Cubs were prudently cheap

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As you know by now, the Chicago Cubs did not win the services of James Shields, who according to Jon Heyman received a four-year guarantee of $75MM, with a club option for a fifth year from the San Diego Padres.  I’m sure it’s disappointing for some, but hey, now we’ll have to settle for a rotation of:

It’s not an all-time great rotation but it will very likely be competitive.

ShieldsIf you’re wondering about how the Cubs decided to bid, Joel Sherman reported that the offer from Chicago was three years, around $60MM with an option.  Teams like the Miami Marlins dropped out after the demands exceeded $70MM, and of course the Cubs didn’t want to guarantee that fourth year or that amount.  However, if you do the math, the Padres offered a less robust average annual salary than the Cubs did, and that’s what I had proposed that Chicago do in order to get the best bang for their buck without locking in too many years of a solid but well-used and aging pitcher.  I did say that the Cubs could have gone for 4/$70MM as some had originally reported, but once the Padres bucked that threshold, it was pretty much done and the Cubs were probably wise to back out of it.

How about this guy next year instead?
How about this guy next year instead?

The other idea is the need to continue the acquisition of talent, which meant the preservation of draft picks.  The Cubs had been willing to forfeit their second round pick for Russell Martin before he was pretty much overpaid by the Toronto Blue Jays, and they had found a price point they were willing to bid at for Shields that would require forfeiture of that pick before he signed with San Diego.  Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer stayed away from the other free agents who rejected qualifying offers, preserving their draft picks and slot money for this coming draft and bracing for a time when they will not have protected picks anymore.  Also, by not signing Shields (as they did by not signing Masahiro Tanaka for a price they were not comfortable at), the Cubs would be able to roll over their finances into international free agency, a midseason acquisition to pick up a hefty contract, or next year when they would be able to pursue more appetizing free agent pitchers.

As of now, the Padres forfeited their #13 overall pick, while the Cubs maintain their slot at #47 overall in the second round (their #9 overall pick was protected).  According to last year’s values (and if we assume the values get bumped up for 2015), the Padres would forfeit a slot around $2.7-2.8MM, whereas the Cubs keep a slot of approximately $1.2MM.  That doesn’t seem like much, but the front office has shown an ability to make their money stretch and the past few drafts under Epstein and Hoyer have been solid as a rock.  These concerns aren’t isolated to just the Cubs, as the money-heavy Los Angeles Dodgers elected not to forfeit draft picks or overpay for Shields either (then again, they have Clayton Kershaw).  Similarly, the New York Yankees are at a point where even if they do print their own money and don’t care too much about the luxury tax, they still didn’t go after guys like Max Scherzer or James Shields.

We’re a little over a week away from spring training and it looks like barring a couple of obvious trade possibilities, the spring roster is set.  So let’s go.


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About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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