Look, I would love to see the Cubs sign a premier starting pitcher like Jason Schmidt
, or a "big bat" like Alfonso Soriano
or Carlos Lee
. I really would. But I just can't see that happening.
Jim Hendry does not like to give big bucks FA contracts to players from other teams, possibly because he believes it makes it more difficult to sign & retain his own guys (like Aramis Ramirez
and Carlos Zambrano
, for instance)
So I doubt that Jim Hendry will sign one of the two premier FA pitchers (Jason Schmidt
or Barry Zito
), and I also doubt that Hendry will acquire an Alfonso Soriano
, Carlos Lee
, Vernon Wells
, or Andruw Jones
Whether or not you agree with The Hendry Plan, I believe this is what Jim Hendry is going to try and do after this season. He may not succeed, but this is what I think he will TRY to do. And I am NOT advocating any of this...
First of all, I believe Hendry will sign Fredi Gonzalez to a two year deal (with a third year option) to manage the Cubs in '07. This will "marry" Hendry & Gonzalez through 2008. If Hendry goes down, he goes down with a pal (Hendry & Gonzalez helped to develop the Marlins farm system together in 1992-93). And Gonzalez will get Bob Melvin/Ken Macha money ($800K per year). The coaching staff will probably include current Cubs minor league instructors like Von Joshua (hitting instructor), Bob Dernier (OF, base-running & 1st base coach), and Alan Dunn (pitching coach), as well as Mike Quade (3rd base coach). I believe Larry Rothschild (who was a Hendry Hire with a Marlins connection) will remain, but as the (yes, that's right) bench coach (well, Rothschild was an MLB manager--if you want to call it that--at Tampa Bay).
Figuring that Hendry will have somewhere around $100m available for payroll in 2007 (could be a little bit more, could be a little bit less), this is how I believe Hendry will spend it.
IMMEDIATELY AFTER END OF 2007 SEASON (IF NOT EARLIER):
I think Hendry really does want to re-sign Juan Pierre
, but would also want to be able to easily trade him whenever Felix Pie is ripe. So I expect Hendry to offer Pierre $24m over three years, but "front-loaded" rather than "back-loaded" (to make it easier to trade him), and structured something like this:
2007 - $10m (complete "no trade" through '07 season, while Pie plays one more season at AAA))
2008 - $8m (limited "no trade" - Pierre can refuse 10 teams)
2009 - $6m
Conversely, I expect Hendry will offer Aramis Ramirez a "back-loaded" five-year $70m "escalator" deal with a player option just before the deal's highest salaried years and a full "no trade":
2007 - $11m
2008 - $13m
2009 - $14m (player option for 2010)
2010 - $16m (club option for 2011 with $4m buy-out if vesting based on games played is not met)
2011 - $16m
NOTE: 2010 vesting option based on 400 games played (combined) in 2007-09.
I believe Hendry will make a similar offer (backloaded deal) to Carlos Zambrano probably during Spring Training 2007, although I doubt that Z will get more than $11m in 2007 whether he signs a one-year contract or multi-year deal.
As for FAs, I believe Hendry will attempt to sign RHP Miguel Batista
(Diamondbacks) to a two-year deal (probably for about $12m, or $6m per season). This one seems really obvious. Because whenever possible, Hendry likes to cover his bets with flexible options, and Batista could initially work as a #4-5 starter in 2007 (he has made all of his starts this season with the D'backs, and usually pitches into the 7th inning), but if one of the younger pitchers (such as Sean Marshall, Juan Mateo, Angel Guzman, Sean Gallagher, or Donald Veal) pitch well enough to claim a permanent slot in the rotation sometime in '07 or '08, the "rubber-armed" Batista could easily be transferred to the bullpen (he was the Blue Jays closer as recently as 2005).
So if Hendry re-signs Pierre (front-loaded deal with $10m salary in 2007) and Ramirez (back-loaded deal with $11m salary in 2007), and signs Batista ($6m in '07), that will leave about $10m in 2007 payroll.
Next, I expect Hendry will sign a veteran FA middle infielder who could either be the starting 2B or (if Theriot continues to play like he has, or if Eric Patterson continues to develop and is ready sometime in 2007 or 2008) the utility middle-infielder for a couple of seasons. That could well be Notre Dame alum and ex-Marlin & D'back Craig Counsell
(for a Neifi-like two years $4.5m, or $2.25m per season). Also, I expect Hendry will spend about $1.25m on a veteran lefty-hitting corner IF-OF bat-off-the-bench to replace John Mabry
, possibly somebody like Geoff Blum
. It's POSSIBLE that Henry Blanco
could be re-signed for one more season for about $1.5m, although I kind of doubt that. I suspect Geovany Soto will be the Cubs back-up catcher in 2007.
So that will leave about $6m.
I expect Hendry will buy-out the balance of Kerry Wood
's contract for $3m, and then attempt to re-sign Woody for a base salary of about $1m, plus incentives (maybe $100K per appearance, figuring that KW will be used out of the bullpen). So if Wood makes 40 appearances, he would get $5m, if he makes 50 appearances, he gets $6m (etc).
I expect Hendry will offer Wade Miller
basically the same deal he had this year--$1m base plus incentives based on games started.
That means Hendry will have about $4m left to spend, and I believe he will use that to cover the salary differential in a trade for a rotation starter. Like maybe Bob Howry and a pitching prospect (somebody like Guzman or Mateo) to the White Sox for either Javier Vazquez
(Yankees and D'backs pick-up half of Vazquez's 2007 $12.5m salary, so he would really cost the Cubs about $6m) or Freddy Garcia
(if it's Garcia, Sox would either have to take back Glendon Rusch
and his $3.25m 2007 salary, or else pick-up $3m of Garcia's $10m '07 salary). Or maybe Glendon Rusch or Ryan Dempster
(to offset-salaries) plus two young auto-renewal pitchers (perhaps Guzman or Mateo or maybe Marshall, plus David Aardsma
) for a "reliable" rotation starter like Jason Jennings
($6.5m in '07 and FA after 2007), Jake Westbrook
($6.1m in '07 and a FA after 2007), or Kris Benson
($7.5m each in 2007 & 2008, or $500K buy-out for 2008).
Resulting in the following:
PROJECTED 2007 STARTING LINEUP:
1. Pierre, CF
2. Theriot, 2B
3. Lee, 1B
4. Ramirez, 3B
5. Barrett, C
6. Jones, RF
7. Murton, LF
8. Izturis, SS
2. TBD (Garcia, Vazquez, Jennings, Westbrook, or Benson)
3. Prior (or Miller)
4. Batista (or Miller)
Wood - closer(?)
Howry (or could get traded)
Dempster (or could get traded)
Aardsma (or could get traded)
Novoa (if Howry, Dempster, or Aardsma gets traded)
Other candidates for bullpen: Jae-kuk Ryu, Juan Mateo, Angel Guzman, Lincoln Holdzkom, Clay Rapada, and Federico Baez.
Also, Batista could be moved to the bullpen if Prior and Miller both claim starting spots in ST.
Again, I am not advocating any of this, but like it or not, this is what I believe Hendry will do. There will be no Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito in the 2007 Cubs starting rotation, or Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, Adam Dunn
, Vernon Wells, or Andruw Jones in the Cubs 2007 Opening Day lineup.