When I last posted Friday, it looked like the Chicago Cubs and Jeff Samardzija might be headed for an arbitration showdown. Saturday, it was announced that the two sides had found their happy place, agreeing on a $5.345 million contract, slightly higher than the midway point between the Cubs’ offer of $4.4 million and Samardzija’s counter offer of $6.2 million. It’s probably best for the team and Jeff to have come to an agreement before going to a hearing. One former Cub won his arbitration hearing over the weekend, when Andrew Cashner was awarded his request for $2.4 million. The strangest thing about his hearing is that the Padres’ offer was $2.275 million. It seems strange the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement between those two numbers.
The man who (along with Jed Hoyer) traded Andrew Cashner to those Padres was Theo Epstein. He was interviewed on Boston radio station WEEI last week. He talked about the draft, Masahiro Tanaka and the Red Sox. We’ll skip the draft part and head for Tanaka.
“I think it’s actually probably in practical terms an even bigger contract [than $175 million] because when you factor in the impact of the CBT tax that the Yankees will have to pay going forward now, if indeed Tanaka was the player to push them over this year and therefore the higher rate in subsequent years,” said Epstein. “I can’t say I’m surprised. To answer your question, it reflects the dynamic that there are many, many teams with lots and lots of dollars to spend and very few places to spend them, very few players who represent sound investments for the dollars. I think anytime in this market that you find a player who will be in his prime years or pre-prime years or close to his prime years and has been healthy and has recognized tools and has a track record, in this case not even a track record in the major leagues, but a track record that points to that player is going to draw significant interest, probably more than expected, just because the supply/demand dynamic dictates it.”
Basically, the Yankees overpaid, but they can because of their TV deal. Teams with the big TV money are going to continue to overpay for prime free agents, so the importance of building from within is even greater now.
But the draft part is harder, too, with a finite pool of money with which to sign draftees each year.
“And now,” Epstein continued, “you can’t really develop a strategy around draft picks. Sure, you might have someone that in a given year you can make a qualifying offer to, in the case of the Red Sox and Yankees maybe a couple, multiple players you can make qualifying offers to and get picks that way, but you only get one pick. You don’t get two anymore. The scope of players who receive compensation is much more limited and most mid-market teams and below will very rarely if ever have compensatory picks for free agents leaving now. That’s just something that you can’t factor in. And you can’t overpay players in later rounds anymore unless you really go for a bargain in your first-round pick. That’s just really changed the game. You can still quote-unquote dominate the draft, make an impact in the draft, the way we tried to, but it’s on a much smaller scale. I think the days of getting Barnes, [Blake] Swihart, Owens, [Jackie] Bradley with your first four picks in 2011, those days are probably gone. You just have to make due with one or two picks like that in a given year instead of going for the whole bounty.”
So the Cubs finally got someone that knew how to beat the system, and the system was changed. I guess he and Jed will have to figure out how to beat the new system.