Kris Bryant, who has been tearing up Double-A.
But here's the thing: Prospects are all fine and dandy, but don't you have to make progress at the major league level eventually? The Cubs have lost 90 or more games for three consecutive years, and they are on pace for another 93 losses this season. That's unacceptable for a big-market team -- at least it should be.
It's past time for the Cubs to open up the wallet and start spending to improve the major league team. The North Siders have only $31 million committed to their roster for the 2015 season (excluding arbitration raises). Given the ticket prices they charge, the Cubs should have plenty of cash on hand. And, there's not much question that money should be spent on pitching.
All these prospects we keep hearing about are position players: Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, Arismendy Alcantara, etc. Where are the pitching prospects? There aren't many worth talking about, and that's why I think the Cubs should sign their best pitcher, Jeff Samardzija, to an extension. Reports on Monday indicated the team is trying to do just that.
To this point in the season, it's been assumed Samardzija would be traded to an AL East contender midseason. Previous contract talks have gone nowhere with the right-hander, whose 2.77 ERA ranks ninth in the National League. Despite a 2-6 record, Samardzjia's other numbers are good: 82 strikeouts in 91 innings and a 1.18 WHIP. I don't know that he's an ace on a contending team, but he's probably a No. 2 starter. He's a solid, reliable pitcher who would be an asset to any organization.
Knowing that, why don't the Cubs just keep him? Sure, he's going to command six years at over $100 million. That's a lot of dough, but it's the going rate. If Homer Bailey can get six years and $105 million, then so can Samardzija. And it isn't like any of the other free agent pitching options next offseason (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Justin Masterson) are going to come any cheaper.
If you're gonna pay for pitching, why not pay the guy who has been with the organization all along? Samardzija will be 30 heading into next season, but his arm doesn't have the wear and tear of many pitchers his age. He was late to the party in terms of becoming a starting pitcher. He's thrown 649 innings in the majors during his career. By way of comparison, San Francisco right-hander Matt Cain (who is three and a half months older than Samardzija) has thrown 1,779.2 innings in the majors. Projecting a pitcher's future is always guesswork, but if I had to take a guess, I'd say Samardzija's got plenty of bullets left.
Let's say the Cubs do ante up and make Samardzija a lucrative offer in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see if he accepts. I have the sneaking suspicion that Samardzija is tired of this rebuilding plan. By the Cubs' own admission, they are at least two years and maybe three years away from fielding a team that can compete. Samardzija is in the prime of his career right now. Does he want two or three more of his best years to go to waste languishing on a rebuilding club? The way he's pitched, it's absurd he has only two wins this season.
That leads me to my next point: If the Cubs want to attract big-name free agents, they need to start winning more games. Why did Masahiro Tanaka choose the Yankees over the Cubs? It wasn't because the Cubs didn't make a representative offer. It was because Tanaka wants to win, and the Yankees field a competitive team every season.
Sure, the Cubs could flip Samardzija to the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles or Yankees and get three or four prospects, but then their team would become even worse than it already is. If the Cubs trade both Samardzija and pitcher Jason Hammel, they don't have many good options to plug into those two rotation spots. They might be charting a course toward 95 or 100 losses.
Would Max Scherzer or Jon Lester want to come be a part of that? I don't think so. Who is going to take the Cubs' money, if not Samardzija? Members of the media might be swooning about Cubs prospects, but veteran players don't give a damn about Javier Baez's batting average in Triple-A. They want a chance to win, and they want it sooner rather than later.
I believe signing Samardzija for the long haul would bring the Cubs closer to a chance to win than flipping him for a package of ifs and maybes at the trade deadline.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
|Jason Vargas will make more money |
than Royals fans would like.
That might not really matter though, because even if Jimenez is just an inning-muncher with a little upside, the Orioles paid what is the going rate for that kind of guy, and much less than Jimenez and his agent might have expected when the offseason began.
Jimenez isn't the only one. Ervin Santana, who is still a free agent, was no doubt pleased to see rumors floated that it would take six years and $100 million to land him. If he gets half of that now, I'll be surprised.
Matt Garza, thought to be one of the prizes of the free agent pitching market, also didn't sign until late in the offseason for much less than most people -- including the Cubs -- probably expected him to get. I mean, if you're Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, wouldn't you rather have Garza for Edwin Jackson money instead of Edwin Jackson?
Or another point of contrast: Is Jimenez more or less dicey than Homer Bailey, who just got more than $100 million without even hitting the market?
While the top of the pitching market maybe didn't reach the heights we might have expected with the money rolling into baseball, the bottom of the market didn't seem to suffer. At least not among the teams that felt like they had to strike deals before Christmas.
Does the four-year, $49 million deal the Twins gave Ricky Nolasco before Christmas look so great now that Jimenez and Garza barely got more?
How will the Royals feel if Santana takes the same four-year, $32 million deal they gave Jason Vargas long before everyone in the Midwest got sick of snow this winter? Even worse, what if Santana decides that's a bunk deal so decides to look for a well-paying, one-year prove-it deal -- or what an agent would call a pillow contract -- in an attempt to hit the market again with two recent and successful seasons on his resume.
If the Royals hadn't rushed to sign Vargas, or the Twins to ink Nolasco and Phil Hughes (3 years, $21 million), both might have the room in their budgets and rotations to take advantage, either grabbing a better pitcher for the same or less money, or a comparable pitcher on better terms.
Instead both teams are hamstrung. Bad contracts don't usually do that until after someone's thrown a pitch.
The lesson here seems pretty obvious. Good things, or at least better prices, come to those who wait.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
We got a little over halfway through the 2013 season before Homer Bailey broke the ice with the first no-hitter of the year Tuesday night.
The Cincinnati Reds right-hander defeated the defending world champion San Francisco Giants 3-0 before a crowd of over 27,000 people at Great American Ball Park.
Bailey retired the first 18 batters before walking Gregor Blanco to lead off the top of the seventh inning.
Blanco would be the only San Francisco player to reach base as Bailey faced just one hitter over the minimum.
Bailey struck out nine and needed a fairly economical 109 pitches to finish the job. He threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 28 batters he faced.
It was the second no-hitter of Bailey's career. He blanked the Pirates on Sept. 28, 2012, the seventh and final no-hitter of last season. On Tuesday, he became the first pitcher since Nolan Ryan to account for consecutive no-hitters — meaning that no other pitcher threw one between his two.
Ryan pulled that trick back in the mid-70s. As a member of the California Angels, he beat the Minnesota Twins 4-0 on Sept. 28, 1974. Check out the box score on that one. Ryan struck out 15 and walked eight in the victory. He later no-hit the Baltimore Orioles on June 1, 1975. Those were two of Ryan's record seven no-hitters during his 27-year career.