This winter is all about smart cash for the North Siders.
While there are many attractive free agents that will be tabled to the market in the coming weeks, the Cubs will likely stick to their guns and not flirt with long term contracts on older players. Cash is something the Cubs have plenty of, but you wont see them throwing their weight around like the Dodgers or Yankees of old.
Jed Hoyer speaks on the topic:
We talk a lot about payroll efficiency. A lot of that is getting to that point where you feel like it’s a payroll you’ve created based on contract lengths that you like. One of the things we’re very wary of is sort of jumping back in and muddying those waters because we know there’s a time in the future where it really becomes a lot more efficient. We’re not dealing with some of the contract issues we’ve been dealing with the last couple of years.
When Hoyer talks about dealing with contracts, he’s namely talking about guys like Carlos Zambrano, for example. Obscenely large, long contracts with players who are aged and have very little upside to their development. This was the Jim Hendry style of baseball operations and it’s actually rather ironic he’s now in New York working for the Yankees.
This is not how Epstein and Hoyer play ball. To quote Hoyer again:
I think our ability to have an efficient payroll is really important. You look at the amount of money we have to spend. I always use the bad analogy of the basketball center. If he keeps the ball over his head, it’s really hard to steal the ball. If he holds it down on his waist, it’s a lot easier. If you take a $120 million payroll and you put a bunch of bad contracts on it, the next thing you know, you’re not any different than a $70- or $80-million payroll team. It’s important for use to use our financial advantages correctly.
The Cubs will continue to do what they do best: draft well, play the international market (as they’re typically cheaper than free agents) and allow their farm system to grow organically so that the major league end of the organization can reap the fruits of their labors.
Does this mean they’ll never target a big time free agent? Of course not, but they’ll be selective about when they do it. Hoyer speaks again:
We’re not against long-term deals. We’re not opposed to spending a lot on players. Given where we are, we want to make sure that when we have our young talent at the major-league level, when we’re ready to go on what we think is going to be an extended run, we don’t want to have a bunch of guys that are past prime that we signed in the past that are sort of hindering what we want to do. We’re not against committing to a player.
In short, it means the Cubs will wait until the time is right to start throwing their monetary weight around. The time will come eventually, but now certainly isn’t it. This is a pivotal time in the rebuild process as the Cubs have a higher international budget and draft pick because of their abysmal performance in 2012. When the team is more developed and has a roster that can carry them to a world series, look for them to start adding key pieces by signing free agents, or taking on rental players to complete a truly great playoff contender.
This is still many years away and the painful nights of Cubs baseball will be plentiful, so be patient and enjoy watching this team grow as best as you can.