This morning Andrew posted about the latest new signing by the Cubs, starter Scott Feldman. The former Texas Ranger joins Scott Baker as the newest additions to the starting rotation. But the pair of righties have even more in common, as both are coming off injuries and looking to return to form. Feldman and Baker have each also signed one year deals in the $5 to $6 million neighborhood with additional incentives.
Despite the knowledge that expectations for the 2013 season should be kept low, there appears to be a sizeable portion of the Cubs fan base that is concerned with the injury history of both Scotts. On one hand, you cannot blame the fans for their concern considering what they had to go through after pinning their hearts and hopes on Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. In addition, Matt Garza is coming off of an arm injury himself, and a disaster worst case scenario could see three fifths of the Cubs rotation being effected by reoccurring injuries in 2013.
What is the point of signing Baker and Feldman to fill rotation voids if their health concerns just reopen the voids at some point this season? The potential return on investment. A bounce back season by either or both would lead to trade value come July 2013. While neither Scott may be enough to pry away a contending team’s number one prospect like a Dan Haren may have, you do not have to go too far back in your memory to know that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer got a solid return for Paul Maholm.
If you do not recall, Maholm was a free agent signing last off season that was traded to the Braves this past July in exchange for Jaye Chapman and Arodys Vizcaino. Again, not the attention grabbing top prospect that the failed Ryan Dempster deal would have brought, but a productive one that adds talent and value to a 25 man roster that is being molded into a perennial playoff contender in the near future. Since the deal Chapman has already made his MLB debut and during his cup of coffee he flashed signs of being at worst a solid late inning option, if not a future closer, as evidenced by his one strikeout per inning average. That average is in line with his career minor league average of 9.6 SO/9. His tendency to walk half as many per nine innings is a bit of a concern, but at age 25 there is still some time to work on his command.
The issue amongst those North Side fans that are concerned is the money being paid to Baker and Feldman. It is still early enough in the off season, with names like Kevin Correia, Jeff Francis, and Brandon McCarthy still available, to get a feel for the market value of these mid level starting pitchers. That is what may be creating some second guessing of the $5 to $6 million contracts handed out to the Scotts.
But during a winter break in which Chicago does not figure to make a big free agent splash, what is a couple million or so over the top on a small deal for a big market club like the Cubs? Saving a couple million this off season would not necessarily translate to those same dollars being added to the budget next winter. The bigger picture that Cubs fans need to remember is the need to find creative ways to work around the spending caps now in place regarding draft picks and international signings under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Since there is no salary cap regarding Major League players, Epstein and Hoyer need to view mid level free agents with upside almost as investing in undervalued stocks. Investment in these “stocks” is not a get rich quick scheme, but potentially provides enough of a return where having them in your portfolio is reasonable. The prospects the Cubs could get in return for bounce back seasons from Baker and Feldman would be the added bonus to whatever the Cubs front office already plans on spending in the draft and internationally within the CBA limits.
So as Bob McFerrin famously wrote in his song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Cubs fans. You are not investing all your hopes and emotions in just Baker and Feldman. You are investing in the Cubs front office that has a plan in place to build sustained success.