Baseball Toaster Cub Town
monger monger monger
2005-11-22 06:07
by Derek Smart

Alright, alright, I know I did an entire post that was essentially a warning about how following rumors over the winter can be hazardous to your health, but gosh darnit, I'm bored, and sometimes an addict like me simply can't help himself. Besides, there seems to be some traction to this, so without anything else of substance to examine, I thought I'd take a quick peek.

First, we have the Daily Herald reporting that the Cubs could be in pursuit of yet another middle reliever, this time Bobby Howry, late of the Cleveland Indians. But that alone isn't enough to make me toss up a post, I need a little more backbone before I start circulating innuendo. Enter the New Jersey Star-Ledger:

The Yankees are pessimistic about their chances of signing top relief-pitching targets such as B.J. Ryan, Bob Howry, Kyle Farnsworth and Tom Gordon, and they're moving down the list to lesser names.

Howry was said yesterday to be nearing a deal with [the] Chicago Cubs -- a three-year contract worth more than the $11 million the Cubs gave to Eyre.

Um. Yikes.

Don't get me wrong, Howry's been very good for the Indians the last two years, but again, here we see the Cubs preparing to give a middle reliever in his thirties top dollar directly after the best season he's ever had, or is ever likely to have. Add in that Howry saw a precipitous drop in his hit rate (from 0.85 H/9 to a minuscule 0.67 H/9, which is good, but not necessarily sustainable), as well as his strikeout rate (from 8.23 K/9 to 5.92 K/9, which is never good), and there's reason to be wary.

Not enough to scare you off? How about his career 0.82 GB/FB ratio. I do not look forward to the hypothetical situation where Howry comes into a tight game late at Wrigley with men on and the wind howling out to left.

Of course, nothing's happened yet, but this has been a winter where the whispers of free agent goodies coming Chicago's way have turned out to true more often than not - in fact, I can't think of a resolved free agent situation that was rumored to involve the Cubs that hasn't gone their way, not that there have been many to begin with.

But even so, take what I said about Eyre and his signing and apply it equally here, because while I think Howry should be able to make the bullpen better next year if he comes on board, the philosophy behind his signing is mortally flawed, and will eventually do the Cubs severe injury.

2005-11-22 07:28:51
1.   tewksbury
I like the rumored Howry signing a lot. While 2005 was his best year, 2004 was pretty close to being his second-best year, leading to the conclusion that he is a different and better pitcher after surgery in 2003.

He can close; he has the best control of anyone in the Cubs bullpen (which, I believe, led the majors in walks last season); he gets out lefties just as well as righthanded hitters; he is a significant upgrade from Wuertz and Novoa.

31 is not too old. I would not be surprised if scouting reports on Howry read: always had good stuff; recently figured out how to pitch. I see no reason Howry can't do the same thing as pitchers like Mesa, Guardado, Wickman, Tim Worrell, and others, who pitch well into their mid-to-late 30s.

He's not a sure thing, but, for me, he's a better gamble than Octavio Dotel or anyone else on the market.

2005-11-22 07:47:23
2.   tewksbury
...I agree, though, that paying top dollar for a free agent in their thirties, coming off their best season, is in general a bad way to do business. But when options are limited, a calculated risk like Howry is a good signing.

The main differences between Howry and Eyre are: The Cubs need Howry more than Eyre (I think Ohman & R.Hill could both be better options than Eyre next year); Howry's career numbers are better than Eyre; Howry closed before and could do it again effectively (the Cubs need a good backup closer in case Dempster doesn't repeat last year, and Williamson has not proven that he's effective).

2005-11-22 08:24:02
3.   rynox
I guess it's good the Cubs are focusing on durability for a change (Eyre led the league in appearances and Howry set a club record for the Indians in '04 for appearances), but dang... do they have to spend so much on them?

Oh well, in Hendry we trusty.

2005-11-22 09:06:36
4.   Lefty
Check out They have an 18 page thread about the Howry signing..which hasn't happened yet.
2005-11-22 09:08:20
5.   Marc Normandin
Don't feel too bad Derek. Atleast you didn't just deal two of your 5-6 best prospects for a #2 starter and a washed up third basemen.



2005-11-22 11:00:25
6.   The Boar
Of course, despite Cubs Blog Army sites going insane over this, nothing is actually official yet.

If the Cubs do sign Howry, then I honestly am fine with it. I don't love the deal, but I don't have real problems with it either.

Everyone knew that the bullpen was in shambles last season. Hendry had made the decision to fill it with young, cheap talent and proven veteran arms. Unfortunately, all of our proven veteran arms had mental meltdowns (Latoya), got injured (Borowski, Fox) or decided they couldn't pitch (Remlinger). The young arms weren't much better. So something had to be done.

What, then, to do? You could go out and spend likely $11 m or so a year for 4+ years for Wagner, or you could spend about $9 a year for 4-5 years for Ryan. But that would leave us with a great 8th and 9th inning guy (Demp and Wagner/Ryan) but no one quality to fill in after them. How many teams have we seen (e.g. Yankees, Dodgers, Padres) struggle to get to their closers?

I think Hendry has taken the right, though an admittedly costly, approach. Rather than target the huge FA names, he's going after fairly proven quality arms that show no signs of letting up and signing them to slightly over-priced but relatively short-term deals before the rest of the market can get to them. The fact that we have to pay $12 m for 3 years of an above average right-handed relief pitcher is not the Cubs fault. It's just the economics of baseball. Relievers, like all players, know what they are worth, and if you try to lowball them, not only are you going to piss them off, you're going to delay the negotations enough that other teams (like the Yankees) get involved.

Derek, if I said that the Cubs were going to acquire Scott Eyre and Bob Howry this offseason to shore up the bullpen, would you have serious qualms with that at face value? Yes, we're probably paying a bit too much. But goshdarnit, we're a large market team that should be able to do so.

I think these signings (or potential signings) leave the Cubs in good shape. We haven't blown the bank on FA relievers, so we can go after some quality FA position players. Hell, it also might be an indication that next year's payroll is going to be higher than previously thought. Wouldn't that be nice.

All of this is academic unless we go after some solid FAs and/or use our now expendable young pitching talent in trades. Mr. Hendry, go get Furcal.

2005-11-26 17:46:17
7.   shawndgoldman
If you want a rumor that will drive you batty, how about this one floating about the blogcubsphere: we're close to signing Rafael Furcal and trading for Rafael Soriano. We are rumored to give up Cedeno, Jerome Williams, Todd Walker, David Aardsma, and another minor leaguer for Soriano and Kevin Mench.

It might be time to assume the second base position before Hendry beats you to it...

2005-11-26 17:51:23
8.   shawndgoldman
How embarassing, i've got my Sorianos mixed up. Of course, i meant Alfonso Soriano, the one that actually plays for the Rangers...
2005-11-27 19:36:15
9.   rynox
For those of you who thought the 12 mil for Eyre was too much, despite the slim lefty reliever market, BJ Ryan is being offered five years, 47 mil by Toronto. Relievers just aren't as cheap as they used to be.

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