Yesterday was one of those sanity-saving days off following yet another Cubs shutout. I read this morning that the team has averaged 2.7 runs per game since the Alfonso Soriano trade. Anthony Rizzo is now hitting .232 and Starlin Castro has an OPS+ of 73 to go along with his OPS of .631. Our beloved Cubs are now 16 games under .500 for the first time all season. The situation is dire at the major league level, but we all knew this was coming.
However, things look better in the minor leagues, and much better than they have in a long time. Patrick Mooney of CSN wrote a piece highlighting the Cubs’ strategy in the free agent signing period this year and how Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer found it a good way to use limited funds this year.
“A million here, a million there, that’s what we can afford,” Epstein said. “We’re not in position to throw around hundreds of millions of dollars in free agency. But if we can do it in that market, we might as well try to monopolize it as best we can.”
The team had the second highest bonus pool with which to sign international free agents, and eclipsed it. That means the Cubs will pay a 100% penalty on anything over their allowed pool. That didn’t deter the front office.
“We don’t see it as much of a penalty,” Epstein said. “We budgeted for it, with respect to the 100 percent tax, and then next year we’re going to end up spreading our money around with pitching instead of going after the large investments. We liked the larger investment types this year. Not saying it’s the right way to go, but for us that strategy made sense.”
The other penalty for going over is that the Cubs can’t give any player more than $250,000 to sign next year.
“ We really like the elite talent in this year’s class, relative to the early returns on what it looks like next year’s class might be. We felt like there was a little bit of a loophole that we could run through and exploit.
“It made a lot of sense and we can take a different strategy next year, where we really need to sort of replenish some of our organizational pitching depth. We can spread some of the money around with lower-level investments. That might match up better with the talent available, or at least what it looks like early in next year’s class.”
I’m amazed at how much scouting must happen for the Cubs to know that this year’s 16-year-olds look better than the current 15-year-olds who will be next year’s class. I’m also glad it’s not my job to recommend that someone spend almost $3 million on a teenager.
Farther up the line, things are still looking good for a couple of the Cubs best prospects.
- In Tennessee, Javier Baez had two doubles and three RBI and has a slash line of .280/.337/.587. For the season he has 29 homers, 29 doubles and 91 RBI
- In Daytona, Kris Bryant hit his second home run in his second game at that level. He has hit in 17 consecutive games (starting with Boise)
So there is hope for the future. And it could be coming sooner than any of us thought it would. Keep your chins up.