Friday, June 30, 2006

Out in Left Field

I don’t think that anyone is arguing that the Cubs should stand pat. Certainly that’s not what I’m preaching. In fact, there seems to be a universal call for the Cubs to in the least bring in a couple of big bats, all the way to blowing up the team and starting from scratch.

I lean more toward this latter position, although I recognize that there’s no way the Cubs will (or should) get rid of everyone and trade for, sign or promote all new players. However, I don’t think that anyone on the team should be off limits for trades. If trading Carlos Zambrano or Derrick Lee (the two guys on the team you could build around) would make the team better, then I think they should be traded.

With this in mind, let’s look at some players that could improve the Cubs if they could be acquired by trade or FA signing. I’ve tried to only include players that could actually be acquired, but in some cases I’ve allowed my “wish list” to get the best of me. Let’s start this empty (but fun) exercise in left field.

Cubs current left fielder:

Matt Murton – Right/Right, age 24. Murton is signed through the 2006 season. He is currently earning $337,000 per year. Career offensive numbers (through the 2005 season): .286/.354/.422, 105 hits in 124 games, 11 HR, 35 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 6/30/06): .264/.333/.361, 60 hits in 73 games, 4 HR, 21 RBI. Discussion: I like Murton’s attitude. I cheered for him at the beginning of the year to prove that he could be the Cubs starting LF for years to come. I now recognize that Murton is cut out to be a 4th Of, not a starter. He doesn’t provide enough offense to be an everyday player. The Cubs need more production (and more power) out of their left fielder.

Other left fielders:

Alfonso Soriano (Washington Nationals) – Right/Right, age 30. Soriano will be a FA at the conclusion of the 2006 season. He is currently earning $10 million per year. Career offensive numbers (through the 2005 season): .279/.322/.504 (Avg/OBP/SLG), 1000 hits in 882 games, 186 HR, 516 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 6/30/06): .271/.336/.542, 88 hits in 80 games, 24 HR, 51 RBI. Discussion: Soriano is considered an offensive powerhouse, but a defensive liability. He currently plays left field for the Nationals, but prefers to play 2nd base. Soriano would be a welcome addition to the Cubs lineup, but he earns a lot of money for a guy who would make a poor defensive team even worse.

Brad Wilkerson (Texas Rangers) – Left/Left, age 29. Wilkerson will be a FA at the conclusion of the 2006 season. He is currently earning $3.9 million per year plus incentives. Career offensive numbers (through the 2005 season): .255/.362/.453, 638 hits in 722 games, 96 HR, 297 RBI. 2006 Offensive numbers (through 6/30/06): 241/.362/.453, 58 hits in 68 games, 13 HR, 32 RBI. Discussion: Wilkerson is solid, but not fantastic. He is well respected, but his numbers don’t indicate that he will do much to help the Cubs much offensively. I would prefer several LF’s before Wilkerson.

Carl Crawford (Tampa Bay Devil Rays) – Left/Left, age 25. Crawford is signed through 2008 season with a club option for 2009-10. He is scheduled to earn $2.5 million in 2006, $4.0 million in 2007, $5.25 million in 2008. Career offensive numbers (through 2005 season): .290/.324/.427, 711 hits in 594 games, 43 HR, 257 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 6/30/06): .304/.350/.478, 88 hits in 72 games, 10 HR, 37 RBI. Discussion: Good offensive numbers, but not a lot of power. His power could develop as he matures. I’m not sure about his defense. Crawford is considered to have a very bright future ahead of him.

Carlos Lee (Milwaukee Brewers) – Right/Right, Age 30. Lee will be a FA at the conclusion of the 2006 season. He currently earns $8.5 million per year. Career offensive numbers (through 2005 season): .284/.338/.495, 1206 hits in 1122 games, 209 HR, 730 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 6/30/06): .283/.347/.583, 85 hits in 80 games, 25 HR, 64 RBI. Discussion: This could be the guy. He will either be available at the trade deadline or as a FA in the off season. Lee will command a nice payday to sign in 2007. Milwaukee probably can’t afford him, but if they do trade him, they probably won’t want to trade him within the division. Lee is the guy the Cubs need, but they may never get a shot at him.

Jason Bay (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Right/Right, Age 27. Bay is signed through the 2009 season. He is scheduled to earn $750,000 in 2006, $3.25 million in 2007, 5.75 million in 2008, $7.5 million in 2009. Career offensive numbers (through 2005 season): .293/.390/.552, 406 hits in 392 games, 82 HR, 254 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 6/30/06): .285/.401/.549, 82 hits in 80 games, 20 HR, 57 RBI. Discussion: If Lee is not available to the Cubs, then Hendry should turn his focus to trading with Pittsburgh for Bay. Pittsburgh isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so they may be interested in trading for prospects to build their future team. After Bay’s contract is up, Pittsburgh likely won’t be able to afford him.

Matt Holliday (Colorado Rockies) – Right/Right, Age 26. Holliday will become a FA at the conclusion of the 2006 season. He currently earns $500,000 per year plus incentives. Career offensive numbers (through the 2005 season): .313/.366/.527, 368 hits in 322 games, 48 HR, 198 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 6/30/06): .352/.396/.614, 105 hits in 76 games, 15 HR, 54 RBI. Discussion: Who’s Matt Holliday? This might be the type of player Hendry would want to pursue. Good offensive numbers and he doesn’t earn much money. His numbers may be influenced by playing in Colorado, but still. Not everyone that plays in Colorado hits that good. I wonder what his power numbers will look like away from Coors?

Nick Swisher (Oakland A’s) – Left/Switch, Age 25. Swisher will become a FA at the conclusion of the 2006 season. He currently earns $335,000 per year. Career offensive numbers (through 2005 season): .250/.348/.476, 201 hits in 228 games, 42 HR, 131 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 6/30/06): .274/.387/.537, 77 hits in 77 games, 19 HR, 49 RBI. Discussion: A young switch hitter with good offensive numbers, good power numbers, and he’s going to be a FA. I’ll go out on a limb and predict he’ll make a lot more money in 2007 than he does in 2006. Could this guy be a fixture in left field in Wrigley for the foreseeable future? Hmmm…

Pat Burrell (Philadelphia Phillies) – Right/Right, Age 29. Burrell is signed through the 2008 season. He is scheduled to earn $9.5 million in 2006, $13 million in 2007, and $14 million in 2008. All years include incentives plus a full no trade clause. Career offensive numbers (through 2005 season): .258/.359/.480, 852 hits in 920 games, 178 HR, 603 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 6/30/06): .252/.376/.534, 60 hits in 70 games, 19 HR, 54 RBI. Discussion: The Phillies want to move Burrell because he no longer fits in with their plans or philosophy. He’s a well respected player and a good clubhouse guy, but I’m not overly impressed. I think the Cubs can get more production without spending so much money.

Ryan Freel (Cincinnati Reds) – Right/Right, Age 30. Freel is signed through the 2007 season. He is scheduled to earn $1.3 million in 2006, and $1.7 million in 2007 plus incentives. Career offensive number (through 2005 season): .279/.371/.386, 350 hits in 365 games, 15 HR, 77 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 6/30/06): .294/.381/.430, 65 hits in 67 games, 4 HR, 13 RBI. Discussion: A lot of Cubs fans covet Ryan Freel. He is currently a 4th OF with the Reds. It would take a trade to get him and I doubt the Cubs have anything to offer at this time to get him. Of course, the Reds could use some more pitching, so you never know. Freel is a good clubhouse guy. He hustles and generally overachieves. I like guys like that, but I’m not sure Freel is the guy the Cubs need in left. I’d like to see someone with more power.

Shannon Stewart (Minnesota Twins) – Right/Right, Age 32. Stewart will become a FA at the conclusion of the 2006 season. He currently earns $6.5 million per year with incentives. Career offensive numbers (through the 2005 season): .300/.364/.439, 1435 hits in 1179 games, 102 HR, 514 RBI. 2006 offensive numbers (through 6/30/06): .298/.355/.376, 42 hits in 35 games, 2 HR, 17 RBI. Discussion: Could Shannon Stewart be the lead-off hitter the Cubs have been looking for? He hits for average, has some pop, and can run. One concern is that Stewart is already 32. Does he have a few more good years left or will his production fall off? He’s been on the DL for a good part of 2006, so it’s hard to figure out if he is continuing his winning ways or if his age is catching up with him.

If I was the GM, I’d go after:

1) Carlos Lee
2) Jason Bay
2) Carl Crawford
4) Nick Swisher
Dark Horse: Matt Holliday

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Mighty, Mighty Brewers

The Cubs lost again today to the Mighty Milwaukee Brewer. For the series, the Cubs dropped three of four and they have lost nine of ten home games, driving their record to 29-49, 20 games under .500. There was a time when losing three of four to the Brewers would have really angered Cubs fans. But this year, although it doesn't make Cubs fans happy, it's pretty much expected.

The Cubs and Brewers are two teams going in opposite directions. The Brewers GM, Doug Melvin, has built a competitive team on a limited budget ($58 million). The team is made up of proven veterans, up-and-coming youngsters, and a good pitching staff. They have built the team through trades, a few FA signings, and have developed players in their farm system.

Well, that's not really all that unusual. In fact, you could say the same thing about the Cubs, except that the Cubs have spent much more money ($95 million) and have emphasized pitching more than the Brewers. So why the drastically different results? The main reason is that the two teams have spent their money very differently.

Milwaukee doesn't have nearly the budget the Cubs do, so they've had to be much smarter than the Cubs. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that Doug Melvin has been much smarter than Jim Hendry. Melvin's philosophy was to get the best players he could sign with the limited budget he had to work with. Jim Hendry's philosophy has been to avoid overpriced superstars and instead sign overpriced journeymen and rehab projects. In other words, Melvin has spent his money trying to get the best talent he can. Hendry has focused on "safe" transactions and not spending too much on high profile signings. One is playing to win, one is playing not to lose.

Another difference is a little more obvious. The Brewers are in the Wild Card race in the NL and will likely be buyers at the trade deadline (although they may have to part company with Carlos Lee). The Cubs have been out of the playoff picture for a month and should be looking at rebuilding the team. Regardless of the philosophy with which the teams were built, the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Results are what matter. Doug Melvin has gotten some good results using his philosophy, while Jim Hendry is too busy trying to justify his philosophy to make any meaningful changes that would/could/might lead to better results. And that's the difference that's really important.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

We Need Sammy Sosa (Sort of...)

I started following the Cubs in the late 60's. The club included three future Hall of Famers -- Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins -- and one guy (Ron Santo) that should be in the Hall. In the 1970's, the Cubs fell on hard times. Those teams in the 1970's didn't have any players that I remember being really good. After the Cubs Hall of Famers retired or were traded, there wasn't much to cheer about. In 1972, Burt Hooton and Milt Papass each threw no-hitters and in 1976 Cubs third baseman Bill Madlock won the NL batting title. Other that those players, the big names for the Cubs in the 1970's were brothers Paul & Rick Reuschel.

The 1980's featured better times and better players. In 1984, the Cubs went to the playoffs for the first time since 1945. The team included Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg and Cy Young Award Winner Rick Sutcliffe. Future Hall of Famer Andre Dawson joined the Cubs in 1987 and promptly won the NL MVP award. Dawson, Sandberg, Sutcliffe, and Cubs favorite Mark Grace lead the Cubs to the playoffs again in 1989.

The 1990's saw some individual accomplishments. For instance, Ryne Sandberg had some of his best years during the 90's, including setting the record for most home runs in a career by a second baseman and playing a record 123 consecutive games without an error. Future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, in his first go round with the Cubs, won the Cy Young award in 1992. First Baseman Mark Grace had more hits than any other player in the NL in the decade of the 1990's. But as a team, the Cubs faced some dark days. That is, until 1998.

1998 was a great year for several reasons. The headlines documented the NL home run race between Mark McGwire of the Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Cubs. Although both players broke the single season home run record established by Roger Maris in 1961, it was McGwire who finished on top in the 1998 home run race. But Slammin' Sammy Sosa had the last laugh when the Cubs went to the post season. Sosa, along with Moises Alou, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, lead the Cubs to the playoffs again in 2003.

So what's the point of all of this Cubs history? The fact that for the past 40 years, the best years the Cubs have enjoyed have involved good baseball players. Players that make all-star teams. Some players who have been elected to the Hall of Fame. These players have been the face of the club and in many cases, have been leaders in the clubhouse.

This isn't brain surgery. Good baseball teams are made up of good players. Good players make all-star teams. Some even make it into the Hall of Fame. Making up a team of too many mediocre players, none of whom deserve to be on the NL all-star team, and non of whom are candidates for the Hall of Fame (Greg Maddux excluded), is a sure fire way to build a mediocre, underperforming team. That's exactly what Jim Hendry did to build the 2006 Cubs.

The Cubs need another Sammy Sosa. I'm not talking about a guy who (allegedly) does steroids and quits on his team at the end of a disappointing season. I'm talking about a ball player that is recognized as one of the better ball players in the game. I'm talking about a guy that can be the face of the team. I'm talking about a guy that can put fans in the seats and move merchandise off the shelves. A guy that fans will love and a guy that the rest of the team can be built around.

As the Cubs prepare to "rebuild" in 2007, they need to start by adding a big name, prime time player (or two or three). Derrick Lee is a good player, but he's not the type of big name player you can build a team around. DLee is more of a complimentary player. What Scottie Pippin was to Michael Jordan. Now the Cubs just need to find a way to bring the baseball version of Michael Jordan (is there such a thing?) to the Northside.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Equal Time for Dusty

I have spent the majority of my time on this blog complaining about Jim Hendry. I truly feel that he has done an incredibly poor job of building the team and I feel he deserves the majority of the blame for the Cubs current woes. However, Manager Dusty Baker deserves a little bit of my wrath.

Tonight against the Twins, Dusty once again batted Neifi Perez 2nd in the line-up and Todd Walker (who is DH-ing) 8th. There is absolutely no excuse or justification for doing this. In general, Walker is a better hitter. Tonight, the Cubs are facing lefty Johan Santana. So my first thought was, Perez must hit lefties better. However, the fact is that he doesn't.

Over the past three years, Perez has a .291 OBP against lefties while Walker's is .339. This year, Walker also has a higher OBP than Perez. Walker's OBP is .317 while Pezez's is .273. So why is Neifi batting 2nd?

The only reasonable explanation I can come up with is that Dusty just doesn't know what he is doing. I think he manages from his gut, but he's been wrong so many times, you think he would learn to ocassionally consult the stats.

Like so many others, I'm calling for Dusty's head. But unlike other people, I think the club should hold off on getting rid of him until the end of the year. The season is lost and there are no really good manager candidates out there right now (except possibly Lou Pinella), so why rush in to firing him. Be patient and look for a manager who is a really good baseball guy. If he has a connection to the Cubs (like Joe Girardi), all the better.

Dusty has to go, but not now. The Cubs should bide their time and make sure they get it right this time.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Matter of Attitude

To build the 2006 version of the Chicago Cubs, the Tribune company ponied up nearly $100 million. GM Jim Hendry used that money to build a team made up primarily of injury prone players, players on the downside of their careers, and players that no one else really wanted. The result has been a disasterous season (so far) that shows absolutely no signs of improving.

The thing that has bothered me the most about the construction of the Cubs over the past few years is that they haven't signed or traded for any really good players. Think about it. How many perennial all-stars do the Cubs have? How many future Hall-of-Famers? The answer to both questions is "none."

Derrick Lee has been to the All-Star game, but he doesn't qualify as a "perennial" all-star. Aramis Ramirez, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano. None of them are perennial all-stars.

Greg Maddux is a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, but his best years were spent in Atlanta. Maddux is a good guy to have on the team and he has shown glimpses of his past success, but there's little doubt that he is on the downside of his illustrious career. Other than Maddux, the Cubs do not have any player that is or looks to be an eventual Hall-of-Famer.

How does that compare to other teams? First, let's look at the Cardinals. With a lower payroll, the Cards have managed to put together a roster that includes Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds, all perennial all-stars and all legitimate HOF candidates.

The Braves sport a team that includes Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and John Smoltz. The Braves also have a payroll significantly lower than the Cubs. The Mets, who admittedly have gone on a spending spree over the past couple of years, have Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and up-and-comer David Wright on their team. Granted, the Braves and Mets are currently going in different directions, but the point is that both teams include very good ball players.

There are other examples as well, but the prime example is the New York Yankees. Love him or hate him, George Steinbrenner always makes sure that his team is a legit contender. Having a losing season but making lots of money is never satisfactory to Steinbrenner. Contrast that attitude with the attitude of the TribCo.

On their roster, the Yankees can boast a perennial all-star and/or a potential HOFer at almost every position. Just go around the diamond. Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Gary Sheffield. The only starter not included on this list is the Yankees' second baseman Robinson Cano and he's doing a really nice job for the Yankees.

So my question has always been, why aren't any of these big name, outstanding players on the Cubs? Admittedly, these players normally come with a high price tag, but regardless of the industry, doesn't the best almost always cost more? Unfortunately, Jim Hendry has spent nearly $100 million to put together a mediocre (at best) team. He is willing to overpay mediocre players, but refuses to pay the going rate for the best players in the game.

The Cubs should dominate the NL Central. They should be contenders for the playoffs every year. They represent a large market, they are the fifth highest valued team in all of baseball, and they are backed by an owner with plenty of money. Some of the highest profile and most talented players in the game should make up their roster. The Cubs should not be a team made up largely of no-name, mediocre players. I'll concede that every team needs to have a mixture of players, but the best teams have some superstars on their roster.

The Cubs, because of the type of high profile franchise they are, can't afford to take a lot of time to rebuild. They should start right now trading away the players that are not part of their future and adding players that will contribute in the years to come. They should also prepare to add big name, high profile players to their roster. Of course, this is what they should do. But with Jim Hendry still in charge, this is likely not what they will do.

The Cubs need an attitude makeover. They need to be the "Big Dogs" in the NL Central. They need to be the team that every other team in the NL is trying to beat and trying to be like. They have the resources to do this. It's just a matter of changing their "lovable loser" attitude and commiting to winning. It all starts will a change of attitude.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Smorgasbord of Disappointment

I haven't written a post in a couple of weeks. It's not that I haven't had anything to say. In fact, I've had plenty to say. It's just that I don't have anything new to say.

Things haven't changed for the Cubs. Watching them every day has been a smorgasbord of disappointment. The smorgasbord has included everyone in the organization from Andy MacPhail all the way down to the 25th man on the bench. And instead of getting better and showing some promise, things have instead gotten progressively worse.

My disappointment in Jim Hendry is well documented. I personally believe that Hendry's poor roster construction is "ground zero" in the catastrophe that is the 2006 Cubs. And with each passing day, my disappointment just grows and grows. How can the GM of a team with two key starting pitchers and the team's best hitter on the DL not make any meaningful trades? To improve the club, Hendry's big deals so far have been to trade for Freddie Bynum and Phil Nevin. Andy MacPhail claims that the Tribune Co. is prepared to spend the money necessary to improve the club, yet nothing happens.

Dusty Baker has also been the target of my wrath. Granted, Hendry didn't give him a team that could compete, but even so, Baker has done an unbelieveably poor job of using the talent he has been given. Day after day, Baker trots out a line-up that defies explanation. For instance, who could possibly justify playing Neifi Perez as much as Baker does, let alone bat him 2nd in the line-up? Baker has also misused the double switch on several occasions. To add insult to injury, Baker has decided to platoon Matt Murton and Freddie Bynum in left field, and Todd Walker and Phil Nevin at first base.

Matt Murton is currently in a slump and he had far too few RBI during the month of May. Even so, Murton is hitting .284 and has been one of the more consistent bats on the team (although that's not saying much). Murton needs to be allowed to play through his struggles rather than be benched in favor of a guy who should probably be in AAA.

With the injury to Derrick Lee, Todd Walker has stepped in at first base and has done an admirable job. Walker's offense, as well as his play at first base, has been one of the few bright spots for the Cubs this year. But lest we forget, Walker is a second baseman and is the best hitting second baseman on the team. So why then has Baker chosen to sit Walker when he has Nevin starting at first? For a team like the Cubs who have struggled horribly on offense, wouldn't it make more sense to have Nevin play first base and have Walker play second? But instead of doing that, Baker has played weak hitting Neifi Perez or Tony Womack play second when Nevin is playing first. It just can't be justified.

For all of the talk about the poor job that Hendry and Baker have done, let's not forget the players themselves. Todd Walker has had a respectable year. Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno have performed fairly well for rookies. Michael Barrett has had his moments. On the mound, Greg Maddux started out strong, Carlos Zambrano has been brillant at times, and Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry have done well. That's eight players out of a roster of 25. Everyone else has been disappointing.

The Cubs season may be over for all intent and purposes, but that's no excuse for not trying. Hendry needs to try to make some moves to improve the team, if not for this year, then for the future. Baker needs to try to win every day by using his talent wisely and developing his prospects for the future. And the players need to start doing what they are being paid to do. With 68% of the team on the "Underperforming" list, there's plenty of room for improvement.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Mr. Cuban, Is That You?

This morning on the Colin Cowherd Show on ESPN Radio, the affable host talked at length about Mark Cuban's interest in buying the Cubs and how he (Cowherd) believes Cuban could easily double the value of the Cubs in a relatively short time. According to, the Cubs are currently worth $448 million and Cowherd believes they could be worth $800 million - $1 billion in short order if Cuban were to take over the team.

The Cubs organization reminds me of the Yankees before George Steinbrenner purchased them from CBS. Just like the old Yankees, the Cubs are owned by a large corporation that runs the club almost as a hobby. The Tribune Company's main busniess is newspapers. They also dabble in television (the Food Network) and pro baseball. And just like CBS, the Trib Co. is willing to allow the club to flounder as long as it doesn't cost them too much. The numbers are significantly higher now for the Trib Co. than they were for CBS because of changing times, but the concept is the same.

Steinbrenner bought the Yankees for $10 million and turned them into perrenial winners. He spent the money necessary to field a winning team. He grew the business side of the organization to substantially increase revenues. He not only allowed bold moves by his GM, but practically isisted on it. The best players in the game are either Yankees or are rumored to be going to the Yankees. When it comes to baseball, the buzz always centers around the Yankees. Steinbrenner has done a masterful job with the Yankees and has built them into the most valuable franchise ($1 billion) in all of baseball.

The Cubs are a virtual money machine. They continue to produce huge revenues even though they have not won anything meaningful in nearly a century. For at least the last 20-25 years (however long the Trib Co. has owned them), they haven't seriously tried to win anything meaningful. Sure, the Trib has put a good face on things and has spent the money necessary to field a respectable team, but they've never been truly committed to winning. And who can blame them? Even while losing, the Cubs just kept producing money and the Trib Co. is satisfied with the results.

My question has always been, "What if..." What if the Cubs did win? What if the team became dynamic and exciting? What if they made bold moves and weren't always playing it safe? What if they were marketed and the fan base grew even larger? Wouldn't that just serve to increase revenues even further? Wouldn't that make the Cubs organization even more profitable and more valuable? If a knucklehead like me can figure this out, why can't the Cubs brass?

Which brings us back to Mark Cuban. He understands business and I'm convinced, would turn the Cubs into winners while increasing the value of the organization. Cuban understands that the best business strategy is a winning strategy. Even though the status quo may make you money, winning will always make you more money. Plus, the status quo won't last forever. Sooner or later, a business relying on the status quo is going to start to go backwards and will start to lose money. The Cubs may be an anomoly, but they're not completely immune from this fact.

Mark, if you're reading this, please contact Dennis FitzSimmons at the Tribune Company and start a dialogue with him. My understanding is that the company badly needs cash to pay a large tax bill. Make him an offer. The worst he can do is say "no." If there's anythnig I can do, just let me know.