Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
by Derek Smart
In a deal that was rumored over the weekend, but wasn't announced until today, the Cubs have given a new contract to Glendon Rusch, reportedly worth $6M over 2 years.
The only thing I can glean from this as a near certainty is that the Cubs will not be involved in the free agent market for starting pitchers, and while I can understand wanting to stay out of a pool of players that promises to yield more Bensonian and Pavanovlian style contracts, any even remotely positive reaction I might have hinges on two factors:
Glendon Rusch must pitch out of the rotation.
It's been clear from watching his work over the last two seasons that Rusch is exponentially more comfortable when he's starting. He's also a lot more effective, sporting lower hit rates and lower walk rates in the rotation both this year and last. In addition, if he's going to be worth $3M a year, he has to do more than long relief and spot start, so to get value and performance, he needs to be pitching every fifth day.
The Cubs had better spend the money they have available on excellent position players.
If a shiny new starter isn't on the menu, there'd best be a shiny new shortstop and right fielder on tap. The problem, as we all know, is that there are few men available who fit the bill. However, the difference between the market for position players and that for starting pitchers is that there actually are a couple names out there with bats who're worth the big bucks.
If going cheap in the rotation means the organization is going to do all it can to nab players the likes of Furcal and Giles, then I think signing Rusch is pretty defensible, particularly if the pursuit(s) end in success.
Needless to say, this could be a very risky strategy for the team, as it appears they're not only counting on their ability to improve the club by acquiring the same guys everyone else is after, but they're hoping against all hope that they don't wind up with a rotation that includes both Rusch and Jerome Williams.
If Kerry Wood is healthy and effective, and the Cubs manage to work some off-season magic on their glaring position player holes, this is a move that could work out well - Rusch isn't a bad fifth starter at all - but a lot has to go right for this to be a positive, so in the great count of opinions on this matter, put me in the 'dubious' column.
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A quick piece of site business: tomorrow morning I'll post the first installment of the Assuming the Position series, starting with First Base. My intent is to post two of these a week in no particular order - with a likely hiatus the week of Thanksgiving - until I'm done.
As with the Rusch signing, we'll have to wait and see how closely intent meshes with reality, especially since, like the Cubs' offseason, the series is a work in progress. However, whether or not the installments appear in a timely fashion, appear they will, and I hope you all find them enjoyable.