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relax cat sunglassesIt’s funny. People tend to observe things from the perspective by which they entered into the observation. The eye sees what it wants to see, and all that.

To wit, yesterday’s post about my concern that the Cubs were already raising the possibility of being non-competitive in 2015 (in addition to 2014) is being held up by some as an attack on the front office or Cubs ownership. A kind of rallying point for the folks who are angry that the Cubs aren’t spending indiscriminately in free agency.

That was never the intention, and it’s not actually what I wrote. The point, stated simply, was that I don’t think it’s necessary just yet to punt on 2015 in service of the greater long-term plan. I want there to be an open mind about the possibility of needing to spend as soon as next offseason to supplement the farm system and to kick-start an increasingly hostile fan base (because, whether the fans’ opinion matters, their dollars and their eyeballs certainly do). Maybe spending big won’t be in the cards, but let’s leave that decision until next offseason. In my mind, it’s just too early to say whether it will be worth making big moves for 2015 or not. I doubt the expectation in the Cubs’ front office is to punt on 2015 (there’s a lot of baseball to be played between now and then), and there’s certainly a measure of expectation setting going on.

To be clear: I don’t want the front office to short circuit The Plan in service of a few more wins in 2014 or 2015. There is no glory in finishing with 76 wins instead of 72 wins, and you can do more harm than good that way. We all agree on this, and I still “get it.”

Nothing I wrote yesterday supports splurging on Jacoby Ellsbury or Robinson Cano just for the hell of it. Candidly, I have a hard time seeing how I would support either move unless (1) they came at such an obvious value rate that they couldn’t be turned down; and/or (2) they were made in tandem with several other moves that significantly upgrade the team for 2014.

But, with two years to spare before 2016 (when the waves of prospects start making a real impact), it doesn’t seem an unreasonable focus for a large market – even one restricted by revenue externalities – to seek to improve itself to a competitive level by way of outside moves. This is a market that is screaming for short-term deals, and the Cubs could pick up some nice pieces on two-year contracts. Those are not inhibiting in the long-term, and, done with care over the next two offseasons, could put the Cubs in a very nice position to be competitive come 2015. (And, as always, if the right offer comes along with young talent in return for one of those signees … well, then maybe you do some more flipping.)

The point is, even if punting on 2014 now seems like an appropriate strategy (and it does*), there are moves that can be made with an eye toward 2015. For long-term organizational health, winning in 2015 is certainly better than winning in 2016. And if doing so doesn’t harm that 2016 prospect-driven breakout (the trickle of which could actually start as soon as 2015)? That’s the ticket for me, and an approach that ignores this possible avenue would make me nervous.

*Because of the unexpected regression of key big league pieces, the overheated and undermanned free agent market, the delays in revenue expansion, and the (ironic) impressive development of the Cubs’ top impact prospects (meaning that it makes more sense to wait). The caveat here is that, if the Cubs somehow surprise in the first half of 2014, I would like to see them try to stay competitive the rest of the year, if they can do so without depleting the highest impact talent in the system.

Something I should have emphasized yesterday is that, despite the signals that 2014 and 2015 might be down years, focused on continuing the build, this front office is flexible and smart. And, even if you (mistakenly) believe this ownership group is all about the bottom line, they’re smart enough to know that winning is more profitable than losing. If things take a step forward in 2014, then I have no doubt – regardless of recent signals – they’ll kick things back up, complete with funds suddenly available for spending, in time for 2015.

But, considering recent messages, our expectations for 2015 are likely being managed a bit, and that strikes me as premature. That’s the crux of the conversation I wanted to have.

  • anonymous-ly

    When Theo was in Boston he knew exactly how much money it would take to win a free agent or IFA. and bid enough to win. He surely knows how much it would take to make winning bids and when he submits a bid that has little chance of winning. He clearly does not have the ability to make a winning bid. They are literally making bids they know has a little chance of winning. I expect the same with Tanaka.

    This idea that Ricketts and Theo should get a pass because they missed out on some of these IFA’s because they got outbid is ridiculous. The very nature of an auction or bidding means you have to over-bid or bid enough that you out-bid the second closest bidder.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean you are over-paying for the players services, in fact, almost every major IFA is out-performing their contract, The fact the Cubs came in second to Darvish by reportedly $30M and Darvish is still out-performing his contract should be considered embarrassing to the Cubs FO and scouting. They clearly underbid or undervalued an asset.

    • Funn Dave

      I agree that they don’t get a pass for not bidding enough on free agents, but I don’t think they should be damned for that, either. People seem to forget that the Cubs are only one of thirty teams in baseball. They may have a larger market, fanbase, etc. than most ballclubs, but that doesn’t mean they should be reasonably expected to sign every great FA that comes along–or even most of them. Earlier someone was saying that the Cubs FO is one-for-seven in terms of IFA’s, and that for that reason they should be ashamed of themselves. Given the fact that all the other teams want the best possible players as well, 1/7 seems acceptable to me–although i’d still like them to take a shot at Tanaka. This post isn’t really going anywhere, is it?

      • anonymous-ly

        “Cubs are only one of thirty teams in baseball” is a poor excuse. All teams are not created equal.

        1/ The Cubs charge the third highest ticket and vending prices in baseball but have had half the payroll of other large market teams. They exceed by $100M in stadium revenues of other mid and small market teams.
        2/ Other large market teams had payroll near or at or above the cap. Cubs were way comfortably in small-mid market territory and theoretically had more payroll space to spend than other large market teams.

        • MichiganGoat

          OMG stop using ticket prices as justification of why the Cubs should be 7/7 in international signings. Just because you have the money doesn’t mean you can win a blind bid or should throw it away at seething you know very little about. This ticket price harping is tiresome and useless in this discussion yet you keep saying the same meaningless bullshit.

          • anonymous-ly

            MichiganGoat you are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
            If you want to contest or claim that I am misleading in some of my posts, go ahead and post contrary opinion or sources if you care to. But if you are going to pull out your pom poms with your belly sticking out of your tight shirt and start screaming at me, please ignore me in the future.

            Besides, my posts are not for you, I am already aware that you are either working in marketing for the Cubs or are their number one fan.

            • MichiganGoat

              I don’t have time to try and teach Econ 101 to a basement dweller, once you understand the basics of supply and demand, blind bidding, and basic investing you can return to the big leagues until them pick up a book do some reading and stop with the idiotic asshat tomfoolery you keep arguing. And yes I’ll add you to the ignore space of my bullshit blocker.

              By the way Mom says your hot pockets are ready.

              • Brains

                goat used my go-to insult! the other one, you all are welcome to use, is to call someone a doorknob. it really pisses people off.

          • Brains

            michigangoat has become especially honorary the past few weeks. i love it.

            • mjhurdle

              honorary what?

    • Wilbur

      I understand your point about IFA’s out performing their contracts. At least the one’s you mention. However, that is not always the case so a well thought out analysis must address the existence of some risk, but that takes me away from my thoughts about your comment.

      My reaction to your second para is what I wanted to address. Call it what you want, the posting fee to me is not an auction, at least my perception of multiple bidders incrementally competing to set the highest price point for the most aggressive buyer. A lot of info is exchanged through the bidding process and you in fact do find out in very absolute terms during the bidding what the second highest bidder was willing to pay.

      As we all know the posting process is a closed, best first price offering where the only data you have going in is your calculation of perceived worth or value. Coupled with a calculated guess on what your competitors will define as value and therefore a calculated guess at what they will bid. To imply that it’s just a simple “figure out what the other party will offer calculation and beat it” scenario is too simplistic a characterization..

      In the Darvish scenario the Rangers came out of the blue to blow everyone away by $30m. There was know way anyone could to anticipate that margin. So I see your analysis as incomplete.

      I think you could argue validly the Ricketts/Theo are not dominating the IFA market on any player with bids that exceed the FO’s value calculations by a large factor. That determination to only pay for their level of percieved value may be a really bad thing when they miss on a winner like Darvish or a good thing if they don’t over bid on someone who goes bust (e.g., Fukedome and the Japanese pitcher that Boston overpaid for and whose name escapes me),

      So to summarize, I don’t like your argument as it stands as I think it miss frames the question. If I have more closely described the true thrust of the issue I think you were addressing there is room for you and others to really dislike the fact the FO appears to be risk adverse early in their “plan”. Good points to discuss on both sides of that question.

      If I didn’t read the intent of your comments correctly then I’ll be the one who is embarrassed.

      • anonymous-ly

        I don’t really understand what you are trying to say? Either Theo didn’t have the money to make an appropriate winning bid or the FO made a colossal mistake in evaluating Darvish.

        Based on what Theo bid for Daisuke and the consensus that Darvish was the best pitcher ever to come out of Japan. Add in the age, potential, costs nothing but money aspect and I choose to believe that Theo did not have the money to make a winning bid. Theo has to know approximately what a true winning bid will take. They had to know their bid was not going to win, but were hoping and praying that Darvish would fall to them somehow, Just as I expect to happen with Tanaka.

        • hansman

          How am I not surprised.

          You are also missing that the consensus, prior to the bid on Darvish, is that he didn’t want a high bid because he wanted the money. Rumor was he wasn’t going to sign with a Matsuzaka level bid.

  • Brains

    Brett has the hardest job in fan showbiz. I’m sure he’s looking forward to the next 3 years…then again all of our unrest results in site hits, which means more cash. Not a bad tradeoff.

  • Jorbert Solmora

    Steve Adams at MLBTR thinks the Cubs have the $200 MM necessary to sign Cano if they felt the need.

    • Brains

      it’s a question of will, not means. these things can change, but i think the owners are really enjoying their free money right now. all they need to do is make empty promises once a wyear while they drink from their wine fountain.

  • CardinalsRule

    You Cub fans are probably the dumbest and most pathetic in the world. Reading through this nonsense, I have to admit I was surprised to see a majority of your fans excited that the new Cubs owner has have every intention to lose from 2010 until 2016 and people are getting mad at anyone who speaks out against it. WTF? What planet are you all living on?

    On top of that, you all are getting mad when there is even any mention of spending any money to improve the team. Are you all high? You all are every team owner’s dream come true. This has to be a first for any sports franchise, fans bitching and moaning about spending too much money. hahahahaha Can’t stop laughing. You all deserve to lose for the next hundred years.

    Best Regards,

    Cardinals Fan

    • cubes

      totally agree

    • Brains

      hah, just for the record i did *not* write this. but it’s true, some of y’all are totally out of touch with baseball reality priorities. i’ve been yelled at like 100 times here simply for saying that if the cubs have the revenues that it should go back into the team.

    • Sandberg

      Now Ricketts has driven people to agreeing with Cardinal fans. End days approach!

    • Jason P

      Although they have possibly the most arrogant self-entitled fans in all of sports, the Cardinals are MLB’s best run organization. Now remind me, how were your World Series teams built? That’s right, through draft and development.

      8 players have changed teams on contracts of 100 million or more the past 4 off seasons. Do you know how many have rings? 0.

      But since you have nothing better to do than surf the web for Cub blogs, I recommend you read this http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2013/07/ive-heard-about-the-lives-of-small-swift-birds-cards-10-cubs-6/#image/11

      Or this http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2013/08/dont-let-her-see-your-cardinal-eyes-cubs-6-cards-4/

      Some good insight into your fanbase.

      • Brains

        that how many 100m athletes have rings things is anecdotal evidence – they signed with teams who want rings and were either rebuilding or improving. there are lots of reasons they might not have rings, and it doesn’t mean that it’s the quality of their play.

        the cards have done it right because they have hired free agents *strategically*. the difference here is that we haven’t a strategy, unless our strategy is to vocally and publicly announce that we don’t plan to try to win for another 3-5 years.

        • Brains

          not a great recruitment motto, and not a great way to show everyone your cards. this “purposefully losing as a strategy for winning” concept has to be one of the silliest in the history of baseball. branding it “rebuilding” as a PR strategy only works so long. people eventually need evidence. unless they’re goats.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    The Cardinals had a BABIP of .362 with two outs and runners in scoring position last season. 80 percentage points higher than the major league team average. Their team OPS was .821, major league average was .681.
    Allen Craig hit .454 with runners in scoring position. Holliday .388, and Carpenter .375. Their regular season was a statistical freak show.
    This team is so ripe for regression, it’s scary. I predict they win 87 games next year. Bet all you got on their win total over under, which will probably be around 95 or 96.

    • mjhurdle

      They set an all-time record for hitting with RISP last year. There is no way they repeat that again.
      It wasn’t that they had all their players have career years either. They performed markedly worse without runners on, suggesting that it was less to do with the skill of the hitter, and more to do with a strange occurrence of them getting all their hits in the best possible time.

      Their pitching is going to have to be even better next year if they want to duplicate their success from this year.

      http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2013/6/13/4423944/2013-cardinals-estimating-clutch-skill

  • Roscoe Village Fan

    Does anyone really want to take a big money chance on the oft-injured ellsbury? Not me for that price tag. Cano would be a huge bat at 2B but is it really the right time to give a record contract when we are still early in the rebuilding process? I think the FO will spend the money eventually; just seems like spending it to spend it with those two options. Rangers came way over the top on Darvish…everyone knows that. Even they admitted to it. That’s not Theo’s fault there.

  • cub2014

    Ok BT,
    actually Schierholtz and Sweeney were below
    their career averages and certainly worse than
    the year before. (though they did hit more home
    runs then before). Lake after Svuem started
    platooning him and after he moved him out of
    leadoff his numbers went down substantially.

    Going back to the original assumption that Castro
    is the only one that regressed you would have to
    agree that that is incorrect.

  • Jim

    I don’t mind waiting until the prospects are ready to bring them up to the big league team and I don’t mind the Cubs not signing some expensive free agent but I do mind the cost of the tickets, beer and food at Wrigley to watch a roster full of guys who have been Designated For Assignment.

    I have been buying Cubs tickets for years but I may pass this year on going to the games. I also may stop watching the games on TV and listening on the radio until they start bringing up some of the prospects.

    • Edwin

      Then you should do that.

    • Edwin

      I’m sorry, that was a somewhat rude reply.

      Ticket prices are never directly tied to the product on the field. It’s about demand, and so far there is still enough demand that the Cubs will keep charging what they have been charging. If attendance continues to drop, I’m sure at some point they’ll either lower ticket prices, or start signing FA to try and get some short term success to get fans interested.

      • TWC

        I don’t think ticket prices will ever go down (with the possible exception of any nominal reduction due to reclassification of “gold” vs. “silver” vs. “platinum” marquee games).

        They may not increase in price as regularly as they have, especially if the Cubs continue feeding at the suck trough for another couple of years. But I don’t think they’ll see an across-the-board price cut. Ever.

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