Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Beltran and Budgets
2004-12-30 12:08
by alex ciepley

Derek touches on the thumb-twiddling state of the Cubs, and I second his thoughts that I've grown impatient as a fan in waiting for some cool Cubs news. But like Sir Smart I too take encouragement in Hendry's record at scoring the big deal, and would like to think he has a surprise or two in store for the Cubs roster.

But what of the offseason's biggest jewel? The new conventional wisdom is that the Cubs are out of the Beltran hunt because they've failed to dump at least part of Sosa's contract. A sampling of Mike Kiley's comments:

The Cubs aren't prepared to say it publicly, but privately they realize their chances to sign free-agent center fielder Carlos Beltran are dimming by the minute and almost completely extinguished.... Beltran has to decide before Jan. 8 whether to remain in Houston or jump to the New York Yankees. The Cubs are no longer viable contenders to sign Beltran because a Sosa deal apparently will take much longer to develop, if it ever does.
I agree with Ruz's point that it doesn't make a lot of sense for the Cubs to be so adamant on moving Sosa before trying to land Beltran. What if, for example, they dump Sosa and can't get Beltran (or even Magglio) to replace him? What if they can't move Sosa, period?

Scott Boras is often vilified by fans and the media alike, but regarding Beltran and the Cubs I just think he needs to stop making sense.

"I don't know why people are writing the Cubs aren't in it because they have to trade Sammy Sosa first. We're only talking about one more year [on Sosa's contract]. Who in their right mind would think you could not accommodate signing Carlos Beltran because of that?"
In addition, how much money do the Cubs think they can really save by moving Sosa? I don't see Sosa's presence as a barrier to getting Beltran because I don't really see the Cubs saving much money in any deal that gets rid of Sosa. I don't think one necessarily has to do with the other.

However, I can completely understand the Cubs' unwillingness to expand dramatically their budget, which is what it might take to sign Beltran. Signing this year's golden egg may push the payroll to $110M or so. That's a lot of money. And since I suck at handling money, I'm not really the person to tell someone to spend more than they've counted on spending.

Jay Mariotti, on the other hand, has no such qualms:

It wasn't long ago when he was rassling with Sosa, on top of the world at the time, over a deal that became a four-year, $72 million taffy pull. While that agreement now seems a year too long, it illustrated the stinginess of MacPhail, the baseball blueblood who still protects a payroll the way his Hall of Fame father and grandfather did -- even though it's almost 2005 and the Cubs make stinkingly absurd profits. He'd much rather go bar-hopping with his adversary, the mayor, than give Beltran a monster agreement.
Did someone get coal in his stocking? With his usual drama queen restraint, Mariotti seems to believe that the Cubs have no budget, or that they at least should ignore any budget that they've set.

While I'd love to see the Cubs go overbudget for a year so they could sign Beltran, I think it is pretty dumb to moan that the Cubs are cheap. We're talking about a team that may have a $100 million payroll. $100 million! This isn't a Twins-sized payroll, or Brewers-sized payroll, or a Padres- or Cardinals- or Astros-sized payroll, either. Given the Cubs' market and revenue, it's appropriate that they have a larger payroll than these teams. But the Cubs aren't cheap. Their spending is going to be near the top of the National League next year.

And stop blaming money! The Twins and A's have been doing just fine with limited funds. The Astros and Cardinals did more with less than the Cubs last year. And at the other end, the Mets did less with more.

I assume that budgets are set for a reason, and unless a budget is egregiously out of line with expectations, I don't think complaining about it is all that fruitful. If the powers that be decide the Cubs can't go over their allotment to get Beltran, then that sucks, but it isn't because the Cubs have a skimpy payroll. Hendry will just need to get creative in adding some more offense, a trait he's displayed often in his young tenure. And who knows what the Cubs' G.M. could come up with?

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