The Cubs should buy a pink neon sign blinking, "Nothing to see here."
That's what they want everyone to think, especially regarding the 2012 roster.
Information about legitimate team operations are such tightly-kept secrets that unlocking them requires two keys turned at the same instant by persons who must remain in separate time zones.
That means every move Team Epstein makes is masked by the biggest canard of all: that they're not trying to compete in 2012.
It's not exactly a lie. It's a half-truth. No one knows how the season will turn out.
But ideas that the Cubs won't spend money (at any cost!), or they're not pursuing free agents, and are trading every decent player for a chance to win two or three years from now?
It's to the team's advantage for others to think that.
It makes it easier to do business out of the spotlight, lowers expectations of fans (and the Ricketts), hides negotiations with free agents behind the vague notion of "rebuilding" and spares Team Epstein from the inevitable pressure to win immediately.
In fact, if the Cubs could issue a press release of what they want the fans, media, agents and 29 other teams to believe, it might read...
From the Desk of Theo Epstein:
We're not doing anything special, just blowing up the whole roster.
Really, don't consider us players in free agency. We hate the thought of spending any money. We're doing this right: we're rebuilding.
We would never bid on international players or offer legitimate contracts to free agents.
In fact, when we bid on Mark Buerhle, Albert Pujols and Yu Darvish, we weren't serious. Those were lowball offers just so we could say we did it, trying to show Cubs fans we're paying attention, that's all.
(We hope fans aren't paying too much attention, of course, because they'd learn we were just doing it for show.)
But this business about Prince Fielder? Confession time: we're on record saying we like guys in his age range, that's true.
Too bad we're rebuilding.
Yes, I've only got a five-year deal. So you're right, a Fielder contract would mean he's likely to be here as long as me.
Rats. Not sure how that could work, cause those are only his prime years. Tough call. Would hate to get saddled with his career-best production.
Not going to waste time thinking about winning now: just prepping for my last two years of the deal, 2015 and 2016. Those will be great—just you wait and see!
Because we have no money to spend. And we think free agents are usually bad value. So we're just rebuilding.
And everyone knows you can't rebuild and compete at the same time. Ha, ha, ha, that's crazy talk!
No one does that.
Not the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers or Phillies. Those big-market teams don't invest in free agents. No, they blow it all up and wait two or three years before contending again. That's what we're doing here, rebuilding.
See, the thing is, no good can possibly come from free agency. You can't sign a free agent at market value who will help you win games. It's just too expensive and you'll get stuck with a bad contract so we're never ever paying for a free agent again (except cheapies like David DeJesus, Manny Corpas or Andy Sonnenstine).
And even though we have "revenue flexibility" equivalent to the major league payrolls of Oakland, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, San Diego or Kansas City, we don't see how handing out any of our extra cash would do good.
We'd prefer to keep all of it for, you know, rebuilding.
There is nothing to see here.
There is certainly no pile of cash waiting to be spent on a players in 2012.
Let's be real, Cubs fans will show up to the tune of three million visitors next year and pay an average of 43 bucks a seat whether we win or not. (Estimated ticket sales alone: $129 million dollars.)
So that's free money. Just fish in a barrel, gotta take that. Would be a fool not to, right?
Let fans get sunburned watching another 71-game winner.
Truth is, Old Man Ricketts told me I could keep anything we didn't spend below last year’s budget ($140 million)! So, I'm gonna make a quick buck and take the wife out for Starbucks, you know?
And hey, if there are ever changes to the CBA regarding draft pick compensation, we'll be in great shape, let me tell you.
It will all be fine. Because we're rebuilding. And we think a few years of losing might be good for us.
I'm sure you understand.
P.S. Please feel free to stop by and peruse our selection of fine goods and (slightly) used merchandise. On sale cheap! Everything must go!