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by alex ciepley
I'm a guesstimator, and never is this quality of mine more in play than when I'm trying to figure out salaries. It's all such a blur to me, anyway. $1.0M for a backup shortstop who hits weak choppers to second? That, to me, would be like spending $1,300 on a backup umbrella, in case my primary one flipped a spring.
I've tried to lay out next year's expenses as they currently sit, and I've even done some big-time guesstimation on arbitration numbers. I may end up being way off on those; I hope I overestimated figures instead of the other way around. Numbers that are italicized are my arbitration estimates.
If you think a non-arbitration figure is wrong and can point me in a better direction, make your case in the comments, and I'll adjust the numbers accordingly.
Will Big Z get a Big raise? Maybe. I'm giving him $2.0M based a salary bumps given dudes like A.J. Burnett a couple years back. And I won't begrudge him any raise he gets.
Just like at my office, there are several candidates for internal promotion for the fifth spot. Just like at my office, they'll probably hire someone from outside the company. Sergio Mitre and Ryan Dempster could be number fives, but Mitre seems like tasty trade bait and the Cubs want Dempster in the bullpen.
Glendon Rusch may end up being the answer, and as long as he doesn't get some wicked contract, I'm fine with him every fifth day.
Wanton excess. Unfortunately, not "wanton excess" as in "excessively good", but "wanton excess" as in "excessively expensive." The Angels and Twins, to think of two clubs off the top of my head, will likely have bullpens next year that are half as expensive and twice as good.
$3.8M for Mike Remlinger? I've laid out my thoughts on Dempster ("ewww"), and while I love Borowski, he may not even pitch next year.
The biggest problem? If the Cubs sign a "closer" such as Troy Bound-to-Suck Percival, the new guys's big bucks will bump off Leicester or Wellemeyer. Wellemeyer isn't a favorite of mine, but both he and Leicester are cheap alternatives that could fare as well as most of the bigger names on the list.
I'm even leaving out two viable 'pen options within the farm system: Mikey Wuertz and Willie Ohman. Ohman in particular could use a look. A lefty who struck out 12.9 batters per nine last year in the high minors? Yup.
Dempster and Farnsworth should, in my mind, be traded. Remy and JoBo are untradeable, Hawkins is too valuable, but dumping Dempster and Farnsworth would free up the funds to get something truly worth the money, like a starting second baseman or a couple new hot dog stands.
You don't buy good bullpens, you build them. The Cubs have goodies galore in the minors among their starting pitchers. Most of those goodies will spoil, never to become starters in the majors. If they can be turned into effective bullpen arms, though, you get rich rewards from the spoilage for little cost. A guy like Angel Guzman, for example, might not turn out to be the starter some thought he'd be, but with his ridiculous control, he could turn out to be an ace in the 'pen.
Patterson will probably get a decent raise, though maybe not as much as I've figured. Barrett and Ramirez could both earn much more if they actually reach arbitration, but I think Hendry will avoid arbitration with both and sign them to multiyear contracts.
The Cubs have three starting positions to fill, and will have four if they're able to ship out Sosa. Sosa's salary is a pretty heavy weight right now, and gaining some financial flexibility by unloading even part of his contract would greatly help out the bottom line.
If the Cubs don't nontender Jose Macias' butt and sign a utility infielder who can hit, they will have created a most impressively awful core for their bench. Forget the Lemons, they'll be the Steaming Doo-Doos.
The Cubs bench is still short a fifth outfielder who can play center and a backup catcher. Bako seems a likely candidate to be re-signed, though his especially poor offensive output this year might outdo his Madduxian charms.
Grudzielanek $.25M Alou $2.5M -------------------------- TOTAL $2.75M
I don't know how the Cubs will account for these costs in their budget, but I'm going to include them here for safety's sake.
GRAND TOTAL $75.85
The Cubs had a budget around $92M last year. That number shouldn't go down, and given some new TV deals I'm going to venture that it will even increase just a touch. I'll guess that the Cubs will have a budget between $95M to $100M, leaving them $19-24M to fill the following positions:
1) starting second baseman
2) starting shortstop
3) starting left fielder
4) fifth starting pitcher
5) two bench players