There is a Twilight Zone episode from 1963 called "The Parallel." The story goes something like this...

An astronaut (Steve Forrest) blasts-off from Cape Canaveral, and once he is in orbit, his ship disappears from radar. Next scene, the astronaut wakes up in a hospital, and he appears to be OK. Except he notices certain aspects of his life are slightly different. For instance, his best friend (who was a USAF major when he took off) is now a colonel. His house has a white picket fence that it did not have before. And nobody has ever heard of a "President Kennedy." He locates an encyclopedia and finds that certain facts are different from the history that he remembers. And Jim Hendry did not get fired.

In this alternate universe, the 2011 World Series ends with the Texas Rangers victorious (David Frese strikes out swinging in the bottom of the 9th of Game 6), and operating with a 2012 $130M payroll budget, JH goes into the 2011-12 off-season with a plan that is consistent with past off-seasons.

The first thing he does is exercise the $16M 2012 club option on Aramis Ramirez. but A-Ram declines his player option part and is a free-agent. Knowing there are no other viable 3B FA options out there (or in-house waiting in the wings), Hendry offers Ramirez essentially the same deal he eventually got from Milwaukee in the parallel universe: 4/$50M or 3/$36M - $6M (2012), $12M (2013), $14M (2014), and $14M or $4M buy-out (2015). And with the promise that he will sign a FA 1B and RF to upgrade the lineup, Ramirez accepts. Therefore, there is no reason to acquire another third-baseman, so D. J. LeMahieu and Tyler Colvin remain with the Cubs, and Ian Stewart gets non-tendered by COL.

Believing that compensation draft picks are not worth the chance that the player might accept salary arbitration, Carlos Pena is allowed to leave without being offered salary arbitration, so the Cubs will receive no compensation draft picks in the June 2012 First-Year Player Draft.

But that doesn't matter, because JH knows that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are available. and he will sign one of them. Pujols (somewhat surprisingly) decides to go to the Angels, but JH meets Fielder's asking price, giving the slugger a 10/$205M contract that bests the one Pujols got from LAA by $1M.

While JH has a $130M budget in 2012, he knows he will get about $50M in payroll back post-2012 when Zambrano, Dempster, Byrd, Marshall, and Baker are free-agents, and Pena's $5M salary deferred from 2011 and Carlos Silva's $2M 2012 buy-out are off the books, so all FA contracts are back-loaded. Therefore, the Fielder contract is paid this way: $12M (2012) and $27M (2013-21), with player opt-out options (naturally) after the 4th, 6th, and 8th seasons.

Additionally, JH offers Carlos Beltran a year more than he got from the Cardinals in the alternate universe, signing Beltran to a three-year 3/$39M back-loaded deal that somewhat mirrors the Ramirez contract: $6M (2012), $15M (2013), $15M (2014), and $15M or $3M buy-out (2015).

Because Beltran has been signed to play RF, JH has no interest in David DeJesus.

At this point, the Cubs 2012 payroll (including signed players and projected salaries for arbitration-eligibles and auto-renewal players) is about $127M.

The Cubs still need a starting pitcher, so Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt are non-tendered, saving another $2M in 2012 payroll, as Baker and DeWitt are replaced on the 25-man roster by LeMahieu and either Ryan Flaherty or Marwin Gonzalez (who are added to the 40-man roster on 11/18).

With $5M left to spend, JH signs Paul Maholm to a three-year $21M contract ($5M in 2012 and $8M in 2013-14), without having to trade Sean Marshall.

Looking ahead, salary increases in 2013 would include Fielder (+$15M), Ramirez (+$6M), Beltran (+$9M), and Maholm (+$3M), plus arbitration driven increases for Matt Garza (+$3M), Geovany Soto (+$2M), and Starlin Castro (+$2M).

If the payroll budget stays the same in 2013 ($130M), JH would have $10M to spend next off-season. With Dempster and Zambrano free-agents, JH signs Garza to a long-term back-loaded contract extension and a front-line FA starting pitcher (perhaps Zack Greinke) to a back-loaded contract, as JH knows he will pick-up payroll post-2013 (after Soto has left as a FA) and post-2014 (after Soriano, Ramirez, and Beltran are off the books).

"Submitted to you without any recommendations as to belief or disbelief. You can accept or reject. You pays your money and you takes your chances. But credulous or incredulous, don't bother to ask anyone for proof that it could happen. The obligation is reverse challenge. Prove that it couldn't. This happens to be... The Twilight Zone."

Ho! Ho ! Ho! Merry Christmas, everybody!


Very interesting. I'm still withholding most of my judgment until February or so, when we see where Fielder actually ends up, but right now the only thing Theocorp has done that looks like probable mistake to me is let Flaherty and Gonzalez get picked up in the Rule V. Excluding that possible blunder (I'm still hoping they both get some exposure to MLB and then get returned to the Cubs), the offseason looks like this to me right now: ARam walks (compensation pick) Pena probably walks (compensation pick) Marshall traded (frees up $3 mil) Colvin traded LeMahieu traded Ian Stewart in ( at $3 mil?) Sappelt takes Colvin's role, offers less power Torreyes is a younger version of LeMahieu's skill set, except swapping the hope that LeMahieu will develop power for Torreyes's ability to stay at 2B Travis Wood steps into the back of the rotation Casey Weathers starts the season in the AAA bullpen DeJesus takes Fukudome's role I'm thinking they end up spending some more money this offseason, although I think we will probably see Theo very busy on the trade market over the next 14 months or so. Wouldn't be surprised to see Garza go. Overall, I'm not too upset with this offseason right now. I think if the Cubs had to start today, the lineup would be pretty weak, but I think there are more moves coming. Seems like Theo is more interested in moving everything around than adding one big piece, though, and I guess I'm just interested to see how that works out.

One thing I want to say about Jim Hendry is that I would disagree with those who say he did not have a plan. It might not have been an Epstein-Hoyer Five-Year Plan or Great Leap Forward, and it didn't always work, but he did have a plan every off-season. And that was to try and put a contending team on the field. He might eventually decide to punt if it got to July or August and the Cubs were out of contention, but he didn't pull a Marshal Petain Vichy defeatist thing and spend the off-season in full surrender mode. And that really isn't much different from how all the large market teams are run. The GM tries to put the best team he can on the field every year. There is no "five-year plan" or "complete rebuild" that you might see in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, or San Diego. Large market teams try to win every year.

Of course Jim Hendry always had a plan. My problem with his plans though are that they didn't seem to be planned out.

In my opinion, that's missing the point of the complaint. Of course he had a plan every offseason. No one would (well some would) argue that he was throwing darts a bulletin board of FA photos. The complaint is that that seemed to be his only plan...how to compete this year. As a major league GM and especially one for a large market team he should be doing that, but his failing was that he seemed incapable of juggling that with that of thinking long term (due in large part to his inable to evaluate talent beyond past experience..."Soriano's good, I'll sign him forever."). That, in my opinion, is the plan that Hendry seemed to be lacking.

I disagree with the part of putting a contending team on the field. Hendry and McPhail played a lot of shiny pebble games with the fans. For example we added Greg Maddux who was totally un-needed and failed to address a crappy offense. It was all about the return of Maddux, so lets forget our offense sucks. Or add a hitting instructor to the same lineup and expect different results. Moves were designed to distract people from the fact they failed to do their jobs. Do you know how many of the best players in baseball the Cubs didn't even attempt to go after in free agency? The list is mind boggling for a supposed large market team. The only way the Cubs got semi-decent players was through salary dumps in Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Nomar Garciaparra (loved him as a hitter, but had a frail body). And when the Cubs finally opened the check book it had nothing to do with putting a winning team on the field and it had nothing to do with Hendry. Soriano was signed not to win but to increase the sale price of the franchise. If winning happened it was a nice side benefit, but it wasn't the main reason he became a Cub. We got used to the Cubs signing 3 useless players for 5 million each instead of signing an impact bat for the same price. We got used to a useless player having 1 good month with our team and then being resigned to a 2-3 year deal and expecting those 1 month results. The saddest part of it all is that we expected Hendry and McPhail to fail every off-season. We knew they would never put a true contender on the field that's why we got so enamored with the shiny pebbles.

I'm not convinced that Theo hasn't had his hands tied by Ricketts this offseason. End of 2010 Ricketts said he figured payroll would be top 4 in the NL. That year the 4th place team had a 97 Million dollar payroll. This kinda feels like Ricketts wants to be a guy who spends 90-100 on payroll and not a guy who spends freely.

Even if that's the case, long-term, there's no reason the Cubs can't compete every year in the NL central on a 100 mil budget. It's also possible that Rickett's was predicting that other teams might raise their payrolls and that, then, the Cubs would have to spend more than 100 mil to stay in the top 4. He may have also misspoken--it's possible he meant top 4 in the majors and not top 4 in the NL.

Sure there's a reason the Cubs can't compete. Even if we got Pujols or Fielder that doesn't turn us into a competitive team. With the shape this team is in, they cannot spend their way into a World Series winning team this year.

Prove that it couldn't. This happens to be... The Twilight Zone." ----- I know that TZ episode well. Some things in the parallel universe were identical though, in AZ Phil's world, the Cubs record would be identical with the Theo universe at 77-85. It's really hard to move the timeline unless one affects a critical event...like when Bones McCoy saves Joan Collins character, who keeps the US from entering WWII, and whammo, no Enterprise to beam back up to! Just takes one timeline changing event, like being on the receiving end of the Brock for Broglio trade or Bartman having a colitis attack in the beginning of the 8th. Merry Chrismukah everyone!

Large market teams do try and win every year. This particular team has never gotten beyond trying tho - at least in 103 years or so . . . I think the team that A-Phil describes here would have been intriguing. But not sure it would have been a winner - and certainly would not have helped long term to create a talent machine But. I hear you Phil, crunch and others . . . Maybe it is a lot to swallow, but I really want to see how this plays out. Also we might be damn surprised how much this year's team does compared to last year's team once it is assembled. I'm just glad the last group of scrubs is getting shook up. Also' Phil, who manages this alternative reality team? BIG QUESTION (sorry if you addressed it and I missed it.)

myself, i don't care how any team does compared to last year unless the team won the world series last year. well, in a whimsical way i care, but things move so dramatically these days with rosters. *shrug* i don't even mind gambles, but as it stands we got nothing but gambles showing up, no power anchor, and talk of giving up the only SP on the team capable of being a #1 guy. with dumpster/Z going away after 2012 how many pitchers the cubs plan on signing? no SP anchor and no power anchor? it's one thing to pick up some parts and another to gut the place to see which of someone else's damaged goods is ready to step their game up. there's talk of blowing up a lot of slots to see what gambling will earn them. that's neat and all, but i also see a stack of loot laying around that's either not available or going unused.

I just think Theo & co. Deserve the benefit of the doubt. And for the record there is no way we sign Fielder unless he takes 6yrs or less. Which I hope he does. We should give him 2-3million per year more than the best offer and BAM! Which is why it makes sense to wait and be coy. Though, I guarantee the FO wants to give TheHAIR a lot of at bats this year.

yeah, they totally deserve benefit of doubt right now...offseason isn't even over. personally...i'm willing to give them 2012, but i'd rather they hang onto garza if that's the plan...unless they get a really damn sure thing...and not one "due" 2-4 year after they get him. besides, we don't know how much of the money tightening is ricketts and how much is theo-co...if ricketts is putting the money on lockdown it's moot...if theo-co have plans for the money that haven't materialized yet it's moot...etc. i just hope they have a real/competitive plan for the 2013 season no matter how they roll it...

I agree with every word here. I think however that they are gonna trade Garza in a three way netting a major league journeyman starter, a top 20 (team, not league top 20) pitching prospect and Rizzo. I would be very down with keeping Garza only if they signed Fielder for 5-6yrs. But I think I'm dreaming there AND the timing of all that could be very difficult to negotiate: in my mind the only way we get Fielder is waiting out the market and giving Boras/Fielder a great short term offer when they see that no one is gonna do 10/200MM ... Which isn't even for sure. Cause an AL team might. But the chances of holding off Garza suitors and having the timing be right is very risky. Theo & co will likely jump on a Rizzo plus pitching deal if pressed. But maybe they have a plan, they ARE close to the vest. If I had to be honest tho, my feeling is they are blowing it up wholesale ... And building talent for 2014

Well, which is it? For three weeks plus you have been bitching and complaining about the crap the Cubs signed so far, and how they have not made any splashes yet to your liking. And, others, including myself, have pointed out that it is stil, December and that it seems like there is an "overhaul plan" underway. Yet on Christmas you state, "...they [HoyStein] totally deserve the benefit of the doubt." So, just what are you standing on? Because it seems like you are speaking on both sides of your mouth.

there is nothing new in what i posted i haven't said before except the "i hope they have a 2013 competitive plan." some have been brought up multiple times. the "it's still early" or "it's not done" or "i'll wait until" etc etc statements are numerous. just because i'm not done observing something doesn't mean i won't comment on the current state of it.

of course they have a competitive plan. they've said it over and over again. that's the main reason Ricketts went and got Theo is because he has both a short-term and a long-term competitive plan. what he's made clear though is that if there is a conflict between the short-term and the long term plans, the long-term will be the priority. i'm surprised you haven't read about this. it's all over the media.

i know they have a plan...i don't know what it is and how long it's supposed to last. i also don't know how it involves 20m in 2012 or 50m in 2013...or garza...or theo compensation...or jed compensation...or the fate of guys like marmol the more the media talks about them as trade bait. i'm not a fan of 2012 punting, but i hope it has a point for 2013 if that's the case...and if that's the plan for 2+ years then f'n yawn.

Sun, 12/25/2011 - 5:05pm — superjimmer Also' Phil, who manages this alternative reality team? BIG QUESTION (sorry if you addressed it and I missed it.) ================================ SUPER J: Good question. Probably Terry Francona.

That was definitely science fiction.

Science Fiction-or Strat-o-matic? Methinks some moves by Eppy don't please the fantasy crowd here. Thus the shoulder-shruggin' and spittin' in the can. And we who aren't mixin' it do want "W"s to fly. Happy New Year! "Dad, do you think there's anything wrong with a guy who doesn't want a girl to go around kissin' him all the time?" ~ Andy Hardy, 1938

thinking the Cubs would resign Ramirez and add Fielder and Beltran is science fiction. Also thinking they'd be contending this year with those moves that don't address upgrading their pitching or defense much. also in some way thinking that signing Beltran or Ramirez to 3-year deals with where this team played last year is anything other than a terrible idea.

I looked at it again Rob, and everything in there (except, perhaps, Beltran) is classic JH, including back-loading more contracts. Not upgrading pitching was his M.O. and killed us early when there was no one to take Cashner and Wells rotations. That would be OK, since I can't imagine any of our starters being on your fantasy roster unless someone took a chance on Z. No, the evil Hendree in a parallel universe would have disbanded Daytona and signed 25 30 year old Cuban defectors who were actually 40. : )

If you're not interested in having Garza on your fantasy roster, you're probably not interested in winning your fantasy league.

Jerry Angelo has the same plan. Throw money at problems, develop no cheap talent, and pick up retreads overpay them and try to pass them off as great additions. Throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks is not a plan.

That's a little unfair. There was a good amount of defensive (and RB) draft picks. Peppers and Cutler are not retreads. There's not a team in the league who could have lost a Cutler and Forte and not sucked. Indie for instance. The Bears were on a serious roll when misfortune struck. Super Bowl contenders. But your point is well taken: if the Cubs suck for two seasons and pound out massive talent regularly for a decade - that is their first real chance of getting the odds up for a WS ring. Instead of shooting for a free agent lottery which clearly does not get the chances up consistently. I'm totally into rebuilding and hopefully by 2016 we'll be rolling in gold!

Angelo has never drafted a Pro Bowl offensive player. too many of his picks end up out of the NFL, and we count on other team's retreads. The guy playing tonight was coaching HS football in October. And he was 10 times better than Hanie, who's been there 4 seasons!! He can go...buh bye.

Once again, there is no fucking way in hell that Theo Epstein would have uprooted his life to come here if there were not guarantees that he would have the complete resources to field a winner on a consistent basis. Since I have been watching the Cubs in 1968, the team has tried every tactic: playing re-tread vets and kids, a couple FORMER superstars at the end of careers with mediocre b-level players, high-draft picks with established vets, promising youngsters with a couple vets and rag-armed pitchers, buying the top free agent players and combining with average players, top rotation in baseball with a superstar player and good role players but a manager who couldn't handle pitchers... Nothing has worked to bring the team a World Championship or even a Pennant! So, if you listened to Theo's "acceptance speech" where he detailed what his plan was/is, you would perhaps understand what the goal is and how specifically the team is going about it. The ENTIRE management and scouting team has been shaken up. Two guys remain from the Hendry era - Wilken and Flieta. It has been six week for fuck's sake and a lot of shit needs to be cleaned up, evaluated, re-evaluated, short-term and long-term planning needs to take place one would think, to reasonably spend $20MM, PLUS find ways to turn any aging assets or the positive ones, into assets that benefit the club long-term. I get it. Dallas Green tried this approach and it worked to an extent. Unfortunately, the Cubs couldn't tolerate the good with allowing Green the control he wanted. If you want to hear what the "Plan" is - find his introduction speech, and stay tuned. Theo's style, from what my Boston friends tell me, is he plays things very close to the vest.

>>Two guys remain from the Hendry era - Wilken and Flieta...<< And it's my guess neither of them will be around 12 months from now, either, they're strictly transition guys. Flieta has to answer at some point for the complete lack of progress in the minors from our picks and signees. Wilken has to answer for Hayden Simpson, that's a firing offense.

Totally agree on Fleita. I don't know much about internal organizational operations, but Theo talking about an organizational playbook and it sounding like something Fleita/Jim should have done years ago made my stomach turn.

"Dallas Green tried this approach and it worked to an extent." Good point, but he got his hands tied by the Trib. The story goes that Green went to them in 1985 to add more payroll via trades because the whole starting rotation went on the DL, and all the execs could talk about was that previous series set a record in hot dog sales. Cubs finally have a team exec and owner on the same page.

I can't decide if AZ Phil likes Hendry or dislikes Theo/Jed.

Sun, 12/25/2011 - 11:06pm — JD I can't decide if AZ Phil likes Hendry or dislikes Theo/Jed. =============================== JD: Personally I wanted Hendry fired two years ago, but I am not impressed with what I have seen of Epstein-Hoyer, either. The Cubs are a large-market team, and Epstein-Hoyer are acting like they were hired to run the Pittsburgh Pirates. How much of that is Epstein-Hoyer's so-called "plan" and how much of that is Ricketts simply trying to make a profit with shit presented as genuis, I don't know. But I can't remember the last time I have felt this pessimistic about the Cubs. As I have said before, you can build a strong farm system AND spend big bucks to try and win at the big league level at the same time. Despite what Epstein-Hoyer might say, the two goals are not mutually-exclusive from one another. Unfortunately there are too many Cub fans who are willing to drink the Kool-Aid and accept a losing team with some vague promise of the new management team building the team "the right way" (whatever that means). MacPhail came to Chicago under the same "winner" banner as Epstein, except MacPhail won in Minnesota without the payroll budget Epstein had in Boston. And we know how things turned out long-term with MacPhail as team President. The Epstein-Hoyer thing smells a lot like MacPhail-Lynch Redux to me. If Epstein's plan is to wear his Red Sox World Series rings but run the Cubs like the Pittsburgh Pirates and try to win that way, it's not going to work.

You've also yet to make a strong argument on what the Cubs should spend money on that would allow them to compete without crippling them in the future. Don't just say Fielder too cause everyone wants to sign Fielder, including I'm sure Theo. The trick is how much for how long. Soriano was one of those "signings cause we want to compete every year" and it failed miserably at a time when I felt we should have rebuilt. It's all well and good to make vague claims that you can do both things at once. It's another to do so when you have major problems at multiple positions as well as the minor leagues and not many good players to spend big bucks on.

this whole post is about what he's spend money on. there's nothing too special that's mlb-ready in the system that would jeopardize the team if they left, imo. either way, there's a ton of ways to make make it out of this whole mess. i hope it doesn't take long.

Mon, 12/26/2011 - 11:34pm — johann You've also yet to make a strong argument on what the Cubs should spend money on that would allow them to compete without crippling them in the future. Don't just say Fielder too cause everyone wants to sign Fielder, including I'm sure Theo. The trick is how much for how long. Soriano was one of those "signings cause we want to compete every year" and it failed miserably at a time when I felt we should have rebuilt. It's all well and good to make vague claims that you can do both things at once. It's another to do so when you have major problems at multiple positions as well as the minor leagues and not many good players to spend big bucks on. ============================== JOHANN: Wait a minute there pardner. The claims aren't vague. The Cubs (finally) began to spend big bucks on international amateur free-agents beginning in 2007, and just this past summer they spent a lot of money on players selected (by paying over-slot bonuses) in the First-Year Player Draft, too. They could have been doing this all along, and I blame Hendry for not doing it earlier, but you CAN do both. I also disagree with Tim Wilken's draft philosophy. I think it cost the Cubs an opportunity to do a better job of improving from within over the past four or five years. That is not to say that Wilken was worse than his predecessor, just that he did not make the most of the high draft picks he did have. As for spending (or even over-spending) on MLB free-agents under Hendry, that didn't start happening until John McDonough became Team President and Owner Sam Zell decided (albeit for the wrong reason) to SPEND MONEY. The 2006 Cubs finished 66-96 (a worse record than the 2011 Cubs), but after signing Soriano, Lilly, Fukudome, DeRosa, Marquis, et al, the Cubs became instant contenders, winning the N. L. East in both 2007 (19 game improvement to 85-77) and 2008 (a 12-1/2 game improvement to 97-64, with the 97 wins being the most wins by a Cubs team since 1935, and leading the N. L. in runs scored while giving up the 2nd-fewest runs), and then finishing 2nd with a 83-78 record in 2009 after Piniella got it into his head that the 2008 Cubs lineup was "too right-handed" and Hendry decided to sign Milton Bradley and Aaron Miles, and trade Mark DeRosa. The 2007-09 Cubs won more games over a consecutive three-year period than any Cub team since 1936-38. The 2010 Cubs went backwards, however, and so did the 2011 squad, in '11 mainly because Hendry decided the starting rotation was good enough and traded Tom Gorzelanny and failed to sign any other decent FA starting pitcher as a fall-back. But the way to deal with Hendry's shortcomings is not to try and emulate the Pittsburgh Pirates. It is to stand-up and be an aggressive large-market team, sign the best-available MLB free-agents, while pumping money into scouting and talent into the farm system. Prince Fielder is available right now, but he won't be there again next off-season. Same goes (probably) for Yu Darvish. And even though he is lazy and is a below-average defensive third-baseman, Aramis Ramirez was (by far) the best available 3B post-2011. You can have Ian Stewart, I'll takes Ramirez. And whether the Cubs ended-up signing Beltran or Cuddyer, they were the best available free-agent RF out there, capable of hitting in the middle of the order (something David DeJesus cannot do). In fact, DeJesus is really just Kosuke Fukudome Redux, and I say that with the stipulation that Kosuke is better (and with the understanding that I don't want Kosuke back). What I expected from Jim Hendry's successor was a guy with the brains, balls, and experience to know what it would take to sign the best free-agents available for the least-possible money and for the fewest possible years (something Hendry could never quite do). Somebody who would do whatever he had to do to put the best contending team on the field in 2012 (and beyond), WHILE ALSO continuing to build the farm system. The idea that the Cubs should now try a different approach (by now suddenly doing it the "right way," whatever that means) and emulate the Pittsburgh Pirates is what makes no sense. The Cubs are a large market team, and they should act like one. The fact that Hendry was unable to sign players to the best possible deal favorable to the club and ended up with a 2011 team 20 games under .500 is why he had to go. Check out the Red Sox payroll when Epstein was there. Look at the five, six, and seven year contracts he routinely gave out. Do you really think the Red Sox won two World Series by pinching pennies? Do you think the Red Sox won championships by imitating the Pittsburgh Pirates? Heck, no. The Red Sox had the second-highest payroll in MLB in eight of the past 11 years (2001-02, 2004-07, and 2010-11 -- with $36M more than the Cubs in 2011 while paying a luxury tax), and in two of the the other three years (2008-09) they were #4. Theo always had plenty of payroll to spend, and so it's no surprise that the Sox had a contending team most every year.

jeebus 35 year old beltran for $13m p/year 33 year old Cuddyer for 10m+/year 34 year old Ramirez for $13m/year none of those are good ideas for the Cubs right now... Darvish made some sense, but hesitating at $18M per year price tag is understandable. They didn't have a spot for Reyes really and that leaves Pujols and Fielder, with really Fielder being the only that really makes sense. CJ Wilson wouldn't have been terrible, but he wasn't going to give the Cubs that hometown discount. Anyway, the best way to improve a disappointing pitching staff beyond blowing money is to improve the defense and at least they're trying to do that, signing any of that group of "top" free agents wouldn't have.

What the Pirates have the Cubs don't ? A new tax paid stadium. What do the BoSox have the Cubs don't? A tv network deal that pumps them full of money. Cubs have one owner who has to field a team, rebuild a stadium on his own dime, and get out under a sweetheart deal for the network who airs them. I don't think Ricketts are trying to run this team as the Pirates. I believe he has a plan so they can make the most money with the stadium and I believe he will spend it on the team. The good news is they don't have a Boston, New York or LA in their division. So when this engine is build with the right driver they are going to own this division for years.

But Phil, it's your reports that illustrate what the "right way" would be, i.e., by highlighting the inefficiencies and backwardness of many aspects of the current Cubs system (stats by pencil-and-paper, ad hoc videos of minor-league pitching). Clearly, part of the reason Epstein was brought in was to regularize, modernize, and solidify the system as a whole, and to get rid of outdated practices and implement sounder ones. Those are good goals. I know they don't improve the product on any playing field (from Boise to Wrigley) right away, but I have confidence that they will. I agree that Epstein et al should also be working on several parallel tracks, including by improving the major-league club via free agency. But not only do I trust them to do it wisely, I *need* them to do it wisely. I don't want any more Hendry-style backloaded deals for players 33 and up. I loved Ramirez, but if he opted out of being here, what can anyone do, and how could I expect Epstein to offer him beaucoup dollars to stay given his admitted weaknesses? If "wisely" means making small moves or no moves at all -- for now -- then I'm okay with that.

120-140m teams don't need much leeway to "do it right"...especially with 50m to work with next year. this is an insanely huge amount of loot that 1/2 of MLB would beg for. the cubs can have it both ways. there's no reason to pick a side of spend vs. rebuild because they are in a top condition to do both with very little (to none, if they choose) time off to rebuild. selling this team as if they're the A's...along with the A's payroll...is meh. if 2012 isn't getting them ready for 2013...also, meh...if they punt in 2012, they should be able to right the ship for 2013 by using all the tools available.

That... Seriously messed with my head. Thanks AzPhil. Merry Christmas!!

Al Yellon scores an informative interview with TR: http://www.bleedcubbieblue.com/2011/12/26/265...

he got that interview and all he talked about was suits? theo and crank kenney? really? hopefully "part 2" will address money, future plans, and people who actually pick up a bat and ball. it spells out info and it's not trash, but if i had an audience with ricketts i wouldn't spend it blowing theo while bitching about the cubs ex-boyfriend kenney. ...and in true BCB form there's tons of questions asking about why hendry/quade and other suits weren't dragged through the wringer in the comments section. i know 2012 might be boring, but we got a bunch of cubs fans acting like oakland a's fans...expectations included.

MLBTR: Cubs sign Jason Jaramillo to a minor-league contract. AZ Phil: How do you think Jaramillo in the org affects the 2012 prospects of Clevenger, Castillo, etc.?

how's jar's elbow? anyone know?

The Cubs have agreed to sign Andy Sonnanstine to a non-guaranteed split contract for the 2012 season, the team announced. The Rays non-tendered Sonnanstine earlier this month rather than give him a raise his second time through arbitration. Per MLBTR

84-90mph heat coming at you...with it be 84-87 today or 87-90 today? who knows? he's like the "rehabbing/velocity-loss" version of Z...only rather than overcoming the shaky velocity to settle 88-92 he goes back and forth between low velocity and bleh-low velocity.

I'm pro-cubs-rebuilding so this isn't a complaint ... But would Prince Fielder want to play here with the current roster? I know we have Dale Sveum whom he loves ... But if he wants to win now?

money and years will get 99% of the players out there unless they're old and want to win...even then money wins out over most of them, too. cj wilson too less money and less years for comfort/winning-team reasons (supposedly did not know about pujols pursuit, btw)...not many of those guys left, especially young ones. however...prince can still sign a 5-6 year deal for bigger money and come out of it still in a position to snag quite a nice 4-5 year deal afterwards if he doesn't regress/injure. also however...prince has no reason to do anything but wait for what he wants and a team to snap/break in Jan/Feb.

how in the hell did i double post at the same time? weird. deleted.

Mon, 12/26/2011 - 5:11pm — superjimmer I'm pro-cubs-rebuilding so this isn't a complaint ... But would Prince Fielder want to play here with the current roster? I know we have Dale Sveum whom he loves ... But if he wants to win now? ======================= SUPER J: Fielder will go where the money is, and if the Cubs offer him what he is supposedly asking (something like 10/$250M), then he would probably sign with the Cubs even if he figures a "complete rebuild" will take four or five years. But if the offers are all comparable (probably 7/$175M is eventually the best he's going to get), he'll pick the one from the team that gives him the best chance to win a World Series or two. And that certainly is not the Cubs.

there's always that surprise team, but between Mariners, O's, Nats, Blue Jays and Cubs, Cubs are the second best bet.

Cubs are the second best bet. --- Boras rarely has had to fall back on getting what he feels is market value. So I'd be really surprised if Fielder doesn't get 7 or more years. To do this he needs an AL team to sign him. Factoring in length of contract and near term team competitiveness, I'd rank them: Jays>Mariners>Orioles>Nats>Cubs. and any surprise team (that can afford Fielder) will probably be more competitive than the Cubs currently are (Texas?) Disappointing but the more things change the more they stay the same as far as the Cubs go.

Haven't we been led to believe that Red Sox curse was ended at least in part by rehab projects like Ortiz, Pedroia, and Wakefield (not that I want Wakefield in Wrigley)? True, he had his JD Drew, but we have a small ballpark, Bosox have the similar monster. Ramirez was not going to sign again, and teaching a pitcher to throw a sinker so a better defense can make for shorter innings sounds like a better plan than Qunella & Rothshield had. I am an NL fan because of situational ball bringing out skills both at the bat and with the glove. Isn't that why the Rockies have a humidor? My point is, too early to tell and some of this crud has to be sent to compensate anyway. If this team disappoints now, why have you stayed with them - you always have HAWK HARRELSON...E-E-E-YES!!! (BLAH) PS - IMO, Fukadome was THE single most worst signing of the Hendree era or he was the most mishandled by Pineller or both. In any case please can we move on by not mentioning comparisons anymore?

"PS - IMO, Fukadome was THE single most worst signing of the Hendree era" 30m to m.bradley for what came out to 3/4 season of m.bradley and 2/3 season of silva was pain. they did a decent job during their short stints...not worth their prorated pay, but decent. neither, even combined, come close to covering that 30m. ...and speaking of rebuilding...if this team really is going into the season with all these spare parts and nothing to tie the middle of the lineup together...i do hope marmol will fetch the team one of those future top-rotation or future middle lineup guys the cubs need. he'd look good helping boston win games while lars anderson tries to pry the cubs 1st job from connor jackson after 2012 (joke...i hope).

I see what you mean, but didn't Fuku basically get 40m to learn English? He cost an interpreter, too...

i wouldn't argue either way...both deals sucked enough to not pick a side. heh. fuku at least showed up to work, but he played like a guy making 1/2 his loot.

Several thoughts you may not care about, but what the hey hey... I've been trying to decide whether I care about the Cubs 2012 record. One the one hand, if they're not going to the playoffs, it doesn't matter how many games they win; so yeah, punt the year, trade like crazy & stock up for 2013. On the other, I watched less Cubs baseball this last year than ever, as the team was so pointless apart from Castro. I think I would be interested in a team that (A) didn't win much if it featured young, compelling talent that I could watch grow into contention. I'd also enjoy a team of (B) smart, cheap acquisitions playing above their salaries to complement a genuine star and compete for the division. And perhaps most vehemently, I don't think Jim Hendry is capable of building either (A) or (B), so I'm very glad Epstein is here. Hendry wasn't awful. He was simply at his best with fairly obvious decisions, and had troubles with the little things. I appreciate the playoff appearances during his tenure, but the cost to the team now is striking and not easily overcome. I don't envy Theo, but I have confidence in him. Lots of words here lately about how we don't want to be the Pirates or Royals. Well, of course not. They suck. But we absolutely do want to be the Devil Rays. The Cubs, as a big market team, should do every single thing a good small market team does to sign talent. And then grab awesome free agents on top of that. So yes. We should scour the scrap heap for roster depth. And we should sign Fielder, if the deal makes sense and they don't think LaHair can do 75% of the job for 2% of the salary so the money can go to another impact player...I don't know who, mind you, but that's the theory. Anyway, my 500 rubles. Go Cubs Go.

a quick look at the 2013 FA class doesn't do much for anyone looking a big bat that's not 32+ years old. there's a ton of pitching, though...unless it's snapped up and handed extensions via trade. also, we have a GM (oops, president that's basically the GM) that handed 22m a year for 7 year extension to a 29 year old a.gonzalez...and a 29 year old carl crawford got a 7 year 20m contract...all barely a year ago. he's obviously got no issue throwing money around in his past...along with other incidents in seasons before that. 120-140m teams don't need to tear down to the foundation to build again.

"120-140m teams don't need to tear down to the foundation to build again." The Cubs foundation consists of one or two players (Castro and Garza). The remaining players are either over paid for the value they give or easily replaceable. The 2012 Cubs are doing what the 2010 and 2011 Cubs should have done. The Cubs should be using their large payroll status to trade veteran players for prospect (not salary relief) and trading and signing players from small market teams that can no longer afford them. Sadly, they did not do this in prior season because their roster was bloated with the players noted above who were paid more than there value, and they were unwilling or unable to trade them.

Exactly. There's no reason to spend the payroll up to what fans think is acceptable if the players you're paying aren't worth it.

you two with your common sense must leave immediately

so let's not spend 20m this year and 50m next year while tickets are the 2nd or 3rd most expensive in the league...and all this "revenue adding" building that's gone on in the park. i dunno why it's either/or when this team is 100% capable of rebuilding AND spending money. how many teams have 50m to work with next year? it is pathetic that it's being sold to fans as "we have to tear down entirely to rebuild." are the mets dealing their 3rd baseman? are the dodgers dealing kemp? are the cubs, with more money, dealing a core of a team? this team takes revenue. it's not poor, it's not in trouble, and they have a lot of leeway with renegotiating a TV contract if they're really interested in finding more money.

surely we should look at those 2 model franchises and their stretch of long sustained success.

okay, let's not look at those 2 franchises and look at the pile of mega-millions sitting on a table while people celebrate the signing of a guy who hasn't had a sub-4.50 era or sub-1.40 whip in 4 years. we also got 2 end-rotation starters and a 3rd baseman that can't hit anything but mistakes...but hey, he'll tear up iowa. wait until the cubs give up a #1/2 starter to pick up a gamble that might be ready in 2013/2014...and wait for cubs fans to celebrate giving away a #1/2 starter to pick up those gambles because they fetched a bigger haul that what was given up to get that rotation anchor. we can be A's fans!

Why are you already assuming the Cubs are not going to spend NEXT year?

in past posts i've stated i can live with a 2012 punt if 2013 has a solid plan...and yes, this offseason isn't over...etc. it's what's availble in 2013 that concerns me more...older hitting and some expensive, but plentiful, pitching...matt cain's out there, though...which is neat cuz it looks like the cubs might need 3 SP for 2013 rather than 2.

money must be spent, regardless of the team situation or the players signed. Wisdom. I'm personally gonna give the new guys the benefit of the doubt for more than 2 months. Let's see if their plan leads to more consistent winning than Hendry's. I can live through one bad season to get 10 winning seasons, I just lived through 2 shitty ones under Hendry's try to win every season plan. Let's not forget despite spending all the money he had, most people thought they were the 4th best team in the division last year to start (I was not one of those). Spending to spend isn't particularly a bright move. That all being said, I do hope they sign Fielder. Trading Garza would be a little weird depending on the return of course. Marmol wouldn't bother me in the least.

marmol should be (and there's no indication that it isn't even without press drooling) their #1 priority in moving if cash is any concern to the team...especially with the plans they seem to have. even if they get "not much" in return...which would be odd...there's some immediate "rebuilding" money to keep some parts that the cubs can use next year and beyond. for all we know they're going to keep garza and marmol while adding fielder or some middle-lineup anchor etc etc...but the press isn't leaning that way.

The fear though is that once they stop committing to paying 120-140, Will that 120-140 ever come back? Are we witnessing Ricketts resetting expectations of him to spend at 80-90 million from here on out?

That is a different issue, and if it is real it is a problem. I am not that concerned because of the money spent in the draft, and because I don't think the new management team would have come on board if they thought that the Cubs wouldn't spend money when and where they thought it would be prudent.

Obviously it's pure speculation. However Ricketts has dropped some hints along the way that this might be in the cards. Remember when he said last year he thought payroll would stay top 4 in the NL. The #4 payroll that year was 97 Million dollars. If Garza is dealt, we are looking at a payroll sitting in the mid 80's right now. And every free agent we have touched has been bargain bin.

I hope you are wrong, but we will see. I am not that concerned that the payroll isn't so high because there is little reason for a high payroll. I will be disappointed if Fielder is signed for a reasonable contract by another team, and if Fielder is not signed by the Cubs I will be disappointed if Soriano remains on the team.

#4 payroll last year was Giants at $118M depending on what you look at (Phillies, Mets, Cubs, Giants, Cardinals, Dodgers all over $100M). Cubs are 4th in revenue usually in the NL behind Mets, Phillies and Dodgers. Dodgers and Mets didn't spend much last year due to their own unique circumstances.

The #4 payroll when he said that in 2010 was San Fran at 97 million.

ah, well as history has shown, MLB revenue and payrolls usually stay stagnant or go down rather than accelerate at an ungodly pace. /appropriate sarcasm tags

Good lord bro, what is up with you lately?

the rumor is that I'm a "fucking dipshit". I'm just confused by what assurances you want from Ricketts and the absence of logic you apply to the statements made and events that transpired.

Is there really an absence of logic? The payroll is less than half of what it was when he took over 15 months ago. I can't believe that this doesn't at least concern you a LITTLE BIT? Ultimately it could be a whole lot of nothing. However I do have some legitimate concern that Ricketts is over extended and is using this "complete rebuild" as a cover for slashing payroll 50-60%.

Is there really an absence of logic? The payroll is less than half of what it was when he took over 15 months ago. where are these numbers you are coming up with? I can't believe that this doesn't at least concern you a LITTLE BIT? I'd be concerned if he just didn't hand the keys over to Epstein and told him to spend as you see fit. You think he'd take the job knowing payroll was going to go down and be in the middle of the NL pack? I'm not at all concerned at what the exact MLB payroll budget is in 2012 just so that it makes the appearance of contending while not really doing it at all.

Numbers from Cots 144,359,000 in 2010 Without Garza and Marshall we are looking at 67 million committed before DeJesus and arbitration and auto renews. https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=t9K9o...

Incredibly inaccurate comparisons

Wow. This is such an absurd comment, I don't even on wow where to start with it.

No one should concerned with the payroll unless you just like to bitch about stuff. Ricketts already made it very clear that the baseball operation budget will remain the same and go up if they can increase revenues. He also said Theo is in charge of how it's allocated, whether it's more executives, major league payroll, prospects and so forth. Just because it's not going into the number reported by USA today doesnt mean it's not being spent. Anyone with half a brain would know Theo wouldn't take the job if he wasn't assured they'd spend more than the rest of the central and what the cubs could afford. No one should presume that it's all going to major league payers though.

Where else would it go? The new CBA puts the hammer down on draft spending.

They can upgrade their facilities or hire more scouts or whatever they want.

I'd just feel better if we got some concrete assurances from Ricketts. It could also be complete paranoia on my part also. I just have a feeling once payroll comes down. It is going to stay down. At least for the next several (5+) years.

saying the budget will remain the top in the NL central, in the $200M range, not explicit enough? also this TR: How the baseball budget is determined is you take all the dollars you bring in, pay all your expenses and you give everything else to the baseball guys.

some is going in Theo's pocket :) the actual limits on draft spending are on par with what the top teams paid last year, so it's not that big a cap and maybe he wants to save some for draft luxury taxes and so forth. I presume he's been given the okay to save money one year and spend it another year which is what they did in Boston and why they went over the luxury cap last year as they saved a bunch the previous two years. They're obviously expanding the baseball ops dept and while it's a small cost, some is going there, so on and so on..

STEVENS: If the Cubs wanted to be the Tampa Bay Rays, they should have gone after Andrew Friedman or Gary Hunsicker instead of Epstein-Hoyer. Theo Epstein has never had to work with a payroll like the Rays have (or even one like the Cubs have now), and one of the main reasons the Rays have been good the past three seasons is simply because they were the worst (or one of the worst) teams in MLB for ten years, and got a lot of very high draft picks over the years that they used wisely. But whether the Rays will be able to sustain their success is problematic. They are a small market team, and can only pay their players so much once they hit arbitration and free-agency. One thing Epstein did do in Boston was spend payroll. Look at the FA contacts he doled out when he was there. In fact, Theo spent so much money in Boston in 2011 that the Red Sox had to pay a luxury tax after the season, and the Sox didn't even get into the playoffs! Epstein & his proteges have never proven they can win by being the Tampa Bay Rays, or by being in a situation like they are in now with the Cubs. They talk a good game and (obviously) Theo broke the Curse of the Bambino, and most Cub fans are nothing if not superstitious. I have noticed that Cub fans seem to have an almost unreasonable and unending faith in what Epstein-Hoyer are capable of doing with the Cubs. When they do something that appears to be kind of stupid, it's Hendry's fault. Or just give them time to show what they can do. Or at least they have "a plan." Etc, etc, etc. Well, I am an equal opportunity jag-off. I may be a Voice in the Wrigley Wilderness, but I don't cut Epstein-Hoyer any more slack than I would cut Jim Frey, Larry Himes, Andy MacPhail, or Jim Hendry. So far Epstein-Hoyer have shown nothing to indicate they will be any better than Hendy. Different? Yes. Better? No. Or to put it another way, I expect it could be even worse, but in a different way.

AZPhil: I didn't say they wanted to be the Rays. I said they should do every thing the Rays do (as a successful small market franchise) and then pull out the big wallet on top of that. Call it Rays+. Or if you like, call it Red Sox. Your point about the Rays stinking for years and drafting well is valid and well taken. I don't want the Cubs to stink for years, but I do want them to take every opportunity to gather players that fit their system like a small market team and then spend in free agency or trade for extendable players as a big-market team should. So far Epstein-Hoyer have shown nothing to indicate they will be any better than Hendy. Leaving aside the last 10 years & 2 championships in Boston? What, they're fundamentally different management now that they're with the Cubs? I don't think that's fair. And I'm all for fair criticism, but I think you and others are being unreasonable in your early complaints of the way the team is being run. And I object to being characterized as having unending faith or drinking kool aid if I'm optimistic about a GM 2 months into his tenure. Hendry would have deserved similar and all-together reasonable optimism at this point. Perhaps Theo will crash and burn but he's done nothing so far in his short time to suggest it to me. --- EDIT: I want to append this with a little clarity. I'm not trying to be nasty; I'm trying to state my point of view. And based on your arguments, AZP, I also don't understand why the new pitchers didn't get NRIs, but I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. You're clearly not, and that's fine. I don't object to disagreements and criticism. I object to the broad brush that we're kool aid drinkers and such...

STEVENS: It's certainly nothing personal as far as I am concerned. I'm just trying to state my point of view, too. My concern with"drinking the kool-aid" relates to a lot of Cub fans not seeming to question anything that Epstein-Hoyer do, even when it's the same stupid shit that Hendry did. That a lot of Cub fans seem to feel like they should be grateful that Epstein & Crew deigned to come to Chicago and run the Cubs. Except it's possible that maybe Epstein & Co don't have a better way. My point is that Cub fans should not automaticaly give Epstein-Hoyer the benefit of the doubt. They should be held to the same standard as Hendry, MacPhail, Himes, Frey, et al, and that's what I've been trying to do. I am NOT a cheerleader for anybody, nor do I intend to start being one now, just because Hendry got fired. Remember, Epstein had one of the highest payrolls in MLB when he was GM of the Red Sox, and just last year, with the 2nd highest payroll in MLB, and with the Sox even having to pay a luxury tax, they still somehow managed to miss the playoffs. Epstein has never had to run the Tampa Bay Rays or the Pittsburgh Pirates. He's always had a lot of MLB payroll to spend, and it looks he does not have that advantage anymore.

Fair points, all. I'm just not ready to state he no longer has a payroll advantage. Far too early to suppose that, for me.

some rumoring that Red Sox and Cubs talking about Byrd/Garza for Ellsbury (and I presume others). Nats interest in Byrd as well. Levine in his chat yesterday seemed to think Byrd is as good as gone.

i'd be shocked to see byrd hang around past spring training...even though he's the default clubhouse leader. something tells me the leadership role is going to be more important with pitching, though.