Its been a long, painful seasons for Cubs’ fans.
I’m not talking about like “long car ride to the in-laws house for dinner” long… This is a “dragging through the most desolate pits of hell over top of shattered glass and that creepy, nasty feeling sea-weed that grazes your foot while swimming” type of long.
Naturally, another season passes and another post season is missed. Such is life for a Cubs fan as of late.
While we’ve become all too familiar with being chastised by other baseball fans and generally being at the brunt end of many loss jokes, there are some significant steps being taken in order to solve the problems that have plagued the Cubs’ season. Young prospects have earned lots of playing time during September, including Dave Sappelt, Junior Lake, and Chris Rusin. This is obviously an afforded luxury when your team loses 100 games a season and can experiment with wild line-ups without any repercussions. Sure makes for some whacky baseball though!
A very clear trend is developing from 162 games of borderline laughable baseball: the Cubs need quality pitching.
I wish I could bold, italicize and make the word “need” a 72 font size in that previous sentence. The word on its own simply doesn’t do the demand justice. Alas, if I did, I’m sure Jordan (gifted writer and lead editor at Cubbies Crib) would fill my inbox with stern emails telling me to never do that again. But I digress…
With so many quality pitchers being on the market pre-deadline this year, it warrants the question: How come the Cubs didn’t pull the trigger on a deal? Why would they contemplate trading ace Matt Garza? Wouldn’t all this be counteractive towards acquiring pitching? While many of these concerns are valid, it shows colors of the new regime that Theo Epstein has built:
Youth and value are held in a high regard. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that if you have a player within your system while he’s young, you can motivate him and brand him as your own. This plays in to the psyche of any athlete.
Taking in to consideration all of these factors, there’s one name that stands out above all others: Mark Appel.
The Stanford student athlete and Baseball America No.1 prospect of 2012 was expected to be drafted first overall this season. He certainly was drafted, but selected only 8th overall by the Pirates after many teams took a pass on his services. Why on earth would so many teams pass on Appel despite the fact that he could very well develop into an ace within the major league ranks? Are these teams not focused on pitching? Do they not believe in his skill?
The truth of the matter is that Appel is recognized as a very talented player and would be an asset to any team he joins.
The problem was that Appel’s price was sky high - and was due largely to Appel’s agent, Scott Boras. Boras is known for only representing the best in the game, but he also demands a high price for all his clients. The simple fact is that most teams recognized this fact and avoided Appel based on his representation, knowing that Boras would be trying to gouge any team for as much cash as possible.
The Pirates attempted to take Appel on, who wanted $8M for his services. Under the new CBA, there is an allocated budget that every team must follow while taking part in the Rule 4 draft. This was implemented in an attempt to stop team with massive buying power from simply throwing money at prospects.
Boras seems to have missed the point on this, and Pittsburgh refused to sign Appel because of the penalties associated with exceeding these new budgets and his asking price. Appel went from top prospect and expected no.1 draft pick to returning to Stanford to play baseball.
As a Cubs fan, this has me licking my chops…..
Considering the past failure of his signing with the Pirates, economics dictates that his services are worth <$8M. Having a fixed figure on the price of his services is probably the most harmful thing to his value. This would be a steal if the Cubs can talk Boras down to a reasonable $4-$5M.
Appel has been rumored to be pursued by the Houston Astros, but these allegations can be cast aside because the Astros do not have the budget to take on Appel’s contract desires.
However, the Cubs do have the budget. Its a perk of having almost ~3,000,000 fans a season pass through the gates at Wrigley, not to mention the massive brand dominance the Cubs have.
The Cubs may also be interested in the fact that he’s only 21, shows tremendous upside and the rights to his services aren’t owned by anyone at the present time. He’s eligible to be drafted in the Rule 4 draft again next season, and the Cubs are looking very good to “earn” the second overall pick in 2013.
As far as qualifications go, Appel checks out. The real question is would Theo Epstein be willing to deal with a Scott Boras client?
While the Cubs have very few Boras clients on their squad (Jeff Baker, who is now in Atlanta and Rodrigo Lopez is still a part of the system), I don’t think it will hold them back too much. Boras will realize that his push for maximum profits has actually hurt his client’s value, and the Cubs may see this opportunity to obtain a no.1 prospect for pennies on the dollar.
Sure, its a stretch…. but its exactly the type of move that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are known for.
Appel will continue to pitch for Stanford next season, where maybe he’ll learn that his first contract isn’t always the most important.
Want more? You can always follow me on twitter @Denny_CubsCrib for Cubs analysis, news, humor and updates.