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The Week In Review
by Derek Smart
Again, my friends, I'm relegated to playing catchup. I hate being behind like this, but that's sort of the nature of the beast at the moment. In any case, things actually happened this week, and it's my duty to comment, by gum, so away we go.
It occurs to me that I haven't said word one about the signing of Aramis Ramirez. This is partly because I made Aramis contract related comments about 24 hours before his deal went down, and partly because, other than a sense of relief, I have little to express, with not a whit of it original.
What this has taught me, if anything, is that the Cubs need to rethink the way they commit to their star players. The reason they were in this mess to begin with is because Jim Hendry was unwilling to accommodate either Ramirez' original fiduciary demands, or his demands on time commitment, or some combination of both, and as a compromise took on nearly all the contract's risk factors himself.
As a result, he's left essentially giving out the same contract he refused to give then, only likely $15M-$20M larger, to a player who is two years closer to his eventual decline - a decline which will surely begin during the life of the deal.
I don't question the current deal - I don't consider that the Cubs had a choice, as Ramirez is clearly one of the main offensive cogs of the team, and any hope that they have of competing over the next several years would be deeply harmed by losing him. It's the process that led us here that's the problem.
Here's my suggestion: In the future, when confronted with a star player in his mid-twenties who wants a near-market value deal that would take him into his age 30-31 season or so, if the only other alternative is to give the sort of power that was given to Ramirez in this case, I say make the long-term deal while you have the opportunity. If you can think of anyone on the current roster this applies to, let me know....
Ah, Mark DeRosa. I can't exactly say I've gone back and forth on this, because to say that implies that there was a point in the continuum when I was happy with the deal, and that's decidedly not the case. That said, I haven't come all the way down on the side of outright condemnation, either. Call me an agnostic.
In truth, I think DeRosa's a good guy to have on your team, in the same way someone like Rob Mackowiak fits that mold. To be somewhat useful with the bat, while being able to move around the diamond defensively in a non-harmful way is of serious utility.
However, simply being better at being Jose Macias - okay, much better - doesn't justify the length or expense of the commitment. He's being paid like a starter, a pretty good starter, and so a starter he will be, manning the keystone most days, and that's where the issue comes.
Again, I'm not expressing a unique idea here, as many of us in the blogging community think this deal is, to put it diplomatically, less than optimal. Taking a guy's career year and blowing the rest of the market out of the water because of it has been a Hendry MO for a while now, and it's a method of doing things that I don't particularly care for.
Still, as I said before, I think DeRosa's a good guy to have around, and chances are solid he'll be as productive as someone like Ryan Theriot would have been, so the only way in which he truly hurts the team at this point is in the pocketbook. But, in the end, if his deal doesn't keep the team from signing or trading for other parts it needs, and doesn't end up blocking a clearly superior player from getting into the game, while it might be philosophically offensive and indicative of a disturbing trend, the contract in itself is not purest evil.
In Henry Blanco, we have a similar situation to DeRosa, in that he's a valuable player to have on board, despite his weaknesses, who is being tremendously overcompensated for his services. The only big difference being that there's no pretense that he'll be a regular starter, which makes everything a little more palatable for me.
No, he's not worth the $2.5M he'll be making in each of the next two years, but he is worth having on the roster, particularly when your starting catcher is as defensively challenged as Michael Barrett. Again, as long as the extra money spent isn't suddenly missed during negotiations with a true impact player, I see no terrible harm in this.
Neal Cotts, eh?
I'm waiting to make a call on this one, as I can't imagine a scenario where this deal doesn't result in another deal involving either Cotts himself, or one of either Scott Eyre or Will Ohman.
I may not have a high opinion of Jim Hendry, but dealing an arguably superior pitcher and another live minor league arm for Cotts only makes since if there's a larger picture whose image we're not yet privy to. Pray with me, friends, that the picture is a pretty one.
I don't cover the business side of the Cubs, as I'm neither qualified from a knowledge perspective, nor interested enough to gain traction in that niche. Thankfully, there's Ivy Chat, for what Chuck has brought to the table in his analysis of the inner workings of the dealings of TribCo recently has been invaluable.
The latest word makes it seem like a sale of the club to a non-corporate owner is not only likely, but coming sooner rather than later. Without going into a lengthy discourse, let me just say that any developments on this front can't come soon enough for me.
An owner who wants more than anything else to see this club win would be a boon worthy of the most unhinged of celebrations. May it be so, and quickly.