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We knew the Chicago Cubs were set to sign lefty starter Paul Maholm last night when the pitcher, himself, tweeted the news. But no one would be so indelicate as to tweet the details of their own contract, so we had to wait a bit.

Bruce Levine this morning reports that Maholm’s deal is for one year at $4.25 million, with a club option for 2013 at $6.5 million. There is a $500k buyout on the option, so the total commitment to Maholm if the option isn’t picked up is just $4.75 million.

I must say, I’m pretty taken aback by this deal. Either there are a number of easily-achievable incentives, or there are serious lingering concerns about the health of Maholm’s shoulder (which ended his 2011 season in August). Otherwise, the Cubs just stole a league-average starter with upside for far less than I expected. I don’t want to paint Maholm as more than he is. Maholm, 29, is a guy with a career 96 ERA+, and just one season over 100 in the last three. His FIP and xFIP hover around 4.00, and his ERA is usually in the same area. But that’s still worth a couple WAR each year, which would suggest Maholm is worth more like $7 or $8 million per year, not $4.75 million. Combine that with the escalating salaries for middling starters we’ve seen this year (due, in large part, to the weak free agent starting market), and this looks like an excellent deal.

Again, let me reiterate the dual caveats: if there are a bunch of easily-achievable incentives that bring the 2012 salary up closer to $7 or $8 million, the deal is more “fair” than a “steal;” and if Maholm’s velocity or movement have taken a serious hit from his shoulder strain, the contract is more of a “risk” than a “steal.”

A reminder, if Maholm’s deal is to be finalized today (or, well, whenever it’s finalized), the Cubs will have to open up a spot on the 40-man roster, so you can expect another move in short order. Or, the deal simply won’t be announced as official for a long time.

  • oswego chris

    Wow!…as I was drifting off into Cubbie dreamland last night, I was speculating something like 2 years and 15 or 16 in my head…just by guaging the always escalating price of starting pitching….Maholm’s game log from last year is pretty impressive…I did laugh out loud going over hit though as I got excited seeing he threw a three hit shut-out last year….unfortunately the team was the Cubs…

    • EQ76

      who hasn’t thrown a three hit shut out against the Cubs?

      • Katie

        Amen to that.
        Good deal even if it’s incentive laden. At least he won’t be pitching against us anymore.

  • Bails17

    I will take this deal.

  • jandersonjr81 father of Caden

    Good signing. I think Maholm is a good pitcher. Nothing exciting about the deal, just a very good baseball move.

  • Stockholm Cubs

    My take: Maholm will open the series against the Brewers… =)

  • Edwin

    Brett, I don’t see why you’d want to pain any of the Cubs in any way.

    Also, I would like to pretend that in that picture of Maholm he is pitching in the snow. Like a boss.

  • rbreeze

    I’ve always liked Maholm.  If he is sound then we have another able bodied pitcher to throw out there.  I see a couple more moves happening before or by Friday’s convention.

  • BFiddy

    Pitching in the snow in short sleeves.  Like a boss.

  • Poopypants McGee

    Is John Gaub the one to be released?

  • DRock

    Good signing. Brett, do you think the Cubs will be able to get Turner and Castellanos back from the Tigers for Garza? What are the odds Garza and or Soriano are traded before the convention this weekend?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The Cubs are very much pushing for Turner and Castellanos, but that seems to be the edge of what the Tigers are willing to consider. A pre-convention trade for Garza is probably around the 30% range. For Soriano, I couldn’t even guess.

  • ncsujuri

    Definitely a good signing and a precursor to something else in my opinion. I assume that at least 2 of the prospects if not more that we get for Garza, if traded, would be going on the 40 man as well plus the assumed eventual signing of KW, so we may need multiple 40 man roster spots coming up in the near future.

  • Mick

    What is going to happen with the 40-man? Sonnestine and Corpas were signed with both major league and minor league salaries so, could we option them both off of our 40-man to create immediate room and call them back later if we need them? Other possible names I could see getting optioned off of the 40-man are Jeff Bianchi (Rule 5 pick from the Royals), Lendy Castillo (Rule 5 pick from the Phillies), the Red Sox compensation, the Padres compensation, Alfonso Soriano (traded for a new fungo and bag of shag balls), John Gaub, and Casey Coleman.

    • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

      Last year we did spend about 2 weeks with 41 on our 40 man so it is conceivable that Theo has received permission from Selig to run with a 41 man for a couple of days but I think he is eyeing a Garza trade sometime early next week.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      Bianchi was a waiver claim, not a Rule 5 pick. The Cubs don’t have to keep him on the 25 man roster. (I think… my memory could be malfunctioning, but I’m pretty sure the Cubs only took one guy in the Rule 5).

  • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

    I think I saw Paul Sullivan tweet that they are anticipating a Tuesday announcement.

  • Cedlandrum

    There really is nothing to complain about with this deal. It is a pretty fair price really. If Volstad gets 3 mill or so then I guess 4.25 or whatever isn’t bad for Maholm.

  • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

    Great signing it’s been exciting to see how the FO is building for the future. Get cost controlled young talent that can be ready in a couple of years and sign short term contracts to bridge the gap. 2014/15 is looking like the year we’ll be ready. Nicely done.

    • Kyle

      It’s pretty obvious there are going to be other moves, of course.

      But humor me for a second that this is the roster we go with in April.

      DeJesus
      Castro
      Byrd
      Lahair
      Soto
      Stewart
      Sappelt
      Barney

      Garza/Dempster/Wood/Maholm/Volstad

      A whole bunch of arms to cobble a bullpen from.

      Obviously, that offense has real problems. But I like that rotation and the defense is significantly improved. I see that as a 76-win roster with some upside. .500 is not completely out of the question if a lot of things break their way.

      • Kyle

        And what I really find intriguing is how little downside that roster has.

        Part of that is that we have some really bad players who can’t get much worse (I’m looking at you, Ian Stewart. I hate you so much).

        But part of it is that we Epstein seems really focused on adding depth. Even with a rash of injuries, I have a hard time seeing the team dip below 70 wins.

        • Trent

          Why are you so against Ian Stewart? Why are you so sure he is a bust?

          • Kyle

            Some good rules for projecting hitters:

            Don’t bet on guys who couldn’t hit in Colorado.

            Don’t bet on guys who depend on power, but are coming off major wrist injuries. Those usually sap power.

            Don’t bet on guys who strike out in 28% of their at-bats. They can have occasional good seasons, but the collapse rate at that K level is pretty high.

            Don’t bet on guys coming off .464 OPS seasons.

            Ian Stewart is mega-terrible. He’s horribad. He’s super-awful.

            He’s a guy whose best tool is supposed to be his power, but he hasn’t homered in his last 54 big-league games. Darwin Barney has homered in his last 54 games. Tony “toothpick” Campana has homered in his last 54 games. Ian Stewart has not.

            • BetterNews

              Kyle–I agree with everyting in your comment. I was ripped when I asked what are we going to do at third base.

            • ferrets_bueller

              Normally I agree with you, but thats pretty terrible.

              First, Coor’s Field no longer boosts stats significantly or makes bad hitters good anymore.

              Second, Stewart has hit in Colorado, when he was given regular time and was healthy.

              Third….as horrible as he was in 48 games last season, thats just 48 games.  On top of that, he was turning it around in AAA before he hurt his wrist.

              To call him that horrible is just ridiculous.  He’s never gotten a fair shot, which he’ll get this season.  I’d prefer to view him as a .780-800 OPS guy who’s ready to take the next step, throwing out last season, which looks to be an outlier

              • BetterNews

                Do you know something we don’t? Kyle was right on. His point was the wrist injury.

              • baldtaxguy

                I think the term used was “horribad” which must not be “horrible” but between “horrible” and “bad.”  “Super-awful” today is simply  “awful” – the kids like to use the super-cute terms.

                Stewart has an opportunity to pass or fail - not someone I would consider as Plan A for third base and maybe he’s not considered as such by the front office, with prospective dealing still possible.  Its a different world next year at each position, with exception at short.  If Stewart is the 3rd baseman opening day, he still will not be the weakest link on the team with Soriano jogging and flailing.  He’s just super horribad.

                 

                • BetterNews

                  We all know what Kyle was saying. Don’t have to turn it into an argument now. Save it for lunch time or something. Good grief.

              • Kyle

                “First, Coor’s Field no longer boosts stats significantly or makes bad hitters good anymore.”

                Incorrect. Coors Field is still by far the most hitter-friendly park in the National League. It had a park factor of 135 last season and was especially good at boosting HR totals:

                http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor

                “Second, Stewart has hit in Colorado, when he was given regular time and was healthy.”

                A little. He put up a moderately decent OPS from 2008-2010. Of course, Coors Field was the most offense-friendly park in the league all three of those years (before you tell me I’m wrong, look it up).

                “To call him that horrible is just ridiculous. He’s never gotten a fair shot, which he’ll get this season. I’d prefer to view him as a .780-800 OPS guy who’s ready to take the next step, throwing out last season, which looks to be an outlier”

                You don’t “throw out” outliers. In the 538 era, a lot of people are becoming more versed in statistics, but they are still using them wrong. You don’t project solely from outliers, but you don’t ignore them either. I wouldn’t project him to a .464 OPS or whatever because that’s what he put up last year, because it’s an outlier. But even in the short sample, a performance *that* bad by a veteran player has to be concerning.

                He wasn’t hurt for that sample either, btw. His wrist injury came much later in the year.

                You say he hasn’t gotten a “fair shot,” but he 1233 PAs over three seasons in Colorado. That’s more than a fair shot.

                So in summary, if we pretend that Coors Field isn’t an extreme hitters park (it is), that last season doesn’t count (it does) and that wrist injuries don’t have a history of lingering and robbing players of power (they do), then Ian Stewart is an intriguing pickup.

                Unfortunately, none of those things are true, so he’s just awful.

      • JulioZuleta

        Garza is probably going to be gone, as soon as today possible. That lineup is painful to look at. I really don’t think Sappelt will be a starter. We’ll see, a lot of time for more roster turnover, but I think it’s probably a 90 loss team as of now. I’m still looking forward to this year more than the previous few, though.

        • Kyle

          Well, once you trade Garza and bump Wells or Samardzija to the rotation, my 76 win projection drops to 71 or 72.

          I really think Sappelt can be the Darwin Barney of LF: Subpar but not completely worthless hitter for his position, with plus defense making him an average-ish starter overall.

          Us stathead Cubs fans have been defending Soriano for years (overpaid, but not *that* bad), but I think last year he finally caught up with his reputation. His defense finally did slip below average and his bat is slowing.

          I project them both in the 1.7 to 2.3 WAR range for 2012, so might as well go with the young guy with upside.

      • Brian Myers

        Since he’s not gone yet, I don’t see that as the lineup.

        DeJesus
        Castro
        Byrd
        Lahair
        Soriano
        Stewart
        Soto
        Barney

        It’s still not pretty, but moving Soto out of the 5th hole is mandatory. Also it gives a better L/R lineup by alternating Left and Right hand “power” hitters deep into the lineup.

      • bobby hill and hee sop choi are great prospects

        70 wins, really, that offense cant score 70 runs! good pitching is one thing, but WHO is going to drive in runs? All year last year the cubs could hit until someone got to third and magically a runner on third with less than two outs would almost never score, and they got worse this year in that area. Also, who is the power threat in this lineup?

  • Mike F

    I think it’s a good deal, he’s worth a gamble. He’s not a dominant pitcher or front end as in 1 or 2, but if he’s healthy he gives the Cubs the option of letting Wood grow in the back end and eats up innings. He’s a heavy ball guy so will throw a lot of ground balls which is good in my view too.

  • BetterNews

    Does anyone remember the last time the Cubs had two starting left handed pitchers? I’m thinking Ken Holtzman era?

  • Sully777

    Better: Looks like Ted Lilly and Rich Hill; it seems like there was another short era around Steve Trout that we had a couple southpaws but haven’t landed on it yet.

    • BetterNews

      Sully–Wow. I forgot about Lilly and Hill and that wasn’t long ago. Thanks bro, I was going crazy trying to think of the last time. Somebody asked me and my mind went blank.

  • Sully777

    Better: Can you imagine the heist we could have gotten a few years ago for Hill and Pie?! I did a little more digging; how about the 1986 and 1987 teams with Steve Trout and a young lefty who went on to play a “few” years of pro ball named Jamie Moyer? That guy seemed to go on forever…

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