The deal is done. Tom Ricketts has pulled off what many would have described as the impossible only a month ago. Theo Epstein has quit his position as GM for the Boston Red Sox and accepted the job of President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, bringing with him Jed Hoyer as the new GM.
Ricketts now has his baseball guy to watch his baseball guy. After the purchase of the team, Ricketts had two stated goals. First, to build an infrastructure that develops talent from within. Second, to field a team that can contend for the World Series every year. The hiring of marquee talent such as Epstein and Hoyer proves his commitment to the first goal. Giving them the green light to acquire Prince Fielder would prove a much needed commitment to the second.
The Cubs will have approximately $50 million coming off of the books for the 2012 season. An explanation of my math can be seen here. Even if Ricketts chooses to reduce payroll going forward, the Cubs can still afford either of the two biggest free agents this offseason, Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols.
Pujols is 31 years old, maybe. He wants one last contract that will make him the highest paid player in MLB history, $300 million over 10 years. This is simply too high of a price for a player that we can reasonable expect to see a decline in ability from only a few years from now. The team that gives him this contract is going to significantly overpay in the last years.
Fielder is 27 and reportedly looking for $20 million a year. Someone is going to give him that for seven or eight years. Paying Fielder $20 million in his final year at age 35 looks a whole lot better than paying Pujols $30 million at age 41. In fact, $30 million at ages 39, 40 and 41 would make Soriano’s contract look palatable.
After the past few seasons, Cubs fans need a reason to come out to Wrigley in 2012. Let’s hope that Tom Ricketts is as serious about winning now as he is about winning in the future.
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