of February 24? I'd like the to believe the former but I'm leaning towards the latter and the fact that there will be no winners this offseason except for hurt feelings and spite.

  • The Cubs don't have free agent phobia. they got out in front of the market early and signed a starter and some key bullpen guys.
    By all accounts, they are the current high bidder on Darvish... but some want them to bid against themselves.
    The Cubs have been one of the most aggressive in the market. They are not the problem.
    The reporting date is simply not that important for players needing to get ready. Now it sounds like they will have the option of a free agent training camp... so report date is even less important.

  • There's only one set of numbers that is relevant: what offers are on the table? For instance, they said Cobb has an offer from the Cubs but didn't say what it is. Are teams offering Darvish 4 at $25 or 7 at $20? If the latter, he should take it. On the other hand, if the teams are using the same Sabremetrics or a competitive balance tax to which the MLBPA should not have accepted without a clearer quid pro quo, then bleep the teams and the lousy union negotiators.

  • In reply to jack:

    The Cubs offer to Cobb was 3 years for 42 million

  • I agree Mike.
    The Cubs signing one of the top free agent pitchers isn't a matter of "if they will sign one"...it is a matter of "when will they sign one".

  • Two things can be equally true. 1. The Cubs need another starting pitcher. 2. I wouldn’t blink and offer any of these pitchers a Jon Lester-type deal. They aren’t Jon Lester; they have flaws. Just because there is a need and Darvish is the best option doesn’t mean you give him what he wants. If you do, the only day fans will like that contract is the day he is signed.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    How about liking the contact when they win the World Series?
    Why have fans become so concerned about the owners saving money?

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I think fans have seen too many instances of teams tying up payroll in older, non-productive players. Nobody is feeling sorry for owners, but nobody wants their team to be the one that has no money to improve.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Signing one player to a big deal is not going prevent most teams the resources to improve.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Which is why Giancarlo Stanton is still a Marlin, of course. No, wait...
    Teams are certainly capable of committing too much of their payroll to aging players with declining production.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    And in the next breath you say how you wouldn’t spend money on Harper or Machado. You seem concerned frequently about not spending.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I don't see a need for Harper or Machado with all the young position talent on the team. If Kershaw is available then spend.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Young position talent that hasn’t lived up to the billing. (Looking at Russell, Schwarber, Heyward). Harper and Machado both play their spots. Not sure how you can’t see your SS and RF with wRC+ in the 80’s and think we would not look to upgrade.

  • Even though the rosters are not set lets do something fun.....

    Somebody would need to keep track of these and then report back when the season is over....

    How many games do we win this season?

    Put me down for 94 wins (screw Pecota)......and a division crown because nobody else in the Central will get 95.

    What do you say Denizens? What is YOUR #?

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Right now I’m at 88-90. With Darvish I might go as high as 94.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    With Darvish, I'm thinking 117 wins. I'm expecting our line up to mash big time and set all sorts of team offensive records. Top to bottom, everyone in our lineup will be better than last season. I can't wait. Juggernaut, baby!

    Yes sir!

  • In reply to TTP:

    Do like your optimism.....they are gonna hit......200 homeruns wouldnt surprise me.
    Im a big believer in QS but it seems teams are moving away from that......perhaps FO’s dont put as much importance in starters going long anymore......I think that is wrong.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Relative to "...starters going long" I've seen multiple articles showing hitters faring better the third time they face (almost) any given pitcher in any given game.

    And if they're hitters that work counts well, they've seen a lot of the increasingly many pitches that starter, with a similarly escalating pitch count, has thrown.

    I think we're seeing the beginning of another evolutionary adaptation. Will the good long, mid-innings guy be the next market opportunity/inefficiency?

  • In reply to MN Exile:

    That couldddddddd be...........but if so then starter money should drop if they arent as valuable ......but, would that happen?

  • In reply to TTP:

    Love the optimism, TTP! I do wonder if your 117-win projection is arbitrary or just to 1-up the record-setting 1906 squad?

    There are many reasons to be optimistic for this coming season. They young hitters are inching, collectively, closer to their prime. There should not be the intitial, months-long drag of a hangover. Hopefully we are not bit by the unexplained first-inning woes of the first half or the 8th inning black hole of the second half last season's pitching staff experienced. We will add another starter before we break camp.

    I'll go 95.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I was well aware of the record. ;-)

    I know I'm being silly and outlandish. But I really am looking for everyone our starters to improve -- and some by quite a bit. I really don't think 100+ wins is unrealistic.

    I can't wait for the season to start.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Pecota is wrong this year. Cubs with 98 wins. The hangover was real last year. The young 'uns will nonlinearly grow this year, and yes, the Cubs are getting Darvish.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    I don't buy the "hangover"

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I do. Especially for the pitchers.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Look at the Giants. World champions three times recently. Each time they failed to make the playoffs the following year. Cross over to the NHL and our beloved Blackhawks. Again 3 Stanley Cup championships recently, but never won back-to-back (although they are perennially a playoff contender).

    Add in the 108 year old elephant sitting on the back of the team when they finally came through. They were under a lot of stress in '16, believe me.

    #hangoverwasreal
    #justhavingfunnow

  • In reply to HefCA:

    "although they are perennially a playoff contender)."

    It's looking like this might not be the Blackhawks' perennial...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Yeah looks like I timed that comment poorly, although I would never rule out the Hawks until they are mathematically eliminated. They can rip off 10+ wins in a row any time, and be right back in the hunt.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    It's a mystery to me, with the talent they have. I thought they'd be stronger this year. Hope they can turn it around!

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I am going to be far more conservative that I was going into last season (where I projected 100+ wins in 2017). I think they slightly improve over last year's win total to end at 93 Wins.

    I also think we see an offensive rebound year from Russell, a year of consistency and health from Schwarber, at minimum a slightly below average offensive year from Heyward (maybe wRC 95), and a consistently healthy year for Zobrist, even if in a reduced playing-time role.

    I don't think that starting the year with Chatwood and Montgomery as the #4/#5 SP is going to be a bad thing,... but it does put a lot of pressure on the rotation to stay healthy, and does leave a lot of pressure on the #6, #7 & #8 depth starters in Iowa that makes me uncomfortable. I like the idea of having Mills and Tseng down there as a safety net, but one that is a luxury that the team won't 'need'.

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    with Darvish 95 wins. With Cobb or Jake 92 or so. Brew Crew about 87-88 as currently constituted. If Nightengale is correct and Darvish to the Cubs and Cobb to the Brewers, I think it hurts the Brewers, Cobb and Davies are similair style pitchers, pitching them back to back isnt going to help the 2nd guy there.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Wickdipper:

    Pretty much everyone had a down year last year, and they won 92 games and went to the NLCS. I see no reason they can’t win 95 and the division again.

  • In reply to John Winter:

    ^^^^this!!!!!

    We don’t need career years to get to 95 wins.

    #wearegood

  • Good article but I don't see phobia here. The Cubs were willing to add years to Lester's deal due to their history with him. I would be very wary of adding years just because the free agent in question wants them. If he's not willing to take more $ per year but a shorter contract length, then look at someone else. That's not phobia, it's good business. Also, the total $ of the contract are irrelevant. You can structure $100 million several ways....6 years (yuck for a 30+yo pitcher) or 3 years (much better for same pitcher), its the same $ either way.

  • I applaud the owners for not giving No. 2 or 3 starters six or seven years contracts at exorbitant prices. Darvish and Jake are both very good but they certainly do not project to be Max Scherzer, so Boras' view that they should get contracts near what Max got is just delusional. Yet there is little doubt that they've been offered generational wealth of over $100 million. There's gotta be a fair middle ground.

    But I'm now concerned that the apparent collusion is going to harden the players' position due to pressure from the union that they not cave and set a new precedent. So it's no longer about what Jake or Darvish are worth, it's about the defending the system and market.

  • In reply to TTP:

    “Harden”: I think you raise a good question. I actually think Jake might hold out into the season. Just a hunch, but I suspect the gap between how he sees himself and how the market does is wide. Darvish: I think he signs over the next week. The rumor on Twitter (so it had to be true) is that the Cubs have offered the largest four/year deal, and a five year with a much smalller AAV. He’s trying to get some team to top it. Either a team does or he goes with the Cubs.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I agree on Jake. He is a very proud and confident man.

    I also see Darvish the same way. I assume the Cubs' FO has a very firm grip on where the market is at. From the rumors, we are his preferred destination among the teams with actual offers, so we are probably using that as leverage to not raise our offer. It's also very possible he would prefer to return to L.A. if they could at least match our offer, and is waiting to see if the Dodgers can miraculously unload Kemp's contract to free up salary.

    Either way, we're in a good spot. We have a need, there are several options still available at most likely below-market rates when all is said and done, and we will get one of them.

    I believe we sign Darvish.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I agree with you. I think we eventually sign Darvish but it will not be at below market rates. It will be the current market rate. It may be lower than the previous CBA rates but it will be the current market rate.

    As for Jake, he is very confident in his abilities and his agent is Scott Boras. I would not be surprised if he does not sign for a long time. Could be after the draft and if it is we don't get a draft pick for some other team signing him.

  • I leaning toward rbrucato' s line of thinking being in line with the way the front office is looking at this off-season. No long term contracts, that outlive their usefulness . It makes too little sense for this season. Cubs have young stars some of which will need to be extended or resigned. They might like to add a free agent as well. I want one of the top three, but not for 5 to 7yrs.

  • We should not give up a draft pick and international slot money
    for any FA. Must be under 32 and take a contract for 4 years

  • The Cubs are in a very interesting position this offseason, and I'm sure there is lots of discussion regarding the FAs available.
    There are some very big boys in MLB who do not look like they will be seriously involved in searching for premium players. Teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox (maybe?) appear to be putting their eggs in next year's FA basket. Houston traded for Cole, so also appears to be out of the running for pitchers, at least.

    That's a lot of high payroll teams out of the hunt for the likes of Darvish and Arrieta. Does anyone think that the Cubs want to throw in with this group of teams and do the same thing (go shopping next year)? Hell no!! This is an opportunity to grab a player that normally would be much more difficult to sign. Many of the dominant teams are standing pat (at least in FA) with regards to 2018. That has opened a door for the Cubs to really improve their chances in 2018.

    I believe Darvish (or maybe Arrieta depending on how the FO ranks these players) is squarely in the crosshairs of the Cubs. The only sticking point is the number of years, as the Denizens point out. There are too many core players on this team who will need new contracts in 2021/2022, so look for a 4-5 year contract worth $110M-$135M to sign one of the two (probably Darvish).

    When others blink, this FO acts.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Excellent post, HefCA. That's exactly where we are at. No one could have predicted how this offseason has played out, so I would not give the FO all the credit for being in this enviable position, but they have rode the tide almost perfectly to this point. They identified crucial needs and struck early with the signings of Chatwood, Morrow, and Cishek. We could absolutely use an upgrade in the rotation, but it is not a necessity.

    We will sign another starter. We have the need and threshold room to do so. Many of the big boys are not spending, as you mentioned, and we are the biggest boy left. There are four FA starters left who would upgrade our staff, and very few serious suitor's left. We will get one of them, and almost certainly on much better terms that usual.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I keep thinking that there are conversations going on between Epstein & Co. going along the lines of "If our major competitors want to focus so much on 2019, let's take the reins for this year. After all, it's just as important as next year is."

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Great post indeed. I might throw the Phillies in as a potential signing advisary. They have the money and are ready to turn the corner with a splashy free agent. Haven’t heard many rumors of their involvement so my guess is they are going to go after Harper and/or Machado.

  • Value is important, but it's only one consideration when signing FAs. Your Chevrolet may be worth every penny you paid for it, but if the monthly payment takes up so much of your paycheck that you can't afford the Mercedes that you know will be on the market soon, you might need to rethink your budgeting. The Cubs are negotiating with the long-term in mind, and I'm OK with that.

  • I want to win. It was mentioned above that PECOTA often doesn't take into account injuries, and usually misses big on one (or more) of their division picks.

    I'm a big fan of Q. Lester is a competitor, but aging. Hendricks is steady, though not spectacular.

    Tyler Chatwood, to me, is a lottery ticket, and guaranteed no more success than Brett Anderson last year. Could he be a steal? Sure. Could he be as, or more steady as Lackey was last year? Sure. There's no guarantee of it happening.

    And as much as I appreciate and like Mike Montgomery, I don't view him as being ready for prime time. His value is clearly as depth in the rotation and a more steady arm in the bullpen.

    The point is, where is this team if Q deals with injury for really the first time in his career? What if age catches up with Lester? The youth on offense provides a larger window for sustained success, but it's a window nevertheless.

    Jake Arrieta isn't the same pitcher he was in 2015 or 2016. But the Jake Arrieta of 2017 was still pretty damn good, and will be missed if he's not replaced. I don't know that he's the guy I want between he and Darvish, but I want one of them. The division is probable, but not guaranteed, and we are at the point where we want more than just playoff appearances...especially with the offensive talent.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    That's the biggest risk, depth, of entering the season with what we have, and why I am all but positive we will add another starter. His name is Yu Darvish. Ther is no way this FO goes into this season, in the heart of our Championship window, with Chatwood and Montgomery 4/5, and Tseng or Mills as potential long-term options (I don't see how Butler makes the roster).

    There are no guarantees, of course, but I am expecting Chatwood to be a very pleasant surprise and far out-perform what would typically be expected out of a #5, which is the slot he will fill opening the season.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Agreed with your assessments of both Chatwood and Montgomery Sinister. Chatwood's numbers last year away from Colorado were interesting, and if he can project those sorts of numbers for a full season mostly away from Denver, then I think we all look at that signing as brilliant come October 2018.

    Montgomery in some ways reminds me of what we were seeing from Jeff Samardzija before they transitioned him in from the bullpen to the rotation in 2012. Lefty version obviously. When Montgomery has got his pitches working, he's hard to hit, but he's got just enough inconsistency that he can look bad when exposed too long or the third time through a lineup.

    Both of these two guys could be big success stories going into 2018 if they are in the rotation. But - both could end up not being enough.

    I would love to see Arrieta back this season - but not on a 5 year contract. Same for Darvish. But that may be the price that has to get paid for either of them to make it work.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Chatwood’s FIP away from Coors was still 4.79. I’ve been sort of perplexed why those numbers are being used to prove his case as that’s not all that good and neither was his BB/9 on the road. I do get the case for his spin rate and the near elite curve, but the road number thing doesn’t hold water.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I think it's just a case of adding all the variables together to equal a greater sum. The spin rates, pitch selection, the mental aspect of going back and forth between Mile High and road starts, the fresh start with a new team and coaching staff. I've read some analysis, and actual quotes from Chatwood, who said that pitching in the thin air affected his pitch selection and confidence even on away from home.

    I don't have actual numbers to justify my optimism, just a knowledge of the game and unbridled hope.

    Go Cubs!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Theo was very happy to sign Chatwood and said he has been trying to obtain him for a number of year. If Theo is that high on Chatwood then I am thinking he will be a pleasant surprise. He may pitch like a #3 SP.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Agreed. He can use his best pitches much more often now. The breaking stuff just does not work well in Denver. Now he'll be able to use it whenever he wants to. I really like this signing. He could be what Hammel was for the Cubs in 2016, which is very good.

  • In reply to TC154:

    If Chatwood, worst case, gives 30+ starts of 6 innings and 3 ER, we will be just fine. He is replacing Lackey, not Jake. Q is replacing Jake. Monty is replacing Anderson.

    I think we upgraded on all 3 pitchers. And this was a 92 win team with a bad inconsistent offense wth multiple major underperformers.

    I completely understand and respect your opinion on the staff. And the current configuration is certainly fair game for critique.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I'd be thrilled with an ERA in the low 3's. THRILLED. The thing is does a 4.79 FIP, even with improvement to the Cubs defense get you anywhere close to that? I think what a lot of people are doing in looking at our team is expecting improvement and using that for projections. I don't do that. I expect regression for older players and holding steady with younger ones when I make predictions. Now, as far as what I expect maybe I'd pick this team for 96-98 wins assuming they add DArvish but I would never predict that.In other other hope for the best expect the worse and when I'm talking about them adding pieces it's based on the worst. If that makes any sense at all.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I remember reading an article that said Chatwood was tied for the 2nd best ERA in the NL over the last two years. TWO YEARS, that is not a small sample size. I don't know exactly how FIP is calculated but it seems he consistently gets better results than his FIP indicates he should have. I think our FO has found a gem but we will just have to be patient to find out.

  • In reply to John57:

    His ERA away from Coors has indeed been good 3.49 in 2017 and an impressive 1.69 in 2016. The problem is that in both cases his ERA outperformed his FIP by a lot 4.79 in 2017 and 3.70 in 2016. I'm not saying he can't be good, I'm just saying that if FIP is the part of pitching that he personally controls by using his ERA you're taking a bit of a leap. As I said I do get the spin rate argument and the curve ball could be elite if he keeps working on it but this guy is work in progress and I'm not swayed by the home and away argument just yet.

  • In reply to TC154:

    3 ER in 6 IP is a 4.50 ERA. I would never say Chatwood would deliver an ERA in the 3.00's.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    rbrucato, I'm confused. His ERA away from Coors was 3.49 in 2017 and 1.69 in 2016 both with fairly decent sample size, 80 innings in 206 and 77 in 2017. This is what a lot of people are hanging their hats on. I don't look at ERA at all anymore, I pay attention to FIP since that's what a pitcher has in his control. I do agree that he should be a different pitcher outside of Coors though.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I was responding to you saying you would be “thrilled” with an ERA in the low 3’s and i was saying if he can give a 4.50 ( 3 runs in 6 IP) we will be happy. The Cubs offense will laugh at 3 runs in the 6th inning. We will win a lot of games he starts. His FIP or actual ERA will likely be in the 4 range give or take a tenth of a point. I do not believe he contends for an ERA title now that he is out of Coors. He replaces Lackey and is an upgrade, IMO. If anyone expects his last two season away from Coors, then they will be disappointed.

  • I started to post this in response to Sam's "Just write the check" article on Monday, and Mike's "too close for comfort" argument is far more compelling. However, there are other aspects than budget to roster construction. Granted, Darvish provides the best opportunity to win now, much like the Chapman acquisition in 2016. Unlike the Chapman rental, the price includes a roster spot through probably 2022 at least. All five of the current starters are controlled through 2020, plus Smyly for next year. Montgomery is the likely odd man out (to the pen). Despite an undefined role, he actually had an average game score of 52 as a starter last season and has expressed a strong desire to continue as one. Darvish averaged a 56 and Jake a 54. Adding Darvish, the message to Montgomery is that we don't trust you as a starter, and since "Ninety percent of the game is half mental," there is a risk of set back as a reliever as well if his confidence falters. In 2021, regardless of the price tag, would you rather start Montgomery, or Darvish, or Alzolay, or another controlled system pitcher entering his prime that Michael educated us on? Haven't even touched on the 2021-22 payroll and the need to pay the core. And team chemistry is a factor also. I respect guys that simply go to the highest bidder, but if Darvish truly prefers to be a Dodger, or Ranger, I don't want him "settling" for the Cubs. Especially if that means he displaces a teammate who got the final out to end the longest drought in professional sports history.
    Personally, my best outcome is that Darvish signs with the Twins (or any AL team); as long as he stays out of the NL Central. If Brewers/Cardinals sign Jake, or Cobb, and we find ourselves in a race in July, we can always rent an arm. Alternatively, there is also the option of a shorter deal with opt-out like the Mets did with Cespedes. Or just dance with the one who brung you.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    "If Brewers/Cardinals sign Jake, or Cobb, and we find ourselves in a race in July, we can always rent an arm"

    How sure are you of this? Our minor league system isn't very strong right now and other teams who also might be in contention can easily outbid us with better prospects right now. I think it's a pretty big assumption and risk to think it is as simple as this.

    Also, if Montgomery can't handle being in the pen, let's trade him and put in someone who can handle it. I like him for the role he plays, but he's also hardly irreplaceable.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    I lean more with you on this one. We have the need, "cap space", and FA pitchers available. There is no reason not to sign one. The only way we make a trade is to deal one or more of Happ, Schwarber, Russell, Almora, Baez, or Montgomery. The only way we do that is if we get better value in that deal than simply spending the money we have available. I don't see that happening.

    I don't veiw Montgomery as expendable as you seem to, though. He has made waves by complaining, publicly, about his role on the team, which is never good. His rational, taken in context, is that it would be better for the team and himself to be assured a starting role. The numbers don't quite back that up, but he is entitled to his opinion. I think the slow market forcing him into uncertainty regarding his role entering the season has contributed to his comments. The Cubs have dealt with a similar (but much worse) situation with LaStella, and cooler heads prevailed. I expect Montgomery to accept his swing role and perform well. He is under contract and cannot dictate his role, so I get that argument too, but he is venting.

    In a different situation, with more time available, it would be best to deal him. But this has been a relatively late-developing situation, and there isn't time to make a deal to adequately fill his vital role on this team, IMO.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I probably came off as being a bit more negative on Montgomery than I actually am. To be clear, I like him and want him on the team. He's really good in his role on the team which I see as long-relief/swingman/emergency starter. There's value there for sure and he's talented, but I just don't see him as a starter.

    As for my comment that he's "replaceable" I simply mean that there are others who can fill his role if we're desperate. Trade for Travis Wood again. Or wait until Smyly comes back and he can play that role. Or bring up a Tseng or even Zastryzny. They may not be as good as him, but they'd probably do alright and not be too huge of a downgrade that it would cost the team the division.

    Lastly, I'm fine with guys having a competitive spirit and wanting more for themselves and seeing themselves as being the answer. In fact, I think we all want guys with that spirit and fight in them. I just meant that if he becomes a distraction, then the Cubs should look at moving him. As mentioned above, I think they have more options for replacing him in that long relief role and having a malcontent on the team is never good for morale.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to charactercounts:

    I was just thinking about posting a similar comment. If Darvish don't want to be here why would we want him. Boston is having the same with JD Martinez. Move on from them. This does have an effect on the team. My Pacers of the NBA had Paul George force his way out after last year, a year in which they were a bad team. We got two players that want to be here and now have a pretty good winning team. Conversely the Cleveland Cavs had a bunch of players that didn't want to be there and were bad and dysfunctional. They just removed those players from the team. We'll see how that works. Point being, I dont want players on the team that were wishing they were somewhere else.

  • "There are certainly ethical questions raised by how the market has acted this offseason..." Only in posturing by the MLBPA.

    I find it interesting that nobody brings up "ethical questions" when Scott Boras is demanding, and getting, record-setting contracts for players he represents. Let the teams refuse to pay whatever is demanded, however, and suddenly ethics are in question. Players (and their agents) certainly have the right to sell to the highest bidder, but the teams aren't obligated to bid whatever amounts the players & agents dream up.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I think Boras is good for the game by keeping the owners honest. Are he and the other agents overreaching some this year? Almost certainly, but teams are also suddenly switching gears from how they've operated for over a decade. I think the blame for the ranco this offseason is shared by both sides more or less equally. I also think each case of the remaining FA are fairly unique even if they've been lumped together. If Eric Hosmer has two seven year offers worth $140 mil or so and he's not taking either than that's on him. That's a fair value. JD Martinez is probably worth closer to $150 mil than the $210 they started at but yet his offer is said to be about $125 mil. I can see his frustration. I'm not going to go through every case but I think this is a mixed bag and it's being portrayed as greedy players vs owners trying to stop the bleeding and I don't agree with that. This game went from $11 billion in revenue in 2011 to $12 billion in 2017 so the money is there and I don't blame teams for trying to spend wisely but it seems to me that good faith negotiations have stopped. I'm not going to blame that all on Boras, the players or the MLBPA. Tems have their part to own as well.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Why is Scott Boras driving prices up considered "keeping them honest" while GMs who are trying to keep prices down are raising "ethical questions?" The value of a player is determined by ONE thing - and that's what someone is willing to pay. We're going on two assumptions here, 1)Higher pay is better for the game, and 2)Value is determined by yesterday's contract rate. Neither stance has any more validity than any other stance. The market determines value, and unless the MLBPA wants to start up its own league, the MLB owners ARE the market. Not saying that owners can't be stubborn and greedy - I just don't like the idea that they are obligated to pay whatever the players demand.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I believe in whatever the market will bear. Negotiation is fine. In general, orgs should be frugal, because one can count on one hand the number huge contracts in years and $$ that where a good idea. Not just if the player earns his way, but also, not one stud does a franchisee make. He needs a team around him.

    Perceptive players look at more than just bringing home the top dollar as well. I'm not sure Darvish is too keen on playing in Chicago. Therefore, Chicago should not be to keen on overpaying for his services.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I like your last paragraph. I've been thinking the same thing. But there are other explanations for the delay, I think. I believe me may be sand-bagging our offer knowing that out of the realistic options, this is where he wants to play. Or as I mentioned before, he may prefer L.A. and is holding out to see if they can unload Kemp's contract and free up some cash. He really has nothing to lose by holding out. He will sign, and is probably just holding out for his best outcome in a whacky market. If he does, and I'll bet he does, sign with us, I'd guess it was not for the absolute top deal (meaning we didn't simply out-bid everyone), and we will realize, once again, the Cubs are a preferred destination and our FO is somewhat competent.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I agree with your take on Darvish.

    Just don't post that same sentiment over on the "other" board, or you will likely get totally destroyed and kicked in the face like I did earlier this week, when I posted something similar in thought about the Darvish situation.

    I'm glad this blog is a little more tolerant of differing thoughts and treats its long-time posters with a little more respect.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    If all GM's are working to keep the price down then you can start talking collusion.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I'm a big believer in evidence. Not saying that collusion can't, or hasn't, happened, but there needs to be some evidence before the term is thrown around.The fact that no team has submitted the offer that players or their agents demand is not evidence of collusion.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    It is the fact they can be seen as trying to keep salaries down

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    And, that's fine. Nothing wrong with any business trying to conserve its funds. ALL the teams can decide to do it, at the same time, if they want. It's still not "collusion" until they actually, um, "collude." There isn't any evidence that they have.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    What is the number of those record setting deals? What is the number of players on deals that inherently lower their monetary rewards for their skills (pre-arbitration and arbitration years)?

    There are numerous sources and articles that point to players having a declining share of revenue generated in the game. The economics of the game is set up to favor the owners greatly, and that is why I raise the ethical question in passing. I dispute the notion that nobody brings up the "ethical questions" of players getting record setting contracts. The language we use highlights this as we talk about "overpaid players", good contracts like Anthony Rizzo, and the fetishization of years of control.

    That said the point of the article was to dispute the notion that this is the wisest course of action divorced of any other implications.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    I think you are right that it is wrong that the owners are getting a bigger share of the revenue. Although it is impossible for me to be upset for a pitcher who has to "settle" for a $100m contract. Even someone like Jay Bruce, who gets $13m over two years, gets zero sympathy from me. It is a bit ironic that a site that generated a lot of its readership over the "fetishization" of prospects now seems to have an editorial bent toward just give those darn free agents more money!

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    The owners are getting a bigger share because they are smarter than ever. More analytics in the game. Knowing that there are AAA players who can come up and replace overpaid underperforming veterans and get the same production at a fraction of the cost. The players have to wise up. The owners are not going backwards. Players have to adjust their expectation of what could happen when they hit FA.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    The owners just happened to wise up all in the same year - not buying it

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    The CBA getting more punitive for going over the cap is a major reason the teams are not spending like drunken sailors this year. This may continue into the future. The days of the bloated long term contracts may be essentially over. Could be a lot more of the 3, 4, 5 year contracts.

  • In reply to John57:

    There are only like 2 teams close to going over. There are half the teams that haven't even signed 1 free agent and probably a third or more of the teams trying to lose.

    You don't think Machado, Harper or others next year aren't getting bloated contracts?

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Yes I don't think Machado and Harper are going to get anywhere near what they think they are going to get. I have read stories of Machado getting 300M and Harper getting 500M. I don't think so, but I could be wrong. I have been wrong before.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    There were a lot of cumulative factors. Didn’t say there was 1 season where they wised up. There happens to be an underwhelming FA class that thinks they should be getting huge deals in money and length. And this coupled with the luxury tax implications and major franchises resetting their tax makes a huge impact.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    Of course the economics of the game are set up to favor the owners. That's because they OWN the businesses the players work for. The players are free to join a different league, or start their own. There's absolutely nothing unethical about negotiating for a contract that's favorable to your side, whether you're a player or an owner - especially when it's done within the parameters of the labor contract signed by both sides. When Rizzo chose to sign a contract that is considered "favorable" to the team, he chose the guaranteed, long-term income over the potential risk of poor performance, lost arbitration hearings, injury, return of his cancer, etc. What's "unethical" about that?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I just wanted you to acknowledge that these aren't two sides negotiating from positions of equal strength. I didn't really want to debate about a single line you took umbrage because we are unlikely to find common ground on the topic. It is also why it was merely a single line because the debate I was interested in having was about the merits of this approach as a baseball strategy for this team at this exact moment in time.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    I agree that the owners have the stronger position and, like others here have done, would point to the poor job done by the MLBPA in negotiating the current agreement. I have addressed the larger point of the article elsewhere and posted separately on this individual issue. I wasn't seeking debate, either, but the players vs. owners issue is usually a contentious one and I'm sure I pursued it further than necessary. You're an awesome writer, Mike. Even when I'm a grumpy old guy, I appreciate your work.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Common ground can certainly find fault with the leadership of the union. I really just wanted to address your question, and point out that I am not certain we were likely to have a fruitful discussion since we view this issue from sharply different angles. Thanks for the kind words none the less.

  • Let hope that when the 1st FA pitcher signs the rest will follow
    very soon. Giving up a draft pick and international slot money
    is very risky

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Not that risky

  • I think that's exactly it. I think Yu Darvish IS what's holding up the market for pitchers. Once he decides where he's going, the rest--or most of the rest--should fall into place. (I do think as some have said that Arrieta may hold out longer.)

  • In reply to nccubfan:

    My above response was intended as a response to emartinezjr.

    As for the original article, it feels a bit overblown. I think this front office knows what they're doing and they aren't going to panic. They know they need another starter. I also believe they aren't going to sign someone to a long-term contract, over 5 years. They probably don't want to go more than 4 for the players that are available. They're more likely to pay more money over a shorter term.

    This front office also balances current need against the future. What I haven't seen mentioned is that they can't overspend too much right now, because their young position players are not going to remain cheap for long. That bill is coming due pretty soon. Whatever contracts they give out to free agents need to fit in with what they will have to start paying position players in the near future.

  • In reply to nccubfan:

    Totally agree with you. In Theo we trust. GM's are finally learning
    not to panic and over spend

  • fb_avatar

    Why use Jon Lester's contract to start your article? Unless it is to psh the narrative that these big contracts are attractive in the short term. You could have very easily started with Jason Heyward's contract and changed the whole theme.... Just playing devil's advocate here...

  • Big long term contracts should be a thing of the past

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Relatively speaking, big, long-term contracts are fairly new. I understand your view that they rarely work out for the team. I also understand (and very much admire) your often-stated preference for young players and prospects. But I also understand and admire a free-market system, fairly negotiated, and fully support that with all it's flaws. I don't see how eliminating large $, long-term contracts benefits baseball in general.

  • Former Cubs outfielder (and Astros manager) Bo Porter will be leading the spring training camp being set up for unsigned free agents

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    This is what we've come to. In all our talk of possibly signing free agents to lesser contracts, the darker side in that there is very real labor unrest. There are numerous reasons for this year's slow offseason, but the harsh penalties adopted for exceeding the luxury-tax threshold in the newly-negotiate CBA top the list, IMO. I don't know if this trend toward not offering FA players long-term deals is an aberration or the new normal, but it is a reality. I can see both sides. The owners and management have wised up to paying for past performance, and the players may be getting short-changed for what they have worked so long and hard for.

    With any new regulation, there can be unintended consequences. I just hope this feeling of distrust doesn't linger. There may need to be concessions made as the game trends younger: people have suggested shorter service-time requirements prior to hitting free-agency or raising the salaries paid out in the arbitration years. If the movement is toward not over-paying older veterans, some concession will have to be made to more fairly compensate young players during their club-controlled years.

    I don't have the answers. This is playing out as we speak. But as a baseball fan, it scares me.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    The MLBPA needs to get the team control years cut down. Right now MLB teams can control guys for up to 12 years before FA (6 in minors, 6 in majors) and are working the system to keep players locked in as many of those years as possible, even willing to sacrifice in the short term to play the long game. MLBPA needs to work to reduce MLB control years AND reduce the amount of MLB service time needed to count as a year of MLB service time.

    They should shoot for anything over 50% of a season in Majors counting as a year. That way teams can't keep a guy like Bryant down for three weeks, which does little to hinder their W/L record in a season to gain an extra year of control. They will think twice about keeping impact guys down until midseason, because that could make or break playoff odds.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    They were talking about this on MLB Radio one day this week with JP Morosi and he said that from what he had heard that owners in the last negotiations were unwilling to even discuss it unless players gave up guaranteed contracts so it was a non-starter. If that's really the criteria for negotiations it's hard to see that ever happening. The MLBPA is never going to give up the guaranteed contracts.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Then the players need to strike. Simple as that.

    Front offices are rarely going to pay guys in their 30s, and the they are also holding guys back to keep them from reaching FA before 29-30 age range. It isn't going to get any better moving forward. With the rare exceptions like Harper who don't require much time in the minors there just aren't going to be many massive UFA contracts anymore.

    At the very least, the MLBPA needs to get arbitration moved forward a year or two. No more 3 pre-arb years. If the league wants to take such a hard stance on Minor League players being interns, then they need to start paying the Major League guys what they are worth a lot sooner than they otherwise would. Maybe that ends up being the compromise.

    Or maybe players give up guaranteed contracts beyond 35 years old or something. Set UFA at an age (say 27-28), not a service time, and then make contract years beyond 35 non-guaranteed. This motivates teams to get guys to the majors sooner and removes the back end risk on UFA contracts. Players can better plan for free agency and many will still have prime years left when they reach it.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I think the players clearly lost this last round of negotiations, and the ramifications are now beginning to show themselves. There are calls for Tony Clark's head, and I don't know that they are unjustified. There are other aspects of the game, such as pace-of-play and pitch clocks, which may now be unilaterally implemented rather than agreed upon because of these tensions.

    I feel that front offices around baseball are becoming more equal. The difference between the old-school and new-school is shrinking, and they are similar. No longer is the Cubs FO among the few that understand value and not paying "old guys". We may have set the trend, but it is now Main Street. The old system rewarded putting in your time and then getting paid, at least the way Curt Flood saw it. If this is a shift change, it is at the beginning of a long-term CBA, which will harbor much resentment as it goes on before a negotiated resolution.

    They've got work to do. I hope my pleasure as a fan isn't interrupted. It's alredy being threatened.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    The way things are right now it's hard not to see a work stoppage in the 2021 season before the a new CBA is signed. The players got hosed, plain and simple. You can also probably bet that Tony Clark will not be representing the union next time.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I was honestly doing some research into the penalties involved with exceeding the luxury-tax threshold, so I could clarify for people about why we don't want to go over this year, and IMO will blow past it next year and beyond. Now this new line of thought has me digging more into other aspects of the CBA. Thank you? :)

    This slow market is driving deep resentment among the player's union. The CBA is brand new. I think there can, and will have to be, subtle variances made before time for a full new deal in 2021 (?). At least I hope so, because things are really bad right now, and getting worse. A horrible contract will have that affect on people.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Please no strike! There are always ways to work things out, where nobody gets everything that they want, but if they try sometimes, they get what need. Baseball was years getting fans back from the last stoppage. Let's get creative.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Obviously that's what we all hope for.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Sorry, not to over simplify. Sometimes folks dig in to their views and progress or even everybody's best interests are victimised.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Tony Clark is a disgrace as a leader. His statements are ridiculous. He sounds like a spurned lover instead of truly looking at the market. The statements from MLB clown him.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I agree that the current CBA has turned out to be tilted too much in management's favor. But I'm not sure that I agree cutting down on years of control is the solution. Teams that do it the right way (think Cubs under Ricketts as opposed to Cubs under Tribune Co.) spend a lot of money developing their players. They deserve to see a return on that for a reasonable period once the players get to the majors. Also, the IFA teenagers that teams sign often become eligible for the Rule 5 draft well before they're ready for the big leagues, and teams already have to face losing them or using a 40-man roster spot on them.

    It seems like there ought to be a better way of paying the younger players who are producing the most in the majors. And I do agree with you that something needs to be done about the service time issue.

  • In reply to nccubfan:

    Not sure what you are trying to say nccubfan? In your first paragraph you said "But I'm not sure that I agree cutting down on years of control is the solution." and in the second paragraph you said "I do agree with you that something needs to be done about the service time issue." Aren't they the same thing or am I missing something?

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    My comment about the service time issue meant that I agree with Michael that it's wrong to keep someone in the minors for only 3 weeks and be able to add an entire year of control before they're eligible for free agency.

  • In reply to nccubfan:

    Oh, ok thanks.

  • In reply to nccubfan:

    I think it should all go by age and not service time.
    1)Pay minor league players a living wage. Still in the minors at 24? Eligible for Rule 5
    2)Free agency happens after you turn 27-29, regardless of when you reached the majors.
    3)Arbitration automatically triggered at a certain age (say 24-25), regardless of service time
    4)Resigning players salary only counts a certain percentage toward the luxury tax threshold (say 85% or something) so teams are still motivated to develop and retain their own players
    5)Remove contract guarantees after a certain age (33-35+)

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    How do you feel about performance clauses? Teams might be willing to sign longer contracts if their cost is reduced as performance declines - and players might be motivated to stay in better shape and work on skills during the off-season.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    You may be on to something here. Make it age based rather than some arbitrary length of years. These are some good suggestions.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I'm afraid this is the new normal. Most front offices are using the same analytics now, and we don't seem to have any owners left who will overrule their front offices to demand they sign a star player to a large contract. They know that most long-term contracts to players over 30 don't work out in the long run.

    The problem is that the players are behind in adjusting to this. They think that the past practice of long years and big bucks to the big names is going to continue. They really need to get some analytics guys in to tell them what the analytics say their worth is, so that they're using the same information that the front offices are. And maybe find some analytics point they can use to push their worth. The old, emotionally-based ploys don't appear to work any more.

    I truly do not believe there is collusion among the owners. It's more group-think among front offices using mostly the same analytics. But as a baseball fan, the distrust on the part of the players scares me too.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I don't think the penalties for exceeding the luxury tax is the top reason for the slow offseason. The Dodgers and Yankees are really the only teams at that level and did not need to pursue free agents to win this year. Plus Yankees made biggest trade this offseason.

    I think the biggest reason is too many teams are not actively trying to win or are actively tanking and trying to lose. Very few teams to bid on players and GM's all trying to wait out the players to get value deals.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    If the penalties for exceeding the luxury tax were not here right now the dodgers and yankees would be in on Darvish and they would get him too. The Cubs/Brewers/Twins would not have a chance. IMO the penalties are a big deterrent for the big revenue teams. The penalties don't impact the mid and low revenue teams because simply they don't have the money to spend to get to the cap.

  • Since most teams have their 25 or 40 man rosters full how will
    they be able to sign a FA or 2

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    They would need to make a trade or just release someone, if they need to make a spot for a FA.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Cubs (and most teams) all have guys like Luke Farrell that can easily be dropped from the 40 man roster

  • This true but how can so many FA sign so soon

  • I don’t think the Cubs are going to feel desperate to make a mistake on a long term deal. They can maybe sign Lackey or maybe Cashner on a one year deal. They have Smyly coming next year. Either way they have Montgomery as a backup.

  • In reply to Ejmchicago:

    Why would you settle for lesser talent? Cubs have said they will acquire an impact pitcher and they are all still available to sign ot trade for.

  • The spam filter is hungry, again...

  • 1. Grimm lost in arbitration.

    2. I've enjoyed reading the discussion above about the new CBA and its ramifications during this FA period. But I have to say that while the market has frozen, we really don't know what the offers have been for players. Therefore, we don't have enough information to conclude that things like service time, luxury tax and compensation for signing FAs all need to be overhauled. I really would love to know what the offers have been for the top unsigned free agents. I suspect they're getting offers that would have been great 5 or 6 years ago in AAV, but the players are using the most recent crazy contracts and want to continue that trend whereas ownership wants to pull it back. In other words, I suspect that the FA are still being offered tens of millions and are not getting "screwed."

  • In reply to TTP:

    Young baseball players may be getting screwed like young musicians:

    "Want to sign your contract.
    Want you to sign today.
    Gonna give you lots of money,
    Working for MCA."

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Ha. They're not getting screwed too badly:

    "Come in here, dear boy, have a cigar,
    You're gonna go far,
    You're gonna fly high,
    You're gonna make it if you try,
    They're gonna love you.

    And did we tell you the name of the game, boy?
    We call it "Riding The Gravy Train".

    Everybody else is just green,
    Have you seen the chart?
    It's a hell of a start,
    It could be made into a monster,
    If we all pull together as a team.
    And did we tell you the name of the game, boy?
    We call it "Riding The Gravy Train"."

  • In reply to TTP:

    Damn, TTP. Now I gotta go grab a few beers, a couple "something, something", and hit my 2500 W "Thump Room" with a little Floyd. "Wish You Were Here".

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    BTW, Pops, I've been meaning to tell you -- since I know you're a huge Sabbath fan -- that my first album was Paranoid, my first concert was Sabbath in '76 at the old Amphitheater on S. Halsted, favorite album is Sabotage, and when I was in college I was the lead singer in a Sabbath-centric cover band and we always opened with War Pigs. Not to toot my own horn, but some said I did that song better than Dio did it when he replaced Ozzy. But it's been along time since I could hit the high notes.

    The way I feel is the way I am!

  • fb_avatar

    NBC Sports is reporting that the mother of catcher Elias Diaz of the Pirates has been kidnapped in Venezuela. This is another reminder of how much unseen pressure players from other countries are under that we don't realize. I believe BP has mentioned numerous times what so-called "agents" take from Latin players and how difficult it is for them to come here. American born players don't have to worry about any of this. Let's hope his mother is returned safely and soon.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Thanks, Jonathan. I have brought light to the human trafficking of baseball players from Latin America to the US. I am not aware of what you speak, but I will check it out. Please keep is informed, Buddy.

    We all enjoy the steady influx of talent from the Carribean nations, but we don't care to know how they get here or what they "owe". This is baseball's biggest secret. What these young men go through is often horrid, and a light should be shone.

    We are all aware of the disproportionate cases of these young men testing positive for PED's. They are often forced upon them by their agents, or in the case of the Cuban players, by the State.

    There is much to be horrified about by this human trade. I wish people would give it the attention it deserves. I haven't even mentioned the kidnapping, ransom, and sickening dowry system that Jonathan first mentioned.

    This is baseball. This is international human rights. We cannot fix everyones problems, but I think we could clean up some of our imports that are giving millions of fans happiness and making owners millions of dollars.

    Thanks. Jonathan.

  • Hey man, I'm just giving a report out of my "Thump Room" to TTP, and anyone else who wants to listen. I'm on Scorpions "Virgin Killer" right now. 2500 liver-busting watts.

    Go Cubs!

  • I am 70 years old and have been a Cubs fan since I was 5 yrs old. I have had a jobs since I was 13 yrs old. I started playing organized baseball (hardball) when I was 6 yrs old before we even had a Little League. I played organized baseball (including softball) until I was almost 50 yrs old. Never once did I get paid to PLAY baseball and I know I have NOT made a million dollars in my lifetime (total-to-date). I played as much baseball as I could because I enjoyed it. I am really having a very hard time feeling sorry for a baseball player being upset and turning down 25 million dollars/yr because he thinks he is worth more. If the owners are making so much money then have them lower their ticket prices so more of us can afford to go to a game, or even pay more taxes to help our country get out of debt. This is getting totally out-of-control.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    Agreed.

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    I hear you, clarkAddison, ticket prices are far too high. But I don't know where to lay that blame.

    I'm a wierd dude. I grow my own produce, hunt my own meat, do tattoos, build off-grid homesteads, run 9 second quarters in my self-built hot rods, and train some really cool dogs. But I can't sell 40,000 tickets at $50 a pop to watch me do it. I wish I could (actually I wouldn't, I like my privacy).

    My point is you can't blame one side for anything. I wish all involved would work for nothing and we could a watch for free. That's not going to happen.

    That is something that I think may be overlooked. I'm old and have watched games since the late 70's on WGN. We all know that access has decreased. We think of signing our core or even Harper or Machado with our new TV money, yet may not realize that we have to pay for new access.

    Base all is a big business, and we are it's customers. I'm way off point now (it's all TTP's fault), but I just want to watch the Cubs win. How 'bout that? Isn't that what we all want?

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    What if you were due for a raise at a company you are working for. The company is making record profits. You talk to your co workers and find what they are making. You are more experienced and have a similar position but are being offered less than what your coworkers were making a couple years ago. Would you feel that is fair? The players salary is not affecting your ticket price. The players may actually be underpaid with the amount of money the teams are making. Do you prefer the richer owner pocketing even more money?

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I've been in that situation and spook up. The company told me, that if I didn't like it, I could quit. Times had changed since I had signed my contract.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Missed the point but could you have gone to another company in your industry and earned more?

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Maybe, if I chose to do so. I was with the highest paying organization already. I wasn't in a free agent situation. I was just pointing that that sometimes things change that are not in one's control.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    In the case of our real life examples, Darvish and Arrieta, we have to tweak the above to account for them being on the wrong side of the aging curve, Darvish’s injury history and disasterous World Series & Arrieta’s loss of velocity and diminishing command.

    But I think you’ve hit the nail on one of the major problems this off-season: players are valuing themselves with Boras’ eyes. Nobody sees their weaknesses or accounts for them in their contract demands. They’re all just trying to set the bar higher, not trying to reach a fair offer. JD Martinez can’t field. I’m guessing he can’t run much either. So in other words, he’s wanting $200M to be a DH...

  • In reply to clarkAddson:

    It's hard to feel sorry for someone making what, to us, are astronomical amounts of money, but I understand their point, too. The players ARE the product. I want the company I work for to be successful, but if my efforts are producing $100 million for them, should I be satisfied with being paid 25% of that while the company gets the other 75%? Lower ticket prices would be nice, of course, but who decides prices if not the owners? I'd like cheaper hamburgers and beer, too, but I'm not sure I want the government or anyone else deciding what prices should be.

    If I have a unique talent (well, I have several, but nothing anyone would pay to see...), who should profit from it?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Ticket prices seen set by demand, plain and simply. MY FIL took me to a Royals game their World Series year. We got $1 hotdogs and and free refills on drinks. Ticket prices were what my family paid for bleacher seats at Wrigley 18 years earlier.

    The problem with having a unique talent is that it still takes both money and demand. You can have all of a certain talent in the world but if you don’t have at least two businesses with money competitng for your services, you’re only worth what’s a business is willing to pay. What are you going to do? Hold out and get paid nothing for your talents? Or take what is offered to you (market value)?

    Players are easily replaceable. That’s what analytics have helped teams do: realize that players are replaceable and understand what they should be paying a player. Sometimes the market is a buyer’s market, sometimes there’s more demand and there’s a seller’s market. It is what it is. If Arrieta and Darvish don’t like this market, sign a one yr deal—or else a 3-5 yr deal with an opt-out after year one, and try out next year’s market...

  • Today would be a great day to sign a pitcher!

  • I thought the main items the Players wanted changed in the current CBA was:
    1. To change the parameters of the Qualifying Offer and reduce what teams had to "give up" when signing a QO free agent player among other QO related issues.
    2. Institute a cap on IFA money with the thought it would lead to more money spent on Free Agents long term.

    Now we have teams that don't want to spend money because they don't see they are in a competitive window. Do any of us intentionally over pay for any good or service? Why should a sports team?

    Now, there are 4 good to very good pitchers that represent too much supply for too little demand which leads to lower offers. Unfortunately for these 4 guys, basic economics are at play.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I thought the main item the players wanted to address was the length of time of team control. Every where I read players were upset with teams keeping players in AAA for 10 days to get another year of team control before free agency. I was really surprised when the new CBA was agreed to, this topic was not addressed.

  • In reply to John57:

    I just don’t how any player can whine and cry when JD Martinez turns down 5/$125MM. Seriously? And the owners are colliding. Darvish and Jake have rejected similar offers too.

    Players have lost their minds.

  • I’m not sure Ice ever disagreed with a sports post any more than I disagree with this.

    Yes, the Cubs are thin at SP, and yes, it will be difficult for the Cubs to compete this year—it’ll take a lot to work out perfect, as is.

    However...
    As I learned from John on this site, don’t get trapped by near-sightedness and anxiety. The FO has had this off-season circles on their calendar now for a few years. They expected it to be difficult, and that was without things going crazy. Even before the off-season really got underway, I didn’t believe the Cubs would be ultra-competitive in 2018. So, I’m fine with the moves that have take part so far.

    Reasons?
    1) It’s always been about next off-season. If we know the Cubs are serious about taking a $300-$400M risk on one player next year, it seems awfully short-sighted and spoiled to demand the Cubs take a $100M+ risk on another player this off-season. The Cubs already have two. We cannot just account on Harper or Machado as #3, but we can’t discount it either.

    On top of that, are we really ignoring the flaws with the free agent pitchers? There is seriously a hell of a lot more risk than with Lester. And we can’t even pretend that we can assume we’d even get one good year out of Arrieta (drop in velocity and command) or Darvish (tipping not excuse aside, the last innings of baseball we saw from him last year were ugly; the guy has already had TJS).

    But even beyond that, the Cubs and other teams need to continue to sit out, and I can tell you that’s you should want them to too. The pitching market needs to be re-set. There’s a reason the Cubs haven’t been able to swing a deal for an SP via trade. Right now, the gap between FA value for pitchers and that of cost-controlled pitchers is vastly different. We need some market correction. As the cost of free agent pitching resets, I’d expect us to then see the currently insane demands for cost-controlled pitching to lessen.

    I could be wrong about that last part, but even if I am, it still can’t hurt. The FO has already said that they expect to have 7 competitive years in their 10 year window. I think if most of us are honest, we can clearly see that 2019 and beyond should all be competitive, leaving...

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    Your statement " Even before the off-season really got underway, I didn’t believe the Cubs would be ultra-competitive in 2018. "

    I think we are going to be pretty darn good this year especially if we pick up Darvish at Theo's price.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    Your point that the pitchers market needs to be 're-set' pretty much somes it up for me with the so called top three. Whether renting, bartering, or buying the cost for pitching has been too high in $$ or talent in recent years.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Sums it up

  • fb_avatar

    Cannot disagree, don't see anyone finishing within 5 games of the Cubs for the Central.

  • Per Rosenthal, Darvish is a Cub. Around 6/$150

  • In reply to TC154:

    Clarification: 6/$126, incentives can push it to $150

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TC154:

    I guess Theo blinked first.

  • In reply to John Winter:

    How many posters did not want Theo to go beyond 4?

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Well, it feels pretty good to have Yu in the rotation. I guess we can worry about 2022-23 when it gets here. Tomorrow always comes.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    This is how i feel about it. Lester’s deal will be off the books after 2019 with his buyout and frees up $22.5 MM.

    I think just moderate health from the Cubs and they win the division by 8 games now.

    He’ll earn his keep with post season starts.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Me.
    However, I thought they would have do go to a $30Mil AAV to get to 4 years.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Glad they came to an agreement. 6 years with AAV at 21M. Yu got his years and Theo got the low AAV needed to help stay under the luxury cap. Plus we do not give up a draft pick. A lot to like

  • In reply to TC154:

    That's great news. Finally. Be interesting to see how the contract looks.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    It doesn't matter - think how many people thought teams would be stupid to hand out a six year deal to a pitcher

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Oh,ok. Thanks for clearing that up Wait.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I certainly would like to know what incentives have to be met to get the pay up to 150M.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Opt out clause. We’ll see on the length after year 3 and 4.

    I hope this does not cost a chance at Harper or Machado. A guy for 32 starts versus 700 PA’s is not good trade off.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    6 years at $30Mil AAV would have been crazy. It's not just years. It's not just dollars. It's a combination of both. With the opt out after years 3 and 4, plus health and performance incentives, it seems to be the best of both worlds for all parties involved.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    It appears the opt out is after 2 years 2019. Sounds like it may be a front loaded contract. Have to wait for for information to know for sure.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    If it is front loaded, I believe the contract value is an average over the years as it pertains to the Luxury Tax. I wonder how that works for opt out provisions?

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I am pretty sure the first 2 years before he can opt out the AAV for the luxury tax is the average for the first 2 years. Then it goes to the 6 year AAV. I am not sure how the incentives are included . I know for bonuses they averaged out over the length of the contract.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    I don't believe that is accurate. Jason Heyward's tax implication is $23 million which is the average of the 8 year deal and not the much higher AAV he earned in the first 3 seasons prior to the first opt out.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Mike, I believe you are correct, I am wrong. I was just going to post never mind I do not know how this works.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Happens to the best of us. I am already wondering if the Cubs front office might have found a way to game the system a bit with these opt outs/front loaded deal. It makes the deal more attractive to the prospective free agent signee and it lessens the Cubs tax burden as they look to flirt or suprass it the next several seasons.

  • In reply to TC154:

    BOOM!!

  • All joking and skepticism aside, I feel pretty good with out starting rotation. Quintana, Hendricks, Darvish, Lester, Chatwood. I'm bullish on that group.

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