Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cubs Make Offer to Schmidt

Sports Illustrated is reporting that the Chicago Cubs have made an offer to FA pitcher Jason Schmidt. According to the article, the offer is for 3 years/$45 million.

Schmidt is the top FA pitcher available this off season and will likely garner offers from several teams. However, if the Cubs did make this offer, it is pretty generous. It would be difficult (although not impossible) for any team to justify offering more money. And with Schmidt’s injury history and age (he’s 38), it would be difficult justifying more years. That doesn’t mean that Schmidt won’t receive a higher offer or an offer involving more years. It just means that in my opinion, the Cubs offer is probably as high as they should go.

One thing working in the Cubs favor is that the Seattle Mariners, who it was believed had the inside track on Schmidt, probably don’t have the money to match the Cubs offer. It has been speculated that Schmidt, a native of the Seattle area, would like to stay on the West Coast. If true, that could mean that the Mets and Yankees, two likely suitors, could be out of the running. Having said that, Chicago isn’t exactly on the West Coast either.

The Dodgers are also probably not in the running for Schmidt. Earlier this week they signed former Phillies starter Randy Wolf and they are negotiating to re-sign Greg Maddux. Schmidt is too expensive for Oakland’s taste. That leaves San Francisco and San Diego (and maybe the Angels) as the only West Coast teams with the money and interest in Schmidt.

I have mixed emotions about the Cubs signing Schmidt. Being the most sought after FA pitcher, he’s going to cost a lot of money. I think I would prefer signing a second tier starter (e.g., Ted Lilly, Gil Meche, Vicente Padilla, etc.) and trade for another starter (e.g., Jason Jennings or Jake Westbrook). With the money the club saves, they can find a good bench bat and have some left over to extend Zambrano’s contract. Of course, if money is no object, sign Schmidt, Padilla, and make the trade.

I’ve expounded on some of the players I would like to see patrolling CF next year for the Cubs. Tops on the list were Vernon Wells with Andruw Jones a close second. I don’t think the Cubs are going to make a move for a center fielder. Instead, I expect Alfonso Soriano to be in RF and Jacque Jones to move over to CF. This solution makes a lot of sense.

First, Jones arm is better suited for CF than RF. Soriano has a cannon, so is a good fit for right. Second, Jones is relatively inexpensive. At $5.5 million per year, that almost qualifies as a bargain in this market. Third, if Felix Pie is ready to take over CF duties in the middle of next year, Jones would be a good trading chip the Cubs can use at the trade deadline to get more pitching. If Pie isn’t ready, Jones can finish out the year in center.

Bringing in a new, possibly more expensive player for CF could tie the Cubs hands once Felix Pie is ready for primetime. Vernon Wells or Andruw Jones could both turn in to high priced rentals, and someone like Kenny Lofton could cause tension in the clubhouse if he doesn’t see as much playing time as he thinks he deserves. I think the better move at this point is to move J. Jones over to CF and see how things work out.

The Cubs were in on the bidding for Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa, but they were beat out by the Yankees. It was announced today that the Yankees bid of $25 million just for the right to negotiate a contract with Igawa had been accepted by the Hanshin Tigers. The Yanks now have 30 days to negotiate a contract with Igawa.

Personally, I think the Yankees were nuts to bid $25 million. Igawa is projected to be a #4 or #5 starter. It seems to me the $25 million would have been better used to sign Barry Zito, Andy Pettitte or Ted Lilly. Left handed pitchers are always in demand, but I still think it was far too much to pay for a pitcher with Igawa’s credentials. I’m glad the Cubs didn’t win the “privilege” to negotiate with Kei.

There’s one other rumor out there that I hesitate to comment on only because it seems so unlikely. A popular blog is reporting that the Cubs are considering trading Matt Murton, Bob Howry, Sean Gallagher and Donald Veal to the Red Sox for left fielder and perennial headache, Manny Ramirez. One thing that seems certain is that the Red Sox are borderline desperate to get rid of ManRam and that they have to know that they are not going to get equal value if they trade him. Even so, I just don’t see the Cubs making this move, although I have to say that ManRam’s contract looks a little more friendly now considering what Soriano, CLee, Matthews, Jr., Pierre, etc. have signed for. Who knows? Stranger things have happened.


At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Rodney Alan Rippy said...

I'd love to see Schmidt come to the Cubs, but it ain't going to happen. He wants to stay on the west coast and there are teams out there that want him. I just hope he goes to the AL.


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