Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
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.