There are a few interesting accounts of the Russell Martin free agency pursuit for you to read this morning, each of which provide a little background on how things wound up how they did.
Jesse Rogers writes a long take here at ESPN Chicago, with an account straight from one of Martin’s agents. Although the Chicago Cubs’ presentation was very good, and they were right there to the end in the bidding, it sounds like there’s a reason the price tag reached the heights it did. Namely, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos told Martin’s reps that “they were getting his client one way or another.” Indeed, at the press conference to introduce Martin, Anthopoulos related the same story.
Rogers’ piece is a great read, as is Buster Olney’s recent blurb on the same topic. Therein, he describes the negotiations that took place over that final weekend, and it seems like it was something of an auction, with the Blue Jays raising the stakes every time the Cubs increased their bid. Ultimately, Olney says, while the Cubs were pondering how far to go beyond the four-year, $70 million range*, the Blue Jays were told they could close the deal if they want to five years and $82 million. They did, and Martin agreed.
Finally, Bob Elliott writes an account of the process for the Toronto Sun, laying things out from the Blue Jays’ perspective. His account seems less like a Cubs v. Blue Jays one, and more like a Blue Jays v. Everyone kind of thing (indeed, he indicates the Dodgers actually offered four years and $74 million).
What do we take from this? The Blue Jays clearly decided Martin was the guy they had to have, and they were going to keep raising until they got him. Is that … a good thing? A bad thing? A thing the Cubs should have emulated? It’s fairly antithetical to this front office’s ethos, which is that you have to set a value on every player, and, while you might have to extend a little more than you want to in order to get the guy, you do have to have a ceiling. From there, you move on to other options, because there are always multiple routes to improve the team. On the balance, I think I tend to agree with that approach.
As for this particular situation, are we any less disappointed about not getting Martin, now knowing that this is how things played out? I wouldn’t quite call this the Cubs never having a chance, but they definitely didn’t have a chance to get Martin for “their” price, because the Blue Jays were always going to top it (apparently, quite significantly).
*(Some say the Cubs’ final offer was four years and $64 million, while Patrick Mooney indicated at the time that the Cubs were willing to go to five years in certain situations. Others have said emphatically that the Cubs wouldn’t guarantee a fifth year. So, if Olney says the Cubs reached four years and $70 million, I wonder if they topped out at something like four years and $64 million, with a team option for a fifth year that included a steep buyout – thus, Martin would have been guaranteed $70 million over four years, at a minimum. I can’t blame Martin for taking 5/$82M, but I also can’t blame the Cubs for resisting going to that level, especially if they kept getting bid up.)