Analyses, News, and Links

Here's what's happening around the Cubs blogosphere:

  • MLBTR reports Buster Olney suspects the Cubs intend to pursue a potentially free agent Albert Pujols. I've said here and there I'm not a fan of signing Pujols -- it smells of the Alfonso Soriano signing -- but would not protest if we got him. The price tag is huge, but so is the player.
  • MGL on The Book Blog uncovers a story about a recently-cut, high school pitcher. He throws an 80-mph fastball and a "wicked curve." Oh, and he's a double amputee.
  • Dayn Perry uncovered the greatest baseball history film on Youtube (featured below).
  • Mark from CBGB ruminates about a possible Cubs run for, you guessed it, Albert Pujols. Marks comments are all quite valid, except I bristle at his suggestion: "Plus, El Hombre would instantly make the Cubs a contender." Pujols is good, but he'd add only like 5-6 marginal wins and absorb a large portion of the budget. That doesn't make the Cubs contenders automatically.
  • McGinnis of Aisle 424 absolutely wins the internet with his Abbott and Costello parody.
  • Julie DiCaro of A League of Her Own rightly observes today is the last baseball-less Friday of the winter (woo-hoo!) and then begins to wonder: Is this a White Sox town now? I live in Chinatown, so the answer here is unequivocally "yes."
Here's the 1986 World Series, replayed in glorious RBI Baseball fashion:

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  1. Speaking of the Soriano signing, I've got a post (or series of posts) coming on ACB about exactly that topic. Maybe I'll make another post comparing Soriano's contract to the speculated Pujols contract demands.

    The more I look at it, the Soriano contract isn't nearly as terrible as it is vilified among Cubs fans/the press.

  2. Hell, Soriano was the best offensive outfielder on the Cubs last year, but folks can't forget the games he missed in 2008 and 2009, and his abysmal performance in 2009.

    Obviously he hasn't "earned" his contract, but people talk like he's the primary problem on the team. He's not.

  3. It's clear that Soriano is extremely unlikely to earn the rest of his salary on the deal, but that's not the question. The question is whether he was deserving of a contract that big in the first place. And my feeling is that if Carl Crawford was, as everyone in the saber-sphere seems to assume, then so was Soriano. The fact that his leg injuries completely scrapped his speed is shitty luck for the Cubs, and something the Red Sox are going to have to hope doesn't happen to Crawford too.

  4. "The fact that his leg injuries completely scrapped his speed is shitty luck for the Cubs, and something the Red Sox are going to have to hope doesn't happen to Crawford too."

    This is a valid point, and I think partly why I don't like long-term, monster contracts. Yeah, they can add a lot of win easily, but they are also an injury away from handicapping a team.

    @Ace: I agree that Soriano's production has not really hurt the Cubs (Soriano's replacement would likely be worse), but his contract has. That's what I'd like to see the Cubs avoid.

    But yes, it's a very valid point -- his production has not been terrible.

  5. @Bers

    I hadn't read that the saber community felt the Crawford deal was supportable (I don't branch out into the field as much as I should - hence the visits here and ACB). If Crawford's deal is defensible on the numbers, then I'm sure you're right that Soriano's would be also as of the time he signed it.

    But as you already noted, when a guy's success is so dependent on his speed, age can destroy production much worse and more quickly than for the average player.

  6. @Brad

    The problem with complaining about long term contracts is that you have to spend money to get great players. Unfortunately you also have to be lucky enough that their knees don't explode. Any signing is an exercise in probability. In fact athletic players like Soriano and Crawford are more likely to keep their value as they age. The Cubs just happened to roll a 1 with Soriano. FWIW I agree that they signed him for too many years but there are 2 mitigating factors to that - the Trib Sale and that the Angels (I think) were looking to offer him similar money.

    As far as the saber community stuff goes, that's more my perception than anything else. I think a lot of it is due to the fact that it was the Red Sox making the signing. If a team like the White Sox or Angels made the deal I think a lot more people would be condemning it. It could just be that I didn't read enough at the time of the signing though.

    Again, I'll have more about this soon (I have a half written pile of research sitting on my HD).

  7. @Ace: Indeed, players with their strengths tied to one aspect of their physic (i.e. speed, power, arm strength for pitchers) ten to be an even great risk. A guy like Soriano was actually a safer bet, because he had both speed and strength.

    Sluggers like Pujols tend to age faster than speedsters like Crawford or Soriano. Given that Pujols wants 10 years, it seems plausible his talents could wane significantly in that stretch.

    @Berseliu: Crawford was a year younger at the time of the signing, and will be 35 in the final contract year (Soriano will be 38). There are some nuances to the Crawford deal that make it better than the Soriano deal, but maybe only marginally so.

    And yes, the Trib was behind the signing -- attempting to pump the team value -- but the Angels also bidding for Crawford's services should have had no bearing on the Cubs decisions. Teams should offer the right contract, not the better one. Pretty much only the Yankees can offer premiums on the best talent.

    Still, I find it completely untrue to say: " have to spend money to get great players." This implies only the large market teams can afford to win. Oakland, Minnesota, and Tampa have should throughout the last decade that this is untrue.

    You can get great players -- before or after their peaks -- for huge discounts. This may not be terribly sexy, but it's a successful formula. The Cubs -- or at least Cubs fans -- seem to fixated on the free agency market. I'm not a fan of the (major league) free agency market.

  8. The cool thing about Pujols is that he's so great, even after 10 years he's still about a league average player if he sticks to the aging curve.

    I'm not saying spending money is the only way to get great players. But it is the best way to get them specifically when you need them. If you're building from the draft you need to be sharp for a long time and get lucky that, once again, your guys don't get injured. It's rare for a team to develop multiple impact players and have them on the roster for a significant amount of time. The Cubs won two division titles not long after Soriano et al signed. The playoffs are a crapshoot, but if anything that was mission accomplished (beyond snookering the Ricketts to pay more for the team).

  9. @B: I'm not cool with paying Pujols $30M to be average. I think that's what it boils down to. I feel like -- for $30M -- the Cubs can acquire via trade and small free agent signings, enough platoon players and role players and high upside, low cost players to equal Pujols's production.

    This low cost model allows for more interchangeable parts, so when one player becomes ineffective, a new one slots in. Long term contracts are the quintessential high-risk/high-reward transactions in baseball.

    If you're not building via big free agency signings, that does not automatically imply talent comes solely from the draft. The draft has to be part of the equation, but there are still minor league free agents, cheap major league free agents, and trades and trades and trades.

  10. @Brad You're not paying Pujols $30M to be average. You're paying to get years of elite production, and paying some of the cost of that at the end of the contract. Big signings also don't exclude what you're talking about above. The Cubs (or whoever) shouldn't just build from FA, but they're a large market team that has the resources to sign someone like Pujols.

    Look, I get what you're saying but actually building a team like that is hard to do. Grabbing those kinds of value players is nice but nothing to build your team around (I'm thinking of relatively recent guys like Harden, Orlando Hudson, etc). You can get nice value from them but they're largely 2 WARish players when things go right, and there's only so many of them and so much you can contribute. When it comes down to it you still need some star players, whether you develop them, trade for them, or sign them. And for trades, you have to have some value in prospects anyway.

    For what it's worth, I haven't looked too closely at the numbers but I'd rather the Cubs pursue Prince Fielder (my other favorite axe to grind) instead of Pujols anyway.