The Economics of the Cubs Dodgers Deal

If the buzz leading up to the trade that sent Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot, and cash to the Dodgers for Wallach, Smit, and DeWitt, the primary snag prolonging the negotiations was the matter of just how much if any cash should be smuggled along with Lilly’s things. The number everyone was throwing around was $4 million. Ignoring the talent of the various pieces being swapped, I wanted to look at how much the Cubs are saving by making this deal.

I don’t know how anyone ascertains exactly how much is left on a player’s deal, but looking at the regular season alone, the Cubs had about 36% of their games left to play. I know that’s not perfect, but it’s close enough for me: it would leave Lilly with $4.37 million remaining on his contract and Theriot with $947 thousand (MLB Trade Rumors put them at $4.24 million and $918K). Like I said, it’s not perfect, but I’m okay with that margin of error for the sake of argument.


What I do know is that a lot of Cubs fans really liked Ted Lilly and/or Ryan Theriot, and the idea of jettisoning them to LA for a younger version of Theriot and paying the Dodgers to take Lilly strikes many fans as Hendriotic. But it’s not quite that simple or depressing.

The Cubs will pay the Dodgers $2.5 million and (by my crude calculations) pay Blake DeWitt less than $150,000 for the remainder of this year (and a cost-controlled salary for the foreseeable future); the two prospects will also cost the Cubs a negligible amount. That’s the money the Cubs have to say goodbye to as a result of the deal: $2.7 million or so.

Even using the slightly reduced numbers for Lilly and Theriot’s remaining contracts (about $5.16 million), that relieves the Cubs of about $2.6 million of payroll. Yes, it could potentially cost the Cubs the two compensatory draft picks they would have received if they had offered Lilly arbitration and lost him on the free agent market (or they’ll have to yield picks of their own if Hendry re-signs him). But there’s no guarantee Hendry would have offered Lilly arbitration.

As it is, the Cubs have an extra $2.6 million or so heading into next offseason. Obviously it would be best spent on the first of three installments paid an overpriced and injury-prone free-agent outfielder’s signing bonus, but we can only hope that dream comes to fruition.

I’ve really just wasted my time on this, haven’t I?

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