It’s late and I’m tired, but I can’t sleep until someone makes sense of this ridiculous article Gordon Wittenmeyer wrote tonight. Let’s forge ahead together, shall we?
There were two separate, yet unrelated pieces of news yesterday. The first was Scott Boras’ hilarious attempted take-down of the Cubs, wherein he complained that he’s never met Papa Ricketts and that the Cubs don’t spend enough money on talent. And of course, Scott Boras would have no vested interested in how much money the Cubs spend on players because his paycheck is in no way dependent on teams handing garbage bags full of money to his clients. Nothing to see here. Move along.
The second bit of “news” is really just a bunch of people having common sense smack them in the face. For reasons still not understood by me, everyone started yelling about the Cubs trading Jeff Samardzija, even though most of us who write about the Cubs have assumed this was a likely scenario for months. But yell about it they did, and it resulted in this weird mashup article written by Gordon Wittenmeyer, wherein the Cubs trade Jeff Samardzija because the Ricketts family spent too much money on Wrigley Field. Or something.
It would make (Samardzija) the first player identified by this front office as a “building block” to be traded during a rebuilding process that has gotten longer with every delay in stadium renovations and every question that arises over local TV rights deals.
And it’s starting to send the same message to executives around the game that fans have been getting since the Ricketts family bought the team and froze – then cut – baseball spending.
“If you do that, you’re saying you’re not trying to win,” said one long-time National League GM. “He’s a monster in the making. That’s not the kind of discussion that comes up in a planning meeting.”
Not with two years of club control left. Not if you’re operating as a big-market club with access to big-market operating resources – something many in the industry even outside the organization are starting to debate applies to the Cubs anymore.
Samardzija checks all the Cubs’ boxes, to use a phrase the brass likes – right attitude, leadership qualities, competitive nature and pure, raw power skills.
Yet when the winter meetings open in less than a month, he’s expected to be actively shopped – a potential scaled down alternative to Tampa Bay’s available ace David Price.
So refusing to overpay a player and allowing him to walk away without getting anything in return is a sign that you’re not interested in winning? Sorry, but I’m completely confused.
Let’s separate things that are not related. If the Cubs do move Samardzija, it’s not because the Ricketts spent too much money on Wrigley or their wardrobes or whatever. As we’ve seen with other deals, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein are not averse to paying for talent when they think a price is fair. What they are NOT going to do, however, is pay a player more than they feel he’s worth.
It’s been no secret since the beginning of “negotiations” with Samardzija (in which he initially didn’t even respond to the Cubs’ offers to extend him) that Samardzija wants to be paid like an ace. It’s also been no secret that Samardzija, who had a 1.4 WHIP in the second half of the season, has not pitched like an ace. What, exactly, would Wittenmeyer have the Cubs do? Overpay for a pitcher with a chronic inability to put together a solid season? Do whatever it takes to keep Samardzija? Not explore deals in which the Cubs would get back young arms in exchange for a guy with an over-inflated ego and a 1.34 WHIP?
Let’s be clear. As far as the Cubs are concerned, every player has a value, both in terms of dollars and in terms of talent. If a team makes an offer that meets or exceeds that pre-determined value, the Cubs will drive the player to the airport. Period. No matter who that player is. If the Cubs are able to get back young arms, with a high ceiling, under team control for several years, Samardzija will be gone. It’s not about a great attitude or checking off boxes or pleasing the fans. It’s about a net gain in value. No one is untouchable. You know who believed in untouchable players? Jim Hendry.
Wittenmeyer goes on to quote Boras complaining about not being invited to tea with the Ricketts family. No, I’m not kidding. What any of this has to do with Jeff Samardzija, I’m still not sure. It’s almost as if Wittenmeyer didn’t have the time to write two separate articles, so he combined them into one piece and tried to connect the two events. Or, to be more accurate, the two non-events.
If I’m missing something here, please explain it to me. I seem to be missing the part where not letting Samardzija walk away as a free agent means the Cubs have given up on winning.
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