Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Plan B?
2005-12-04 03:52
by Derek Smart

Well, if nothing else, I suppose the suspense is over. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Rafael Furcal will be accepting the Dodgers' offer of 3 years and approximately $40M, and really, who can blame him?

Not only is it more money over less time than what his old team was offering, but it was only about $10M less than what he would have received from the Cubs over the course of two more years. One has to figure that, at 31, Furcal will be able to get something better than 2 and $10M when this deal has expired, assuming he has not, literally, imploded.

It's a shocking turn of events, not just because the Dodgers were such late entrants to Furcal-Fest '05, but because I can't recall a team effectively employing this strategy with a top-of-the-line free-agent before - namely, overpaying in the here and now to avoid being over-extended in the future.

As Jon Weisman alluded to on Friday, there's a degree of savvy in paying big up front rather than over a number of years, and to my mind, it's particularly true of teams that have some financial wherewithal. If you're a club with big pockets, spending money is one of your super powers. What's a more effective way of employing that super power? Paying $10M a year for 5 years, or $13M a year for 3 years? Which strategy allows more teams to stay in the hunt for that player's services?

A team with a mid-sized payroll simply can't afford to spend huge gobs of cash on one player for a single year, but they can hang around if you're talking about spreading the payments out. It may not be smart, but they can do it. That's reason one of why it makes more sense, if you're really after a guy, to pay big and quick - to push out your competition.

The other reason is because such an arrangement, while costly in the near term, allows you much more long-term flexibility. Say this player sustains a career-ending injury at the end of season two, or you have a great young player at the same position moving up through your system and other issues that could use the financial attention. Would you rather be on the hook for $13M next year, or $30M over the next three?

The great thing is, it's also a relatively low-risk way for the player to make more money. Like I said above, barring injury, there's very little chance with his age and skillset that Furcal won't end up raking in more moolah over those five years. Whether you believe they really needed him or not, the mechanics of how the Dodgers got Furcal were solid.

So where does that leave the Cubs? Disappointed, obviously, and in greater need than ever to be creative in meeting a whole host of unresolved issues. But if there's something positive to be gleaned from this, it's that I think by the end of this winter we'll finally know once and for all what kind of a GM the club has in Hendry. After all, the measure of a baseball executive - or any leader, for that matter - isn't how he builds his team does when all goes according to design, it's how he reacts when that design is in tatters.

2005-12-04 07:11:32
1.   The Real Neal
At this point I think Hendry is going to have to use up a big hunk of his trading chips to get the upgrades the lineup needs.

I've been racking my brain for potential right field trade targets, but there just aren't as many big sluggers in right as you'd expect. If Hendry can find a platoon partner with J.Jones for about $8 between the two of them, that could be a pretty good right fielder. Eduardo Perez, can he play right?

That would leave us with center field and leadoff (assuming Cedeno get's the shot at short). There's 2 obvious center fielders and leadoff hitters available, but both have flaws- Pierre isn't very good and we'd have to overpay for him and Damon would block Pie's ascension.

2005-12-04 08:04:33
2.   rynox
On the bright side we have some solid relievers.
2005-12-04 10:07:05
3.   Voxter
I think there is the distinct possibility that, sans Furcal, Dusty gives Neifi on the order of 450-500 AB at SS, unless presented with a drastic upgrade -- which seems less likely every day. It's not a happy thought, but there it is.
2005-12-04 18:30:51
4.   The Real Neal
I like the posts on Dodger Thoughts about how the Dodgers 'Outsmarted' the Cubs. I wonder why they only outsmarted the Cubs and not the Braves. Someone should let Dodgers fans know that for a million/year less they could have Miguel Tejada.
2005-12-05 08:34:04
5.   cubsnerd
My rule of thumb is, whenever the press starts referring to the bidding on a free agent as a "sweepstakes," it's time to stay home.
2005-12-05 08:43:39
6.   hippolyte
For all the hype, Hendry's doing what he's always done. He moves quickly where a deal can be made and he drops out when the money gets crazy.

Hendry's bullpen moves look pretty smart when you consider what Farnsworth and Gordon are receiving elsewhere.

Furcal simply exceeded what Hendry (and Schuerholz) thought he was worth -- a pattern Hendry has shown with marquee free agents every year he's been at the helm.

Now what? Why not bring Garciaparra back at SS and let Cedeno earn his position. When was the last time a highly touted position player successfully transitioned to the majors in this organization? I wish Ronnie all the best, but the prospect of a Cedeno/Neifi platoon at short and potential platoons at every outfield position, I think it makes sense to nail down some proven offense in Garciaparra and hope for the best, knowing Neifi and Ronnie can fill in.

2005-12-05 09:16:26
7.   Todd S
I think the issue with Garciaparra is that the CBA only allows for a 15% paycut, which would mean the Cubs have to pay Nomar $6.8 million next year. I'm not 100% sure how all the rules work, but that is my understanding. I think that's a lot more than he's actually going to get on the open market. On the other hand, it might be worth it so that we don't have to hear:

"Leading off and playing shortstop, Neifi Perez!"

about 120 times.

And while I've been waffling, I still don't like the middle reliever signings. Maybe they're not horrible contracts, but they are bad decisions. The tipping point for me is losing the 2nd and 3rd round draft picks.

2005-12-05 14:17:56
8.   onetimer
The problem with allowing Furcal to slip through the cracks is that there is no Plan B. Plan B appears to be a middle infield of Neifi and Ron Ce, with Walker traded. It also means the Cubs still need a leadoff man and that Florida now holds significant levarage in any deal for Pierre.

I'd sign Nomar, keep Walker, trade Ron Ce in a package for Pierre. Trade Hill, Pie, and Nolasco for Abreu.

Money should not have been an object, not after 98 years, not after 2003, 2004, and the disaster of 2005. The Cubs window is closing--Prior and Zambrano will be free agents soon--and it's not like they don't have the money. Higher ticket prices, more bleachers, 3.2 million attendance, rooftop revenue, advertisements in the stadium, scalping their own tickets...The choice was whether to spend the extra 3 million to get a guy who fills two holes (ss and leadoff) or continue to count your money. The Cubs did the latter, and it means they're going nowhere in 2006. Great?

2005-12-05 16:38:54
9.   shuuto
Too much teeth-gnashing over the Cubs not getting Furcal. He was not going to be the difference in the Cubs winning it all or not. He would have been a decent part of the puzzle, but this hardly cripples the Cubs for next season. $13M/yr for Furcal is ridiculous. He's just not that good. Paying more would have been a huge mistake, especially since the Cubs have two SS on the roster already. One's a rookie and the other can't hit his way out of a paper bag, but the SS position is not a glaring hole on the team like RF is right now. That's where Hendry should be looking to spend his money. A two-headed SS monster of Neifi and Cedeno is kinda scary, but if Hendry makes some good moves at other positions it won't matter much. If he doesn't and the team starts the season with Korey in CF, Neifi at SS, and, say, Jacques Jones in RF, then there are going to be problems...

The new hot rumour has the Cubs trading Walker, Korey, and pitching prospects to the Rangers for Mench and Sorianno. Not crazy about either of those players, but the price sounds about right. There's still talk about the Cubs picking up Bradley if the Dodgers non-tender him. Not crazy about that idea because of his injury history, let alone his other issues. Pierre would be a good signing. He's only got a year before FA, and the Cubs could use him to keep CF warm for Pie (or sign him long term if Pie doesn't pan out, which I think is a legitimate worry at this point). Abreu isn't going anywhere unless a team gives up a front-line starter, according to the Phils front office. Prior for Abreu? Talk about a blockbuster deal...

2005-12-05 20:42:32
10.   onetimer
Shortstop is now as big a hole as right. The Cubs could resign Burnitz if need be. That'd be bad, but not as bad as Neifi (and you all know that Cedeno is going to be behind Neifi) getting 500 ABs. Like I said, Furcal solved two problems. It also made getting Pierre easier. If some triggers aren't pulled, 2006 is a wasted year, and 2008 is just around the corner. Say goodbye to Prior and Zambrano, and you can spend the rest of your Cubs life think about the window between 2004-2007 and wondering how the Cubs didn't win a WS. We can always be thankful, though, that the Cubs didn't "overspend." Heaven forbid, they actually pony up the money to win, just one time.

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