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?

Hendry Should Brush up on French History

The Chicago sports media have been reporting ad nauseam that the Cubs can’t make a free agent signing until they move Milton Bradley. Some say it’s the money. Some say it’s the uncertainty of the layout of the team. I say hogwash. We all know the Cubs have more money than you can shake Sam Waterston at. And it doesn’t make a ton of sense for Jim Hendry to postpone free agent signings for fear of running out of holes on his roster. Right now, no one is offering the Cubs anyone for Milton Bradley, let alone any player worthy of occupying an everyday position.

The Cubs don’t lack the funds or the foresight to sign the players they want—Mike Cameron and/or Marlon Byrd, Joel Piñiero, and Alfredo Amezaga are among the candidates—but somehow they seem intent on broadcasting to the world that they lack flexibility.

Ever since “Milton Bradley” and “must trade” became redundancies, Jim Hendry has looked like a trapped coyote without enough fortitude to gnaw himself free from the jaws of Milton Bradley’s contract. No GM who sees him in that light will ever want to A) take home a Milton Bradley steel trap, or B) help Hendry salvage any of his $21 million leg. The metaphor’s falling apart, so I’ll move on.

It’s time for a French lesson. I give to you, Jim Hendry, the legend of Carcassonne:

In 760, “Pepin the Short”*, King of the Franks, took most of the south of France back from the Saracens, except for Carcassonne. True to its reputation, it remained an impregnable fortress. After a long siege, the Franks had good reason to think that the inhabitants of Carcassonne would soon starve and surrender. But Dame Carcas, the widow of the Sarrasin lord of the castle, devised a plan to save the city. She had a pig fed with the last sacks of grain the inhabitants could find. When the pig was fat enough, it was thrown over the city’s ramparts. At the sight of such a well-fed fat animal, the astonished assailants concluded that the inhabitants still had enough food in stock to stave off famine and weren’t about to surrender any time soon. And so they gave up and quickly lifted the siege. Dame Carcas rang all the bells of the city all day long to celebrate the victory. Legend has it that Dame “Carcas sonne” (Dame “Carcas rings”) is where the name of the city came from.

If Hendry wants to change the way other teams view his situation, and if keeping Milton Bradley really is impossible, he needs to throw a big fat pig over the wall. Give a free agent way too much money. Make a trade for a guy you can’t afford to sign to an extension. Do something no one not named Steinbrenner would be willing to do.

Hendry needs to show the rest of Major League Baseball that he has plenty of options, plenty of money, and no intentions of getting screwed over. A fat free-agent contract (something worth about 2 or 3 John Grabow’s) would send a message that the Cubs can afford to keep Milton Bradley and they aren’t preoccupied with moving him—even if the exact opposite is true.

Do that, and maybe then a GM who cares more about OPS than congeniality will extend his grubby little paws in the direction of Milton’s death grip.

*Paul Sullivan shall heretofore be known on this site as Pepin le Bref.

The 2009 Cubs: One Doodle That Can’t Be Undid

Some Cub fans would like to give the last offseason the Mark McGwire treatment and just leave the past in the past. Others would like to see every move Jim Hendry made go up in a mushroom cloud. Others are still holding out hope this year will have a happy ending.

I know we can’t turn back time. I know this season is all but mathematically over. But I still think we can at least try to learn from our mistakes. (Yes, I know we didn’t make the mistakes and that Jim Hendry needs to do the learning in this scenario, but maybe this will at least  be fodder for some good awkward questions to ask at Cubs Convention 2010.) Hendry made a whole pile of moves after the 2009 Dodger sweep, and I want to know which one has hurt the Cubs the most.

I had my opinions, but before sharing them with the world of sorrows that is Cubdom, I was curious what other people thought. I asked my #Cubs tweeps what single move they would undo if they could. Jmkobus spoke for millions who would have never signed Bradley, opting instead for Adam Dunn, the Knight of Wrigley. Pbernicchi would be the leader of the “undo the DeRosa trade” party. Ehudmh posited that if he could reverse Hendry’s initial pursuit of Milton Bradley, he could undo every other bad move the Cubs made. TheCubsInHaiku just wishes (in 17 syllables) that Hendry would have quit.

The tragic fact of the matter is that all of those arguments are better ideas than what’s played out in reality in 2009. Here’s a list of all of the moves since last October that involved signing new contracts, welcoming new players, or saying goodbye to former Cubs with a look at the amount of damage inflicted by each:

10.29.2008 3B Casey McGehee claimed off waivers by Brewers. His 13 HR and 50 RBI make this a pretty damaging move considering Aramis Ramirez’s prolonged injury this year, but somewhat unpredictable. Cubs Richter Scale: 3.5

11.13.2008 Traded RHP Jose Ceda to the Marlins for Kevin Gregg. The opposition is slugging .436 against Kevin Gregg. The Cubs only have 3 hitters with a slugging percentage that high. Even if Jose Ceda never pitches again (and he hasn’t, since the deal) this trade hurt the Cubs big time. Cubs Richter Scale: 7.5

11.18.2008 Re-signed Ryan Dempster to a 4-year, $52-million contract. Given the length of the deal, this could get worse, but I wouldn’t call Demp’s numbers in 2009 damaging. Cubs Richter Scale: 0.5

12.11.2008 Bought RHP David Patton from the Reds for cash. This is one move (let’s see if there are more) that actually helped the Cubs. David Patton has been pretty decent. Cubs Richter Scale: -0.5

12.12.2008 Signed LHP Neal Cotts, RHP Chad Gaudin, and OF Reed Johnson to 1-year contracts. Setting aside Reed, who is great to have on the team, injured or not, the Cotts and Gaudin signings didn’t really work out so good. Cotts especially had a disastrous time with the big-league club, albeit limited. Cubs Richter Scale: 3.5

12.16.2008 Signed free agent Joey Gathright to a one-year contract. He left town quicker than you can say “car-jumping,” in a later move. Cubs Richter Scale: 0.085

12.31.2008 Traded Mark DeRosa to Cleveland in exchange for pitchers Jeff Stevens, Chris Archer, and John Gaub. The Cubs have struggled to find run production anywhere in the lineup. 2B has been an offensive black hole. When Ramirez was out, 3B produced similar suction. The pitching prospects might help down the road, but this season, only Stevens has helped at all. What’s worse, DeRosa has made the division-leading Cardinals that much better. This one hurts more the longer the season goes on, and nobody but nobody liked this deal at the time it was made. Cubs Richter Scale: 9

12.31.2008 Signed POC Aaron Miles to a 2-year contract. Yes, the same day the DeRosa deal went down, Hendry also signed the human out. The New Year’s Eve drinking started plenty early in the Hendry house. This has to go down as the single worst day of the offseason. Aaron Miles was sketched in as a possible everyday starter on the Cubs roster. He’s hitting .174. In the 2nd half, he’s hitting .038. The Cubs are paying him two and a half million bucks to do that. Cubs Richter Scale: 5 (but considering how tiny Aaron Miles is, that’s a tremendous shock)

1.5.2009 Signed LHP Bill White (aka Guillermo Blanco) to a minor league deal. I put this in here only for the Blanco joke. Cubs Richter Scale: NA

1.6.2009 Traded RHP Jason Marquis to the Rockies for RHP Luis Viscaino. In the baseball sense, this move helped the Rockies immensely. He has 14 wins (and has reached double-digit win totals for 6 years running) and a 3.75 ERA. From the business side, the Cubs wound up paying Luis Viscaino a few million bucks to get released by every team in baseball. Since financial restrictions were such a pressing factor in the offseason, it would have helped to gain a productive salary instead. While I don’t think the Cubs have been hurt all that much by not having him, the Rockies are leading the Wild Card race, so . . . that hurts. Cubs Richter Scale: 2.5

1.8.2009 Signed Milton Bradley to a 3-year, incentive-laden contract worth up to $30 million. I’ve said before that Cub fans put too much blame on Bradley for the 2009 debacle. It is pretty standard for newly signed veterans (Alfonso Soriano, Jacque Jones, Derrek Lee, Moises Alou) to struggle in their first half-season at Wrigley. Since then, Bradley has been productive and healthy. Some chastise him for the distraction he has been, but I don’t see how anything that distracts attention away from this team could be viewed as a bad thing. Bottom line: if a clubhouse distraction is the reason you’re losing, you suck. Yes, the Cubs did commit a lot of money to Bradley, but not so much that they couldn’t have kept DeRosa and just not traded for Kevin Gregg or signed Aaron Miles. Cubs Richter Scale: -2.0 Yes. That’s right. I’m saying he’s helped the Cubs. Deal with it.

1.18.2009 Traded Felix Pie to the Orioles for pitchers Garrett Olson and Henry Williiamson. Painful, but hardly damaging for this season. Although it did pave the way for their next move. Cubs Richter Scale: Owie

1.28.2009 Traded Garrett Olson and Ronny Cedeno to the Mariners for Aaron Heilman. I feel like Heilman has gotten some bad breaks and that he would be better as a starting pitcher than a reliever. But he hasn’t provided much relief to Cub fans. He has a WHIP of 1.5, an ERA of 4.35, and opponents are slugging .422 off of him. I view him as the replacement for Bobby Howry, and he’s been precisely that. Not good. Cubs Richter Scale: 6.5

1.30.2009 Signed Paul Bako to a 1-year contract. He didn’t make the team. Cubs Richter Scale: —

2.2.2009 Traded Rich Hill to the Orioles for PTBN and traded Michael Wuertz to the A’s for prospects Richie Robnett and Justin Sellers. Rich Hill is struggling. But Michael Wuertz has a 3.09 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, and a .205 batting average against for the A’s. I always liked Wuertz, even though he struggled with his control (his strikeout to walk ratio is up to 4.3 now, though). Given the struggles of the Cub bullpen, this oft overlooked deal deserves more attention. Cubs Richter Scale: 7.4

Aside from minor league deals and other insignificant moves, that’s the sum total of the 2009 Cubs offseason. Now, you might be wondering about letting Henry Blanco and Kerry Wood walk away, but in my opinion A) those aren’t really moves, they’re just moves that didn’t get made; and B) neither one would have been a whole lot of help to this Cubs team. Koyie Hill is a white Hank White. Kevin Gregg has been Kerry without the blisters.

So, yeah, if I could undo one move, I have to admit it would be the DeRosa trade. If the Cubs had not acquired Kevin Gregg, Aaron Miles, and Aaron Heilman, we still could have afforded Milton Bradley.  If we’ve learned nothing else, it’s that we should take away Jim Hendry’s cell phone this New Year’s Eve.

NOTE: If you’re on Twitter, let your displeasure be heard (and read) by clicking the “tweets” box to the left.

Is It Time for Curt?

Ted Lilly’s hurt. Could be awhile before he’s able to start again. And Curt Schilling’s not doing anything.

It’s been a long time since I said I wouldn’t mind seeing the guy who redefined Red Sox try to break some curses on the North Side. And I’m thinking it might be time to revisit the idea.
Adding Curt Schilling would give the Cubs a lot of versatility as to how they use their starters, especially as Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly work their way back to their normally rugged and dependable selves. It would allow Sean Marshall to stick with his role as the stellar situational lefty. Curt could pitch those extra days here and there when Rich Harden tries to avoid the daylight. And financially, the move could make sense, too.
As Bob Brenly probably remembers all too well, Curt Schilling was willing to take a back-loaded contract with the Diamondbacks when they were hurting financially. Would he do the same with the Cubbies for a shot at winning the most elusive championship in American sports?
Oh yeah. Would it work? A boy can dream.
Ted Lilly is now on the DL with an inflamed shoulder and, in a case of surgical schizophrenia, is slated for arthroscopic knee surgery. He’s likely to miss 4-5 starts (Cub-anese for three months). I hope Kevin Hart has a dynamite start today, but the Cubs need some help. Somebody get Schilling on the phone and get the turkey dinner ready. It’s time to bloody up some socks, people.

B. J. Ryan Signs with Cubs: Should We Care?

B. J. Ryan is a Chicago Cub, or at least he’s in the Cubs’ minor-league system, according to ESPN Chicago. Last year with the Blue Jays, Ryan had 32 saves and a sub-3 ERA. But in 2007 and 2009, his effectiveness has been limited by arm trouble that has brought him more walks than strikeouts.

But the most important letter in the B. J. signing is L. Ryan is a lefty.

Could the Cubs have struck gold? Or is this just Neal Cotts part deux? Time, that verbose piece of garbage, will tell. But my guess is hopeful: I think the Cubs have landed a much-needed addition to their bullpen, which already looks like the most improved part of this team.

Can I borrow that bloody sock?

Curt Schilling is pondering a comeback, and he’s got the Cubs and/or the Rays in his sights.

I don’t know quite how to feel about this . . . yeah, it would be nice to have someone with that much experience on the playoff roster (because he’s not starting the season with anyone). But that much experience comes in a 42-year-old package. And the way I see it, Schilling would still be the 5th starter, unlikely to see much or any starting action in the playoffs.
Of course, if any of the current aces were injured (or turned into deuces) I would majorly change my tune. I just don’t know if I could ever get used to having his blog in this town. Do we need any more built-in controversy?
If it leads to winning a pennant . . . absolutely.

Should the Cubs Add Some Pudge?

Over at the Cubscast message board, fan desperation has gotten to the point of debating light-hitting backup catchers. The Cubs let Hank White fly (along with this $3 million option el grande) and instead took a flyer on Paul Bako. Both catchers are now making $750,000 in one-year deals, Blanco signing with the Padres. Neither catcher is an accomplished hitter. Both are getting up there in age. Blanco is clearly the better defensive backstop. But all in all, neither one screams “difference maker” in what is already a backup role.

I agreed completely with Hendry’s decision to decline Henry Blanco’s option. In world of constricting financial belts and pending mega-franchise sales, every last million bucks is critical. But one story had me wondering if the Cubs didn’t jump the gun on signing Bako’s three-quarter million contract. 
Word on the Hot Stove Blvd. is that the Marlins are pondering a $1 million deal to Pudge Rodriguez. Florida, whose entire team payroll could barely pay Mark Texiera’s taxes, have a chance at landing a perennial all-star catcher (who is, admittedly, pretty much all out of ennials) for a cool million. But the Marlins have to turn over their couch cushions to see if they have the money. The Cubs, on the other hand, could snatch up Pudge in a move that, compared to the Bako signing, would be an absolute steal (and if Bako was behind the plate, there’s no risk of getting caught).
So why not? Why not make an attempt to sign his Pudgeness? Even if Hendry had to eat Bako’s contract (and, let’s face it, he could eat it for breakfast and still have room for crullers) the move would still be well worth it.
The Cons: His bat has slowed down, his arm is not the cannon it once was, and who knows when the after effects of ‘roids will do in his kidneys. Plus, he might not show the Cubs the same generosity that the Marlins could expect. And after this winter, wouldn’t you give someone a discount in exchange for 90-degree weather?
The Pros: Every aspect of his game is still twice as good as Bako’s (although Paul reportedly has impeccable kidneys, some insiders calling him a nephrological marvel, a true renal genius). Rodriguez admits he can’t play more than three or four times a week. 
I’ve weighed both sides, and while the cons win by word count, the pros take it in a landslide in terms of baseball sense. I would love having a backup that can actually hit and that could spell Geo on a more consistent basis down the stretch in a season. Make the move, Jim. To make the Bako contract easier to swallow, I will send you $5 myself. I know, generous. That’s how bad I want this championship.