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  • Cubs Signings Spell Trouble for Twins

    Feldman goes to the Chicago Cubs.With as many as four spots needing to be filled in the rotation, it figured that Terry Ryan – with his traditionally risk-averse nature in free agency – would target low-cost pitchers with upside who could be acquired on one-year deals. This strategy makes sense for a couple reasons: it adds multiple options to the starting pitching mix without requiring huge commitments, and hurlers looking for the one-year make-good deal ought be more apt to sign with a club that offers such wide-open opportunity in the rotation.

    If that was indeed Ryan's intended tack, he can't be pleased to see the Cubs aggressively following the same course. Already, Chicago has snatched up two of the most intriguing pitchers in this category.

    A few weeks ago, it was Scott Baker. And yesterday, the Cubs announced that they had inked Scott Feldman to a one-year deal. Much like Baker, Feldman is a pitcher with stretches of past success who is coming off a down year and looking to recoup some value. And much like Baker, Feldman hauled in more guaranteed cash than expected at $6 million.

    Yes, six million bucks for a guy who posted a 5.09 ERA last year, owns a 4.81 career mark, and has only once thrown more than 151 innings in a major-league season. Feldman offers some appeal as a guy who can operate in a swingman role and generally posts pretty decent peripherals, but he's nothing close to a reliable bet. His ERA has been above five in four of the past six seasons.

    The total seems somewhat extreme, at least from the perspective of an organization with less money to throw around than the Cubs, but perhaps only by the preset standards we entered this offseason with. As early names have come off the board, the numbers have ranged from eyebrow-raising to jaw-dropping. Purported reclamation projects are commanding as much as established mid-tier guys have in the past. We're to the point where Feldman's deal is actually being lauded by some as a value signing. If the trend continues, the Twins' money isn't going to go very far in free agency even if they hold steady with their budget, which is hardly assured.

    The inflated prices on the open market will also surely have an auxiliary effect on the trade market, where clubs with cost-controlled pitching can now increase their demands. At one point I thought a player like James Shields might come at a relative discount given that he's owed $21 million over the next two years, but now his contract is starting to look like a real bargain that many general managers could be competing to acquire.

    This environment leaves a team with finite funds and few palatable internal pitching options in an extremely tough spot. Even if Ryan has the green-light to spend, it's not clear that he should be splurging on the kind of deals that may be required to lock up adequate starters unless ownership is willing to commit to long-term payroll increases that will enable him to continue to build around large contracts for aging players.

    Yet, if Ryan shies away from the market, he's most likely submitting to at least another year of lousy on-field performance and the inevitable revenue drains that will come along with it. Additionally, he'd be doubling down on the ability of his own personnel to identify and develop young pitching talent for a rebuild, something they simply haven't done in recent years.

    The Cubs' signings of Baker and Feldman are bad news for the Twins, and not necessarily because Minnesota should have signed those players. The financial terms are highly troubling and indicative that there's going to be no such thing as a low-risk signing on the pitching market this winter. That will leave Ryan and Co. with almost no room for error.
    This article was originally published in blog: Cubs Signings Spell Trouble for Twins started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Does no one else find it disturbing that we are mostly in agreement that the Twins need to trade for starting pitching because free agency will eat up too much of the payroll? I mean, KC is even taking on large and terrible contracts.

      We're basing our free agent predictions on the HOPE that the Twins payroll will be the same as last year while the other clubs, except for the crooks in Miami, look to be increasing payroll. San Diego is really the front funner for Dan Haren? Milwaukee, Baltimore and Seattle are taking a serious look at Josh Hamilton? It can't be long before the average MLB payroll is +$100 million and the Twins are once again at the back of the pack.

      Edit: I realized it is early and we really have nothing to base a Twins 2013 payroll on other than assumption so I withdraw my complaint pending a payroll analysis among the other 29 teams come April.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      People keep tossing around 12M. Right now Andy Pettite is signing a 1 year 12M deal. If you think you're getting a starting pitcher with injury problems for less than 4M - check what Ryan Madson got today.

      Time to adjust your expectations people.
    1. Cris E's Avatar
      Cris E -
      Also, quit beating up on dumpster diving. It's not the way to fill all your needs, but Scott Diamond was a failed-but-kept Rule V. His record was nothing special but he turned out to be pretty good. Marquis sucked here, but his kid was seriously sick with something and he was hugely distracted. Later that summer he was what Ryan was hoping for when the deal was struck. Fledman constitues dumpter diving, frankly.

      The team needs a #1 and #2 plus more, so in addition to a big trade or FA signing, and beyond a third or fourth look at Duensing and his pals, they need to keep dumpster diving to fill this roster.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Cris E View Post
      Also, quit beating up on dumpster diving. It's not the way to fill all your needs, but Scott Diamond was a failed-but-kept Rule V. His record was nothing special but he turned out to be pretty good. Marquis sucked here, but his kid was seriously sick with something and he was hugely distracted. Later that summer he was what Ryan was hoping for when the deal was struck. Fledman constitues dumpter diving, frankly.
      .
      Marquis has been a bad pitcher for years, and he was a bad pitcher for San Diego, about equal to Deduno and worse than Devries. Given the Twins' stadium windfall and the resulting increase in available payroll, it seems entirely reasonable that people are getting tired of hearing about the kind of replacement-level punching bags the Twins are considering for next season.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      I'm not sure which bothers me worse...that 3 years into a new stadium that the Twins "needed" to stay competitive (and which has been filled to virtual capacity) they are already making financial excuses, chopping payroll, and contributing nothing to stadium costs...or that many fans seem incredibly eager to embrace this course of action.

      One more time: if they choose to do so, the Twins can handle a MLB payroll in the $125M range now, and more in the future, without losing any money. That they don't is because they CHOOSE not to, not because they CAN'T.

      They can make a reasonable attempt to fix the 2013 team without damaging their chances in 2015. In fact, signing some decent pitching to multi year contracts has at least as good, and probably better chance of helping the 2015 pitching staff than does "trading off Span, Morneau etc for a few good pitching prospects" and hoping. They traded Santana for "a few good prospects." How'd that work out?
      I agree completely. Especially given the drop in payroll going forward anyway. and the possibility of trading these players if need be for legit prospects (spending money on players does not mean that they cannot trade those players!).
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I think what is going on is that there are teams willing to spend money now in order to get their organization in order and that there are going to be free agents signing for only marginal increases from last year's contracts. That said, throwing $16 million for two years of Marcum seems like an obvious good move and would seem to get him immediately . . . so I am not going to blame other teams for Twins' inaction here.
    1. Blake's Avatar
      Blake -
      I think the market and the market will force the Twins to blow up the team and start from scratch.

      By that I mean teams are signing players to outlandish contracts while it is very evident we're headed into another recession. When revenue starts dropping, how do these teams expect to cover expenses?

      From a financial standpoint, I fully expect the Twins to move as much of their high priced talent as they can, for as many players as they can get, in order to better position themselves for the future.

      Being a Twins fan for the next few years probably won't be any fun. Very likely, Diamond will turn into the Brad Radke of this decade.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Quote Originally Posted by Blake View Post
      I think the market and the market will force the Twins to blow up the team and start from scratch.

      By that I mean teams are signing players to outlandish contracts while it is very evident we're headed into another recession. When revenue starts dropping, how do these teams expect to cover expenses?

      From a financial standpoint, I fully expect the Twins to move as much of their high priced talent as they can, for as many players as they can get, in order to better position themselves for the future.

      Being a Twins fan for the next few years probably won't be any fun. Very likely, Diamond will turn into the Brad Radke of this decade.
      Apparently the people running sports cable networks don't expect the recession you're predicting, at least in terms of it affecting interest in Major League Baseball.

      An additional $25 million in available revenues starting in 2014, without any expenses tied to it, will undoubtedly cause average salaries to go up considerably. That being the case, it shouldn't be surprising that so many teams are looking to lock in good players to multi-year contracts at today's salary levels, even if that's a bit more than it was last year. The Twins should be doing the same thing. Come 2014 and 2015, pitchers comparable to what Sanchez and Jackson are today are likely to be considerably more expensive. As contrary to conventional wisdom as it may seem, a 4-5 year contract for a good, if not great, starting pitcher may make a lot of sense this year.
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