Cubs to make strong bid for Russell Martin? Not so fast...

I wanted to expand on something I wrote about earlier and that is that I do not believe the Cubs will sign Russell Martin.  It is not that they don’t like him or can’t afford to sign him –I think they do and they can — but in the end it comes down to a question of value, particularly measurable value.

Granted, there is a value to Martin beyond his measurable production. But how much tangible money do you pay for intangible assets?

That is hard to answer, so let us start with an easier question:  How much are you willing to pay for his tangible production?  Martin had a big season in which he hit .290 and posted a .402 OBP.  The latter figure is a huge potential upgrade for the Cubs.  But is that who he is?  Did he suddenly get that much better in his age 31 season, a season after which catchers typically begin to decline?

In the previous 3 seasons, Martin posted OBPs of .324, .311, and .327 — solid for a catcher but it is hardly enough to be a solution for the Cubs OBP problems.  Martin will still walk, but he won’t hit .290.  In fact, he is projected to hit .240 next season, 50 points lower, to go with a .341 OBP and a .328 wOBA.  The latter two are solid average numbers, but do they present a significant upgrade over what they have now?

There would be an upgrade in pitch framing, but most catchers in baseball would be an upgrade over Castillo — and most of the available ones shouldn’t cost anywhere near what Martin would.

Here is what Keith Law had to say about Martin,

He is a solid defensive catcher, an above-average framer who gets high marks for his work with Pirates pitchers over the past two years. However, Martin is a catcher in his early 30s and already somewhat injury-prone, reaching 130 games just once since leaving L.A. The market is likely to treat him as a difference-maker, with the Pirates’ qualifying offer likely to lose out to three- or four-year deals from bigger-payroll clubs. I think he is far more likely to be a solid regular, hitting .240/.330/.390 or so with above-average defense but playing only 110 to 120 games a season.

Purely on production, is he worth 4/60 or even 5/75?

Before you answer that, let’s expand the picture.  None of these deals are made in a vacuum,  there are other factors to consider.

How much are you gaining in an upgrade over an in prime catcher in Welington Castillo, who has produced roughly at the level of a league average catcher?  Then you have to consider giving up the 2nd round pick and the pool money, something the Cubs used to get additional prospects such as Carson Sands.  Lastly, you also have to consider the loss of payroll flexibility.  Sure the Cubs have the money to spend, but could the Cubs have used that extra $15M to upgrade elsewhere, such as pitching?

I think it is more complicated than finding a perceived weak spot in your lineup and finding a better player at any cost.  Assuming all teams would value Martin’s intangibles equally, the equation goes something like this:

Martin upgrade = Martin’s production – Castillo’s production – the high difference in salary (and a loss of payroll flexibility that could have been used elsewhere) – Jake Stinnett (2nd round pick) – Carson Sands (overslot) + whatever you can salvage for Castillo in a trade when you have forfeited all leverage.

The biggest variable in that equation is Martin’s salary and if it gets to be a bidding war, as I expect, then at some point it will tip the scales toward not signing him — and I expect that tip to occur well before 5/75 and probably even well before 4/60.

The Dodgers are the most obvious landing spot, but their calculations are different.  They are only subtracting AJ Ellis’ value, which was below replacement level in his age 33 season, worth almost 3 fewer wins than the 27 year old Castillo last season.  3 wins above replacement is worth approximately $15M on the market per season. That gives them the leeway to add more on the salary portion than the Cubs because they are gaining a much higher net upgrade.  They are getting more for their money.

If the Dodgers decide they want Martin, and by all indications they do, then he represents a better value to them than the Cubs relative to their respective current catching situations.  They can pay significantly more money to Martin than the Cubs and this would still hold true.   It is not really even about the Dodgers big money, it just simply makes more sense for them to give Martin more money than the Cubs, regardless of whether the Cubs are financially capable of matching.  The only question is whether the Cubs should match.

As far as I’m concerned, I just don’t see a scenario where it adds up for the Cubs to match the expected Dodgers bid.   The Cubs would be paying the same or more and getting less in return when you consider the deal in terms of a net upgrade.  Even if the Cubs do match, the Dodgers have the ability to go higher and still get better net value.

Then consider this:  Could all that money that would go to Martin be better off upgrading a different area of the ballclub?  Could they get a bigger net upgrade somewhere else, such as pitching or OBP at the top of the order?

So, then… what of Buster Olney and Jon Heyman saying they expect that Martin will sign with the Cubs?  Some of it is speculation. Some of it is probably based on conversations with agents.  Martin wants to make his money this offseason and while the Dodgers can provide a big pay day, they won’t do it unless they need to.  Martin needs someone to drive up his price, otherwise the Dodgers are bidding against the small market Pirates and the mid-market Blue Jays.  Getting the Cubs involved works to Martin’s advantage in terms of raising the stakes.

I don’t know about you but I am not expecting the Cubs to play along this time.







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  • I HOPE they don't play along. Schwarber is two years away, and I think that Welly needs one more full season before assessing his true worth to the team. Once again, he was more effective in the second half compared to the first half of the season, and I think that moving him down in the order a bit actually helps his value out. Last season, most of his AB's came from hitting 6th (166 AB). He hit .211/.263/.337 out of the 6-hole. When he hit 7th, (half the AB's with 82), he hit .317/.378/.524. Coincidence? I think not since the numbers support that as well last season (2013). Give the 27-year-old one more season and bring in a viable back-up (someone closer to Navarro than Baker - meaning a good bat).

    I support that MUCH more than I do allocating $50-$70 million on an aging catcher who may be maxed out after a year or two - especially blocking the path of Schwarber.

    It makes just as much sense to not bring him in then to bring him in. If the Cubs are going to spend money on a bat, I prefer it be a table-setter such as Melky.

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    In reply to Average Samaritan:

    Schwarber is AT BEST 2 years away. Let's not reserve his seat yet.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I could see Schwarber possibly coming up to the Cubs sometime in 2016. He does seem to be on the fast track so far.

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    In reply to John57:

    I agree with Giffmo. Now that the Cubs are more inclined to keep him at C he needs time to learn the trade at the professional level. If we kept him in LF his bat might be ready in 2016, but at C his defensive learning curve is well behind his offensive one.

  • In reply to Average Samaritan:

    Welly was coming off knee surgery in the off season. I am sure he did not do his normal off season workout regimen. He probably started the season out of shape/practice. That could have explained the difference in production in the two halves of the year too.

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    In reply to John57:

    I am not seeing the season half split described. When I look at they list his 1st half (Pre-All-Star Break) at .236/.292/.375 and 2nd half (Post-All-Star Breat) at .238/.302/.407. While his SLG went up I don't know that it was that big of a difference to not be just chance. His BA and OBP stayed very close to the same.

    The circumstances you describe with the off-season work out is an interesting point, but I don't see any numbers backing up the improvement in the 2nd half except a higher walk rate and lower K rate (and those were relatively small changes).

  • I agree with you John. The total cost of Martin on a FA contract being 4/60-5/75; in addition to the draft pick makes this an easy choice for me. I would like to have a better pitch-framer as a catcher, but I think that there are more cost-effective ways to increase the WAR than Martin.

  • In reply to Eskimo:

    You can improve framing too and maybe getting a guy to team with Castillo, whether it be a strict platoon partner like Montero or a mentor like David Ross could get them moving in the right direction.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Can't talk inefficient money then talk Montero. Montero is drastically overpayed

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It find it hard to believe castillo will his improve his framing. He has consistently been in the bottom the 3 seasons. The framing is drasctic between martin and Castillo it is probably worth 3 war. Of course framing is not added in the catchers war right now, but it matters.

    Remember when David Ross took over catching duties in the playoffs over Salty who was a much better hitter. It's because the liked his handling of a staff.

    I'm pretty sure this front office values that like Boston considering their similar styles.

    Also, is it coincidence that Yadi and Posey, great receivers, led 5 teams to World Series.

    It might not be martin receiving, but it can't be Castillo is meaningful games

  • In reply to Mitchener:

    P.s. I apologize on the grammar. I rushed that comment on my phone.

  • In reply to Mitchener:

    3WAR for framing???? Then Russell doesn't need to do anything else. Maybe Yadier and Posey are great catchers or maybe the pitching staffs they work with aren't chopped liver obviously they are good catchers but Posey can't throw any baserunners out and maybe why there's talk he'll play more first base. If he was such a good receiver why would the giants give up 2 WAR for framing?

    I've already commented on another of John's articles almost exactly what John mentions here. How do you figure out how much framing and good clubhouse leader is worth, that's back to the old eye taste all you saber guys don't value because you can't measure it.

    The money Martin wants isn't worth it. Add the money saved and maybe they can afford Lester this year and someone like Zimmerman or Price next year.

  • In reply to stix:

    Actually, pitch framing isn't intangible. People actually catalog pitches into strikes that were called balls and vice versa and come up with a runs saved #. It's not a perfect formula as it's still rather infantile, but it does give some tangability.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd rather they get Montero, and you don't need to do a strict platoon all the time, maybe about half-half with all the day/night changes the Cubs have. Only three more years on Montero's contract. Don't think they could unload Jackson in that deal, but maybe Wood, basically making it only a net $10 million gain a year figuring in what Wood will likely increasingly get in arbitration. Cubs may be stuck with Jackson for another year as the 5th starter. Plus they have Wada for depth now, so if they did get Lester and another FA starter like Anderson that would be a lot of lefties with Wood still there. How does that deal look from both clubs perspective?

  • In reply to Michael Standaert:

    I like Montero as well. Wood is a possibility depending on how Cubs feel internally, but even if they think he bounces back, no guarantee he stays when he becomes a free agent anyway.

  • 'zactly

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    In reply to Oneear:

    I second that.

  • I don't think they should sign any FA over 31 yr to more than a
    3 yr contract no matter who it is

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    I like Martin a lot, but more like 3 years 45 million.
    If the spending gets crazy, nah.

    Some of the other issues aren't so improbable, to me. I think you could play Martin for 95-100 games and still get plenty of starts for Castillo. I'm... ok but not thrilled about the 2nd round pick if we get Martin for the right money (but we probably won't)

    But if the price goes up, I'd rather sign a guy like Hundley, and hope the 2015 Smokies opening day roster shows enough to make a trade for someone like Yasmani Grandal.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Exactly. At 3/45 I'd definitely make a bid, but my guess is he goes above and beyond that.

    The 2nd round pick is part of the cost and while the likelihood of them becoming impact MLB'ers is low, the likelihood of them becoming prospects with value is pretty high.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Good point about 2nd rounders.
    And depending on how players with QOs work out, a high 2nd rounder in 2015 could've been a 1st round Comp pick before this CBA.

    4 years might also be doable if we can swing most of the money to the first two years, but that's probably unlikely.

  • "But how much tangible money do you pay for intangible assets?" That is a great question; and while I don't have an exact number for you, my hunch is that whatever Martin ultimately gets-it's more tangible money than I'm comfortable with. John: what do you believe Montero will cost in terms of prospects? Not sold on Castillo but don't want to give up any top 15...

  • In reply to Upstate NY Cubs Fan:

    I think Montero will come pretty cheap if they absorb the contract.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I read the 'Backs have said they are more interested in acquiring good value for him over dumping salary.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    He is overpaid for the way he is playing. There is no value there.

  • It not only serves Martin's purpose to put the Cubs in play, it serves the Cubs.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    What do you mean?

  • John, the Cubs 2nd pick will be between 55-60. How valuable is this?

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    It has value in terms of picking up a good MLB prospect and extra pool money to pick up a 2nd prospect. If either makes the majors that's a big bonus, but the pick itself has value because there is at least the probability the Cubs get a good ballplayer.

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    It won't be that low. Mid 40's is the projections I've seen

  • Excellent John. I was on the fence and asked the question in a different thread, but this clarifies it for me. In addition to everything you laid out, it's just not worth it financially to spend all that money on Martin who obviously blocks Schwarber.

    We know Theo loves Schwarber almost as much as Bryant and the Cubs have said they will give KS every opportunity to catch. And they should.

    Martin is a good player, but his leadership above all was most attractive to me. And as you point out, a guy with those leadership qualities can be acquired at a different position for less money without blocking Schwarber.

    So, no Martin for you!

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Thanks! I like Martin but only at the right price and I think it is going to go well over what the right price is for the Cubs. I'd do a 3 year deal but I don't think that's happening.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    A leader at another position is not the same as a leader behind the plate. Martin was the difference in Pittsburgh. I hope that Schwarber is our future, but to assume that he will be to pull that off before 2017 is optimistic. I just don't know that Castillo will ever be a leader type. The Cubs are in line to be competitive next year and a take charge catcher could be the ticket. The time is now and I like the Russell Martin fit better than other options.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed but that's not the point. The point is paying 4yr/60M or more, for a 31 year old catcher who would block Schwarber, is not worth it. And that they can easily fill their veteran leadership void for 2015 at another position at a much better value. The Cubs and many in the industry have suggested KS will follow a similar trajectory to KB, which would put him in the majors sometime in 2016 when he is 23 years old. So like John said, I'd do Martin at 3yr/45M too, but since that won't happen, pass.

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    In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Most estimates I have seen with KS following a KB track to MLB (how is that for alphabet soup?) assume he would play LF which is much easier to learn the nuances than catcher. Now that it looks like the Cubs will keep him at C until he proves unable to handle it I would move that back at least a year. Still plenty young.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Not so. Schwarber is in the instructional league now for that reason and Theo talked about how impressed he was with his improvement as a catcher at the season ticket holders event. If he continues on that path and does well next year etc., he's on track for a 2016 arrival. Don't underestimate how highly Theo values Schwarber (it could be second only to Bryant in terms of prospects) and wants him on the major league club.

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    In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    I was aware the Theo really liked Schwarber's bat and was impressed with his ability behind the plate I am surprised to hear him forecast as a 2016 player. That is staggeringly good.

  • Despite this well reasoned article, yes, I think the Cubs do it. Whether it pays off or not is tbd.

  • Very good article. One thought - One value in playing along is making big market teams pay a premium so they have less to spend elsewhere right? So even if the Cubs don't want Martin at that price, maybe they jack the price up for the Dodgers. Didn't Theo play that game a lot with Boston against the Yanks?

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Maybe they will. I do think they keep tabs and if the price stays low, they'll try to swoop in, but no dice on a bidding war.

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    In reply to KSCubsFan:

    That is a dangerous game to play. What if the Dodgers call the Cubs' bluff and walk away. Suddenly we would vastly overpay for Martin. John did a good job describing why the Dodgers might be able/willing to go a lot higher than the Cubs and still consider it value. We will probably make a good faith offer and try to swoop in if we can but won't spend a lot of time/effort in a bidding war. Remember, that is all time we are not trying to fix other holes in this team.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I think the Cubs may certainly lurk and see if that price comes down, so we can't rule it out completely, but I do have a hard time seeing it getting low enough to interest the Cubs. Somebody is going to pay the man.

  • Makes sense... Agents using the Cubs as leverage is why they've been linked to basically every single FA that will cost a multi year deal.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I think it's a battle they just can't win. Now if LAD doesn't want Martin, it will be interesting. Pitt will offer him a lot too, so I don't think he will come cheap no matter what happens.

    It's like anything else, if the price comes down enough to where it adds up as good value (all things considered), then I think it is possible they do it. I just don't see that happening no matter how hard I squint.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I see the FO overpaying for a TOR, but not for a catcher, especially one that could end up being a stopgap until they get Schwarber ready... Not to mention that Castillo may not be as good as Martin, but he's not a complete negative, if anything, he ranked about a 2 WAR player or so, despite his struggles offensively.

    I just don't see them overpaying for position players when they have built so much depth there.

  • I know there are a lot of question marks with the tangibles. I would say that the assessment is absolutely correct on a tangible level.
    But here is where Martin becomes more valuable to the Cubs than the Dodgers. There is no lack of leadership in the Dodgers locker room right now. They are a veteran heavy team that has post season experience. The Cubs are the youngest team in the Major Leagues who have yet to have a winning record at that level. The biggest question mark is that if you are going to add veteran leaders that are everyday players, where you do you add that won't block a long term spot.
    There is no room on the infield, we're already talking about moving Kris Bryant to the outfield to make room for Addison Russell. The outfield is probably only good for a 1-2 year window (Jonny Gomes?) in anticipation of Albert Almora or Billy McKinney, both of which should be in the Majors sooner than Kyle Schwarber assuming he sticks at Catcher.
    So when you look at it, Catcher is going to be the longest wait for a big name prospect to hit. And the Cubs need some kind of leadership, as was evident in September when both Castro and Rizzo were out due to injury.
    Martin may have some marginal tangible upgrades over Castillo, but the long story short is Castillo is the odd man out in this situation because he has the lowest ceiling of the young Cubs lineup. You pay Russell Martin 4/$60 for his experience and leadership, his excellent track record in calling games and his relationships with the pitching staff and a moderate upgrade over Castillo defensively, and possibly in year three you might see him split time with Kyle Schwarber where he can then mentor our top catching prospect into the full time role, and the last year (which is normally not going to get the return on investment anyway with any FA deal), may turn out with Martin being one of the highest paid backup catchers in the game.
    But here is what you gain, someone in the locker room who can hopefully give Kris Bryant and Javier Baez a great example of plate discipline. Someone who can teach Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro to actually be veteran leaders on the team. Someone who can teach one of the best hitting catching prospects what it's like to do it in the Big Leagues. And if he is successful helping a team of young players reach their potential, then you can add their combined added production to that formula above as well.
    That being said, I have problems seeing a 5/$75 deal work.

  • I think this also shows us if Theo learned his lesson from Boston where he gave out some bad contracts. If he goes more than 4 years and more than $60MM, we can assume he didn't.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    He has to give out a big one at some point but I don't think it will be Martin -- whomever he gives it to I just hope it works out better than his last year or two in Boston.

  • The Dodgers can't have bottomless pockets... How much money do they really have to spend? Aren't they going to end up like the Yankees, crazy money wrapped up in aged vets past their prime?

    Futhermore, Friedman's hire could signal that the Dodgers don't overpay on FA's any more. If the Dodgers and Yankees take a breather and regroup, the way could be all clear for the Cubs.

  • Who is going to pay Martin $75M for 5 years? If there is one team out there, then who are they bidding against to go that high?

    But in general, it is silly to pay crazy money for a catcher when your return on the field is limited by how many games they can play. The exception is if you are getting the best catcher of his generation like a Molina or Perez. I thought Martin at thesite's previous guess of 4 years $52M was high, but given the leadership element, I could see the Cubs go there. But at 4 years, the question remains, why would Martin come here when his best 2 years to significantly contribute to a title team would be spent here waiting for young players to mature. The only way to get him to come here is to wildly overspend, and I don't see Theo/Jed doing that.

  • John,

    I think the "equation" you put up to determine what kind of upgrade Russell Martin would be is pretty flawed.

    1. The Cubs saved $250,000 by underslotting Stinnett this year. They overslotted Sands by $620,000. The savings from Stinnett alone didn't come anywhere near getting them Sands. Signing Martin would certainly cost the Cubs Stinnett, but it was mostly the $1.5 million savings from the Schwarber underslot that helped them get Sands, Cease and Steele.

    2. Just because you can't mathematically quantify Martin's intangibles as easily as his offensive production doesn't mean they don't exist. You left their value completely out of our equation. Theo and Jed have talked several times about wanting to add veteran leadership to this young roster. They value the exact intangibles Martin provides enough to make them a priority. So should we.

    3. While it's true that money is quantifiable and sabermetricians can boil down what the value of a win is in US dollars, when you've built such a highly talented, young, cost-controlled roster (the likes of which neither of us have ever seen on the north side before), it frees you up to use that resource (money) without it being sooo incredibly important. The time for penny-pinching is over. That's not to say the Cubs shouldn't spend wisely, but it does put less importance on a player's salary when evaluating his potential upgrade.

    Let's say Martin costs $13 million more than Castillo. Quantitatively, 13 million is still 13 million, but the extreme cost-efficient nature of the Cubs roster going forward coupled with the new revenue streams on the horizon greatly lessen the impact on payroll flexibility and thus the importance of payroll flexibility in our equation. Perhaps it should read "the loss of payroll flexibility/2".

  • I have written often on this site why Martin if a terrific 'get'. This article makes a lot of sense, basicly have a bottom $ line., offer it, and if they want over and beyond, move to another option. But we need an option better than Baker. Just think of finally being in the hunt, and have Castillo go down. Yikes! Baker and Lopez?

    Gotta have faith that Theo and Co. have other options in mind.


  • Great analysis. He's going to be the most interesting guy to watch this winter. For me, the X factor here (and probably will be with a lot of guys in the coming years) is that he may just really want to come be a part of history. The Cubs are now a team that guys should want to join even if they aren't the highest bidder.

    Even though Wely is an in-prime player I'm pretty confident that the 31, 32, and 33 year old versions of Martin will be better than the 28, 29, and 30 year old versions of Wely. Those last 2, maybe 2.5 years of a 5 year deal would be a toss up. If the Cubs become perennial contenders no one will care.

    Losing the pick and the pool money isn't anything to sneeze at. It matters. I get it. So do intangibles and leadership from behind the dish. If he were Swisher or Gomes or another "high character guy" like that who wasn't a catcher I would be lukewarm on the intangibles. However, when your all star-ish catcher is also your team leader, your team is usually pretty damn good.

    I like Wely fine but I just don't think he's good enough to play every day on a championship caliber team. He's had a good amount of time to take it to another level and he hasn't done it.

    Also, I wonder what the odds are on Sands, Steele, and/or Cease reaching 1st division level production. Low, as they are for any 18 year old kid. 6/1? 14/1? 55/1?

    Really enjoyed this article. I hope we sign him and David Ross but not holding my breath.

  • Upgrade the backup catcher, keep Welly and wait for Schwarbs.

    But I got no problem with the Cubs allowing themselves to be used to get other teams to spend more. If well played, it could help the Cubs land that SP they really want.

  • When Rizzo and Castro are 27-28, Bryant, Soler, Baez, Russell and Schwarber are 25-26, do we want to be paying a 35-36 y-old catcher $15M per year? Not to mention a 34-35 year old Lester $25-27M? I would rather save my dry powder, let the kids play for another 2 years with some decent 2-3 year free agents around them, and then spend the big dollars in 2016/2017 to pick up the 4-5 WAR additions where we know we have needs and are ready to compete for titles. 2015/16 likely will not be our years given the youth route we have taken. 2017-20 will be the prime of this core, and i wouldn't want to be in years 3-5 of big money commitments to mid-30's players at that point. Years 1-2 are where the big value lies with those additions. Unfortunately, the payroll cannot go up that much because of the leverage ratios in the Ricketts/Zell agreement, so we are probably looking at a payroll in the $110-$130M range in 2017. Having $42-44M tied up in Martin and Lester would really restrict our ability to make big additions in the prime years of the core. I could see adding Lester now because he could age well, but not both.

  • In reply to piggy7:

    While I do not think Martin makes sense from a value standpoint, the leverage ratios in relation to the Ricketts/Zell agreement are not going to limit payroll as much as you assert. If revenues were static at their current levels then this would be an issue. However, with the interim broadcast rights deal, increased attendance and concessions, and additional stadium revenues attributable to Project 1060, the revenue incorporated into EBITDA is projected to increase significantly.

  • In reply to piggy7:

    Great article John and I agree with not signing Martin unless it represents good value to the team. Our FO has consistently looked for value in the marketplace and we should not alter that approach yet. If the Cubs are contending early next season and there is a need for an upgrade, you can use some depth to acquire a better catcher during the season. Don't let the money burn a hole in your pocket people. I tell my teenagers that all the time because as soon as you blow a bunch of money on Russell - something better is going to come along.

  • Let the Dodgers overpay for him, he's decent but not a difference maker. The Dodger's ownership believes they can just buy a title, hopefully Andrew Friedman changes that phliosophy

  • Thank you John, you've pretty much summed up exactly what I've been trying to say for 3 weeks. Only way better than I could. Martin just screams paying for past performance. His 2014 season is such an outlier offensively. And catchers have been known to fall off a cliff in their early-mid 30s. I really think people are selling Castillo short. But I really would love to see a back up C who could offer something besides pitch framing. Baker, couldn't hit or throw, and made me yearn for the days Paul Bako.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Agreed. Paying for past performance, particularly that of a flukish 2014 season, is exactly what they'd be doing

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I believe you are asking the wrong questions. You're still thinking in rebuild terms. This is a different mode now. This is improve your team by spending money mode. Theo & Co. succeeded in the overhaul and built a young, talented, cost-controlled roster specifically so that they'd have the ability to go buy players to fill in the holes on the roster.

    Dollars per WAR becomes less relevant than the increase in WAR and intangibles itself. The question this off season isn't is the player the right price. The question is is he better than what we have. There are limits to how high the Cubs will be willing to go, obviously, but the guiding principle in who to sign is can this guy help us win a World Series better than anyone else for the price. Not are we paying for past performance. That's the debate we should be having.

    We're both advocating the Cubs sign Jon Lester. He will very likely not be worth his contract. He will very likely be being paid for "past performance". What's the difference between overpaying for a pitcher who will improve your team or a catcher who will improve your team?

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    In reply to Quedub:

    An implicit assumption here is that Lester and Martin are at similar points in their physical careers and will have a similar WAR evolution over the course of a long term contract. I'm not sure that assumption is justified.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'm not making any assumptions. I don't have an evaluation of what Martin is worth. I'm just saying we're asking the wrong questions. Let's ask these questions:

    Does Martin get this team closer to winning a championship? Is there another upgrade available that would help more for a better price (prospects included in prices)? Do the Cubs have enough remaining payroll flexibility moving forward to afford him? And given the new streams of revenue coming in, what is the highest the Cubs should be willing to go?

    We aren't asking those questions here. We're still limiting ourselves to dollars per WAR.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Doesn't $/WAR capture all of your questions in one number?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    How does dollars per WAR address does this player help us win more games than the guy he'd be replacing?

    There's a sliding scale here. If, hypothetically, a team's funds were unlimited, dollars per WAR becomes completely irrelevant. It then only becomes about WAR and that players ability via intangibles to raise the WAR of the players around him.

    Assuming the timing is right and the team is close to competing for a championship, the more payroll flexibility you have, the less importance there is on dollars per WAR in deciding whether you should acquire a player.

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    In reply to Quedub:

    Your example only holds if budgets are truly unlimited. The second there is a budget in place, pricing decisions have to be made.

    Simple example, Player A is a catcher who gives you 2 WAR and costs $1 (50 cents per WAR). Player B is a shortstop who gives you 4 WAR and costs $11 ($2.75 per WAR). Player C is a center fielder who gives you 5 WAR and costs $9 ($1.8 per WAR).

    You have $32 million to spend on some combination of free agents (who, for this simple example, will remove the contract of the player they replace). Player D is a catcher who gives 5 WAR and costs $12 ($2.4 per WAR). Player E is a shortstop who gives you 6 WAR and costs you $16 ($2.67 per WAR). Player F is a center fielder who gives you 7 WAR and costs $15 ($2.15 per WAR).

    You have $32 to spend.

    What's the best way?

    If you look at straight WAR, upgrading the Catcher gives you the most. The answer, though is to upgrade the SS and the CF. The way you get there is by noticing that the FA SS actually gives you more wins per dollar spent than the one you have, so you absolutely want him. With what's left to get to $32 million, you get significantly more bang for your buck by selling cf wins for $1.8 per win to buy wins at $2.15 per win. (This solution holds until the FA C drops to $7, or $1.4 per WAR. What's happening at that point is your catcher WAR is cheap that you can afford to buy all the available C WAR it plus the SS WAR. At that point it's no longer a simple example, to be honest.)

    The only rational way to address which players help you most is though $/WAR.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    It's not as straight black and white like you described it. It's not the moment a budget is in place pricing decisions have to be made. It's relative to how far away you are from maxing out that budget this season and in the seasons that immediately follow.

    The scenario you needlessly laid out is just one example in thousands and doesn't align with the Cubs situation (which is what we're talking about) very well at all. All you did was lay out AN example in which $/WAR makes perfect sense which is completely irrelevant to what we've been discussing.

    You haven't addressed the questions I've been asking. Thanks for the conversation and your time, but I'm moving on.

  • Lester and Ross. I believe Beef will get one more look unless Martin accepts a 3 yr 45-50m contract which most of us here believe will not happen. Ross will be a great backup/teacher and be the personal catcher for Lester.The pipeline for Cubs catchers sure looks better so unless something drops into our laps via trade or FA I believe other holes should be addressed.
    Addressing a past topic: Lets ease off contributors who post typo's or grammar mistakes, When posting I'm more worried with getting my thoughts down and checking my stats than proofreading my post several times for grammar or spelling mistakes. I'm a business major not a English major so my emphasis usually is on numbers not words but always on the Cubs. So unless John changes the commenting policy on grammar lets be the bigger person on typo's, spelling and grammar.

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    In reply to Rock:

    While I can be a grammar-nazi I agree, typos happen. We are not writing the next great American novel, we are putting up notes on a baseball message board. The only exception I make is when there are so many typos and grammatical mistakes that it is difficult to read and make sense of without having to re-read a sentence or paragraph multiple times. I have had times where there are so many typos that it actually changed the meaning of a post to the point where what was written did not actually convey the commenter's ideas. But those are rare.

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    I agree. at his age is when they move catchers to first base. Sure there are exceptions,but I don't thin he's one.

  • John the only point you made that I'm not sure I can agree with is bringing the Dodgers in. Are we to assume that the move to a big market will make all the acquired FO geniuses forget their small market roots and leave their economic efficiency behind? Do they suddenly forget to do for the Dodgers what you did for the Cubs? Will they only have short-sighted plans? I can't imagine it'll be "win at all cost," "acquire at all cost."

    The Dodgers lose a 1st rd pick if they sign Martin. They lose more pool money. And for what? Yes, a much bigger jump in talent from Ellis, but you've already said "There would be an upgrade in pitch framing, but most catchers in baseball would be an upgrade....most of the available ones shouldn't cost anywhere near what Martin would." And if that's true for Castillo, isn't that true over Ellis?

    And really, if we're considering draft pick and slot value, that ranks the Cubs as the second best fit of known teams wanting Martin (Pirates).

    I'm not saying the Cubs have to get Martin. I'd like to see them improve pitch framing. I've read the D' backs want good value in a trade for Montero.

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    In reply to cubbie steve:

    Yes it is true that the Dodgers could just as easily improve their C production cheaper, but their upgrade over their current catcher situation is much greater than the Cubs. Therefore they might be willing to pay more.

    Also, remember, the Cubs have more holes to fill than the Dodgers. While we have more money, we also need to sign starting pitchers, usually the most overpaid position on the field.

    As for the D-backs, they probably do want good value in a trade for Montero. They aren't going to get it without eating a large chunk of his contract. If they are going to do that they might as well keep him.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    The point is that the Dodgers can upgrade to a lesser catcher than Martin and still make a huge, huge upgrade, and do so without giving up a 1st rd pick or big money to Martin. With the geniuses they're collecting in that FO, I find it hard that they wouldn't still wanting to be getting value and making shrewd moves.

  • I think that the price/years for Martin will be nowhere near what the media is predicting.
    His last free agency, he got only two year and a total of 15. Now he has a $15.3 Mil qualifying offer. If he gets a multi-year deal, I don't see anyone offering $15 mil per year. I also don't see him getting more than 2 years.
    What Martin would like does not the determine the market. The demand for Martin will determine his value.
    I would not be shocked to see him take the $15.3 one year deal that is now on the table.

  • In reply to ddevonb:

    I think the media and agents are estimating high on a lot of FAs but we will just have to wait and see. The big boys(NYY, BOS, LAD) may take a breather on spending this year and not spend like they normally do.

  • I hope I am wrong, but I am not sure that the club will see a real uptick in EBITDA in 2015/2016 and the ability to spend. The new signage might yield $10M, but the media rights deal increase is anything but a given. The Cubs have (admittedly) done terribly with these in the past, and WGN was more than happy to get rid of these games. IIRC, they were prepared to offer 1/2 of what they were previously paying, and other cable channels are precluded from bidding on them by the CSN deal. And Crane Kenney is handling it.

  • In reply to piggy7:

    Levine mentioned over 14 million more per year coming from Budweiser alone. That doesn't include any other signage. I am not sure how strictly MLB is enforcing the debt ratio issue. Wittenmeyer reported that the Cubs were over last year and the FO still pursued Tanaka. My guess is that the league understands that this is an artifial debt level to satisfy the purchase terms.

  • In reply to piggy7:

    I am not as pessimistic about the media rights deal due to the recent developments at the major league level. They are almost giddy at the WSCR about their sister station landing the Cubs radio deal. WBBM will be paying the Cubs $10M/year for the next 7 years which is in line with what WGN was paying the Cubs when they were saying they were losing $3M to $4M a year. Not only have vision and competence improved exponentially with the Cubs front office, but it appears they also want broadcast partners with these same attributes as well. Also, this radio deal was inked at the beginning of June, before any of the Cubs major prospects were brought up. Now, in addition to the prospects there is the Maddon hiring and a couple of significant free agent acquisitions to figure into the equation of the Cubs attractiveness to television broadcast partners. These media companies know the windfall the Cubs will produce when they are competitive and I expect the Cubs new interim television deal (1/2 the games until 2019) to result in a significant increase from the below market deal they just opted out of.

  • In reply to rdacpa:

    CBS Radio execs are giddy that they inked the radio rights. That deal is going to help the Cubs beyond the dollar amount too.

  • perhaps you are right, but i would not be celebrating the fact that a 7 year contract merely pays the cubs what they got in their last long term radio deal. usually these increase my some multiple (2-3x) the dodgers tv deal looks horribly overpriced, the houston deal is falling apart, but the AZ deal looks really good (if it is as reported.) so hopefully someone will make the cubs a killer offer, but it might not be until 2020.

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