The Chicago Cubs biggest acquisition this off-season was the Theo Epstein. The new Cubs president of baseball operations in turn hired Jed Hoyer as the team’s new general manager, who brought with him Jason McLeod as the new vice president of scouting and player development. The front office trio then turned their attention to the coaching staff and the player roster. The biggest acquisitions the Cubs made this off-season involved the team saying goodbye to players such as Sean Marshall, Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Pena. Gone from the organization is the philosophy that the Cubs, because of their Chicago base, have to live up to their big market label.
Having said that, with Epstein, Hoyer, and McLeod are all familiar with the big market mentality as the trio worked together in the Boston Red Sox front office. The Cubs’ new regime has taken in all the questions from fans and media members regarding the big-ticket item, and despite reports to the contrary, the Cubs never were seriously involved in the Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder sweepstakes.
The one sweepstakes that the Cubs did take part in was the one for Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes was the “big-ticket” item for the Cubs’ this off-season. At one point this winter, Cespedes admitted himself that the Cubs were the team that has shown the most interest him. Nonetheless, Cespedes wound up signing with the Oakland Athletics on a four year deal worth $36 million. But how close were the Cubs to landing Cespedes?
The Cubs played the Oakland Athletics on Saturday, and that gave the team the first opportunity to collect first hand knowledge on who many believe will be the best prospect to come from Cuba in a generation. Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times reports that before the Cespedes signed with the Athletics, the outfielder was very close to signing with the Cubs.
The bottom line, Cespedes told the Sun-Times on Saturday, was that the Cubs offered six years for the same $36 million that the Oakland Athletics offered for four years.
In addition to the significant difference in annual salary, the center fielder told his agent he didn’t want a six-year deal from anybody. If not four, he wanted eight or more. Chicago Sun Times
Cespedes was committed to being uncommitted. If the outfielder was going to sign a long-term deal, it would have had to been a deal that was for at least eight years. No team would have been foolish enough to do that. The interesting thing is that the Cubs and Athletics offered the same amount, but with the Athletics offer being for four years and not six, Cespedes opted with the offer that gave him the higher annual salary.
The other interesting part to the story was when Wittenmyer wrote that the Athletics agreed to allow Cespedes to become a free agent once his current four year contract expires rather than tying him to the arbitration. Having observed how the new Cubs’ regime has operated, it is likely that the Cubs were not willing to make such an agreement if Cespedes would have signed with the Cubs.
But the Cubs are not going to be left-out of the international market. In fact, the team likely will land an outfielder that has a higher ceiling than Cespedes. Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler has yet to be officially recognized as a Major League Baseball free agent, but when he is, Soler will likely sign a four year, $27 million deal with the Cubs. Soler is 19 years old, and will need to spend two or three seasons at the minor league level before being Major League ready, but he fits the mold of a five-tool outfielder more so than Cespedes would. In addition, Soler will not become a free agent once the four year deal expires as he will go through the arbitration process. Soler will receive a Major League deal from the Cubs, and have a slightly higher annual salary than what the Cubs would have paid Cespedes.