Interesting little mention about Schoenweis...it better not be Wayne!
Cubs making biggest splash
There is no question about which team has jumped out and made the biggest bang. The Cubs signed second baseman Mark DeRosa, re-signed Aramis Ramirez, re-signed Kerry Wood and now have agreed to pay Alfonso Soriano eight years and $136 million, pending a physical Monday or Tuesday.
"Soriano's agents [SFX, led by Fern Cuza] said they wanted [Carlos] Beltran money," said one club executive. "Well, they did better than that. But I'm not surprised. Justin Speier's people started out looking for Bobby Howry money (three years, $12M) and got four years and $18 million from the Angels. What a market."
The Cubs do not yet know where Soriano will play. It could be any of the three outfield positions, and they know -- working with the Nationals -- he became an exceptional outfielder whose throwing arm makes him a rarity. The $136M is more than they shelled out to keep Derrek Lee and Ramirez, but those players made it clear they wanted to remain in Chicago.
Now the Cubs have Lee and Ramirez around the electrifying Soriano, plus an above-average offensive catcher in Michael Barrett and Cesar Izturis and DeRosa in the middle of the infield. While the Astros are trying to retool, the Cardinals are trying to sign pitchers, the Brewers are on the rise and the Reds have signed Alex Gonzalez and Mike Stanton, the Cubs' explosion in the market could make them instant contenders.
They now want to sign two starting pitchers and a couple of left-handed bats.
"Jim Hendry defined what he needed," says another GM, "and he's willing to spend to get it."
Soriano, who will be 31 in January, has ascended offensively the last three years. His OPS has risen from .808 to .821 to .911, his steals from 18 to 30 to 41, his homers from 28 to 36 to 46.
"Soriano was the positional player on the market," says one GM, and now it will be interesting to see how the Phillies, Astros, Angels and the other teams interested in him move from here.
This should dramatically help Carlos Lee, who has Houston, Baltimore, San Francisco, San Diego and others after him. It could alter the J.D. Drew market with the Angels, Red Sox, Orioles, Astros and others. The Cubs are now out of the Julio Lugo sweepstakes despite Lou Piniella's fondness for his former shortstop, with the Red Sox, Mets and Blue Jays in line to see who is willing to step up to four years and $32M; Boston may be the preferred destination because of how he fits and the fact that he can play shortstop and lead off, but Mets GM Omar Minaya is also a huge Lugo fan.
Jamie Walker's OK. He's left-handed, reliable, threw in 56 games, had a 37/8 K/BB ratio in 48 innings, and had a 4.50 ERA after the All-Star break, which earned him a three-year, $12M deal with the Orioles. "He essentially got a Scott Eyre deal," said one GM, and the Cubs hardly regret signing Eyre last winter.
Relievers may be the most unreliable of junk bonds on the market and certainly the most unpredictable, but the Orioles need relievers and are willing to shell out $12M to Walker and the Angels $18M to Justin Speier. Why not? The Orioles have the money, especially the Washington cable dollars Bud Selig gave to Peter Angelos. They have an audience waiting to be won back by an owner who usually finds reasons not to act. They're in a division with the two biggest payrolls. They have Chris Ray to close and Erik Bedard, Adam Loewen and Daniel Cabrera to protect.
The Speier signing has led to speculation that the Angels may be willing to put Scot Shields in a big trade for offense.
Such is life in a material world. Scott Boras has told teams he can get four years for Scott Schoeneweis and $10M on a one-year deal for Eric Gagne -- before Gagne proves he can morph himself into Trevor Hoffman. Danys Baez is asking three years, $21M. Stanton had 11 interested teams.
Why not? If Boston can post $51.1M for Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Cubs can give Soriano a reported $136M, we are off and running to a wealthy, healthy winter. And admit it: The game is always healthier when the Cubs are good, and in a week they have made themselves a whole lot better.