The poor Cubs can’t seem to catch a break.
After signing pitcher Gerado Conception, it seemed the Cubs were hot on the tail of Cuban prospects.
This was all despite losing the bidding war of prospect Yoenis Cespedes to the suprise winner Oakland A’s (and really… whose jaw didn’t hit the floor when we learned he wasn’t heading to Miami)
Theo Epstein was brought in to rebuild the Cubs from the ground up with a 5 year deal in hopes that he would repeat his performance in Boston as a “curse breaker”. So far, he’s lived up to the hype by making significant moves like ditching hot-headed clubhouse cancer Carlos Zambrano, beefing up the farm system through acquisitions like prospect Anthony Rizzo and picking up players like outfielder David DeJesus ( .240 AVG, 46 RBI, OBP .323 in 2011) who can have a real impact on the Cubs current problems.
These problems were rampant. Out-fielding, pitching, bad contracts… and that’s just the short list. If all Cubs fans can take an honest look in the mirror (and I mean REALLY honest) we can all agree the 2011 Cubs were a terrible baseball team. Considering how they looked on paper? A 71-91 record was almost respectable.
Epstein is one of the smartest minds in baseball right now and we all know he’ll never settle for being a “mediocre” team. His pursuit of Cuban prospects was just one of his many plans in order to get the Cubs back on the right track. The only problem? Theo and his team of Jed Hoyer and Jason McLoed and extremely secretive about their dealings.
So secretive… it could almost be hurting the Cubs.
Since there’s never any real concrete confirmation of deals or plans being leaked by the Cubs brass, it leaves an information void that allows rumors to grow and prosper within. These are usually started by so called “insiders” or merely people who speculate what the Cubs next move might be.
This is exactly the case when it came to Cuban prospect Jorge Soler’s relationship with the Cubs.
Soler has been on many team’s scouting radar since late 2011 mostly because of his raw talent. The 19 year old is good…. very good. The Cubs have been known to wine and dine their prospects (as was the case with Cespedes) but to no avail, Cespedes is not a Cub. This is all very normal in the baseball world as you want to show your potential top prospects that they’re welcome and respected within the organization.
With Cespedes, the Cubs made it public that they were in the hunt for his services. There was no hiding it. Cubs brass had spent a ton of time in the Dominican Republic watching him work and talking to his people.
When it came to Soler, there was nothing. No information… no sources…. just static.
Anyone who follows the cubs with a keen eye knows they’re in the market for young talent, especially a bat like his. Of course the Cubs had to be in on Soler in some facet… right?
This is where problems came around. Guys like Dave van Dyke of the Chicago Tribune started talking about how Soler was a “done deal” and it was a matter of time before the signing would be announced. Even Kevin Goldstein, a very reliable and close source to the cubs, reported it “safe enough” to call Soler property of the cubs.
Suddenly the Cubs popped up all over the map. Number and contract terms were even being speculated… things like a major league 4 years/$27.5 million contract (which makes absolutely NO sense under the new CBA, but we’ll save that for another article) and bonuses were now apparently true.
Whoa…. how did we go from static silence to a done deal in less than a week?!
Not only are all these rumors now hurting the Cubs by driving Soler’s price up, it could potentially get the Cubs in legal trouble.
Soler is NOT yet a free agent, plain and simple. He’s not even a resident of the Dominican Republic yet. He has no work visa and isn’t even recognized by the MLB.
Making a deal with a player (even just in principle) who doesn’t have proper clearance is a big no-no with Bud Selig and even the US government. Suddenly it was panic mode for the Cubs who probably had nothing to do with these rumors in the first place. Epstein, a lawyer by trade, would probably have an extremely good understanding of the legal proceedings of the MLB before ever talking to a player and wouldn’t run the risk of putting his rebuild in jeopardy. The pieces just dont add up… this isn’t Theo’s first tour inside an major league franchise.
After all this raw speculation from online tweeters and bloggers (most of which claim to know more than they actually know) finally drew out a comment from the Cubs front office.
And what was the statement? Straight up denial of any deal being done with Soler.
Nice save, fellas.
“both sides may have a deal, but would now have to give impression they don’t because it’s against US and MLB rules. Teams have to be very careful regarding Cuban players. Premature deals can get teams in legal trouble. So basically, expect a lot of spin the coming weeks about Soler to Cubs.”
Jorge Arangure of ESPN
Dodging legal issues being the first priority, you couldn’t ask for a better response from Epstein and his team.
However, despite a “good save” damage has already been done. Its hard to make it tangible, but as soon as you fix a price on player ($27.5 for example) the bidding war starts. The bottom line is drawn and that can spur more competition for said player’s services. Knowing the value of something right away in an auction style bidding process makes it almost impossible to get a good deal.
Chalk that one up as another bump in the road for the boys in blue. Not like they need any more set backs, but the new front office looks like they can handle what ever is thrown at them.
Good thing too…. Chicago is not a city that takes their Cubs baseball lightly. They’ll need to prepare for just about anything.