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Not So Lovable: The Attendance Drop-off at Wrigley

July 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

A Guest Blog by dcgm04

Chicago Cubs are losing—and I’m not just talking about their ballgames. For the second straight year attendance is down at the Friendly Confines. Compared to last year, the Cubs are drawing about 1,100 fewer fans per game this season. Is this a dire situation that has put the organization in serious trouble financially? No, but it definitely isn’t a trend that GM Jim Hendry and owner Tom Ricketts are happy about. Also, if attendance does continue to decline in succeeding seasons it could impact the organization’s ability or willingness to spend money as liberally as it has up to the present.

There are two reasons the Cubs aren’t drawing in fans. The first is the economy. Attendance is down across the MLB as a whole, so the Cubs aren’t alone. But the second reason rests solely with the Cubs. And that is they have a bad product.

Over the years Jim Hendry has doled out contracts that have resulted in a payroll exceeding $126 million this year, good for 6th-most in all of baseball. And where has that gotten them? Currently they’re 5th-place in their division and have the 2nd-worst record in the majors as of the All-Star Break. Ouch.

The economy isn’t helping, but the main reason fans are not going to Wrigley is because of the appallingly horrible team thrown out on the field day in and day out.

So how can the organization get fans to go to Wrigley? Well, winning games if not division titles or better would certainly get the job done. Unfortunately for the Chicago Cubs, assembling a team that can contend for a postseason spot doesn’t seem to be possible in the near future. That being the case, here are 4 things the Cubs should do to bring fans back to the ballpark:

1. Fire Jim Hendry. When all is said and done it’s the general manager who determines what free agents to sign, what trades to pull off, whom to draft, whom the manager is, and whom to consult for advice on these matters. The state of the organization is a reflection of the job the general manager has done. I think it is kind to say the Cubs GM hasn’t met expectations. During his approximately 10-year tenure as general manager, the Cubs have made the postseason only three times and twice were swept in the first round. Furthermore, ludicrous contracts, baffling trades, and unprofitable drafts have worn away fans’ patience and trust in the man. Firing Hendry (something long overdue in the eyes of most Cubs fans) would send a message that the Cubs acknowledge the current regime has failed and are heading in a new direction, thus rebuilding trust with the fans.

2. Renovate Wrigley. Baseball greats from Babe Ruth to Peter Gammons have called Wrigley Field “a dump.” Complaints range from narrow walkways to a substandard visitors’ clubhouse to areas that give off the feeling of being in an alley. Building a new ballpark is not an option. A huge part of the charm of the Cubs is Wrigley itself. Plus, think about Fenway Park; it’s a prime example of how an old stadium can be modernized without losing the nostalgia. What the Cubs need to do is stop adding seats that aren’t going to be filled and reallocate funds to make the off-camera, non-televised areas as nice as the stands and the field. Making a trip to Wrigley Field an all-around enjoyable experience is a great way to lure in fans and ensure that they want to come back.

3. Commit to rebuilding. Right now the organization is trying to be competitive and rebuild at the same time, as evidenced by the ill-advised Matt Garza trade this past offseason (a good pitcher but not worth the talent they gave up). Usually, this isn’t a recipe for success, and often it leads to what we currently see at Wrigley Field: a bunch of complementary players and overpaid, underperforming veterans. Here’s a good way to start the rebuilding process: fire sale. The Cubs need to admit to themselves and the fans that the team won’t be competitive for at least the next couple of seasons and more likely longer than that. Then they can trade away pretty much all of their veterans that don’t fit into the future plans. Yes, they will have to eat practically all of the money owed to these players, but look at it this way: they have to pay them regardless of if they keep them or not, so why not trade them for prospects? The Cubs need to restock their farm system and might even get a team to pay part of the contracts of the veterans they trade in the process. Their fans have gone through rebuilding periods before and have been quite understanding. In fact, I actually think a lot of the fans’ ire stems from the organization making promises to be competitive every season and not keeping them rather than just that the Cubs have a bad team. Plus, people like to watch prospects. I’ve read comments by fans on the team’s website that say they only watch games to see how Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney perform. I myself love to watch Tony Campana play and imagine him one day stealing 40+ bases in future seasons (the dude can fly). Prospects and young talent bring hope and optimism. Fading veterans don’t.

4. Sign Albert Pujols this offseason. I know this is contradictory to the whole premise of rebuilding, but hear me out. The Cubs need Pujols more than any other team in baseball. Stealing Pujols away from their archrivals the Cardinals would be one of the biggest coups in baseball history. Even with his struggles this year he is still regarded as the best hitter in baseball. And if the Cubs sign the best hitter in baseball away from their biggest rivals, the marketing writes itself. Pujols would draw fans to the ballpark just so they can see arguably baseball’s best right-handed hitter ever in a Cubs uniform. Wrigley would be packed daily, which equals big dollars for the Cubs.

But how can they sign Albert Pujols if they will be rebuilding? Won’t he want to sign with a team that has a chance at the postseason? Maybe, maybe not. The Cubs have two options that could get help them land Pujols even with plans to rebuild. One way to go is to sign Pujols and put off rebuilding for at least another year. If the Cubs aren’t in the mix for the playoffs at next season’s All-Star Break, then they can have their fire sale while still retaining Pujols as a draw for the fans. The second option is more of a gamble. What the Cubs would have to do is have their fire sale now and come up with a timeline for when they believe the team will be competitive again (i.e. when will the farm system pay major dividends). When they try to sign Pujols in the offseason they can explain their situation and hope he’s okay with waiting a couple of years for the team to become competitive. It’s a long-shot, but it could work because Pujols already has won the World Series and might not be as desperate for a ring as a player who doesn’t have one. Plus, Pujols words and actions have made it clear that he wants to be the best-paid player in the game. The Cubs are one of only maybe 5 or so teams that can afford that kind of contract who have an opening at first base. Granted, the Cubs will have to pony up a lot to sign Pujols, but the way he’ll draw fans to Wrigley is worth it.


MLB 2011 Preview/Predictions

March 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

A Guest Blog By Fanspeak contributing writer Kyle Howard:

Just about a month away from the offical start of the MLB 2011 season. Many offseason publicity and free agency moves make this year in the MLB very interesting. Crawford to the Red Sox, Cliff Lee back to the Phillies, Werth to the Nationals, and Rafeal Soriano are only some of the new faces, in new places from this years offseason transactions. Here is my run through on my projections for this year:

AL East:

1) Red Sox; It kills me to put the Soxs as my division winners being a diehard Yankees fan but the Red Sox really beefed up their line up with the acquisitions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Their line up is as good as any in baseball and their pitching staff when healthy is top 5 in the league. Look for the Sox to make it back to October with either a division title or a wild card spot.

2) Yankees; Many Yankee fans look at this offseason as a failure. Not being able to convince Cliff Lee or Zach Greinke to come to New York was a tough pill to swallow. Their line up is still as lethal as any in the game and with the acquisition of Rafeal Soriano to help set up Rivera in the 9th really helped the needs of the bullpen. The starting pitching is going to be the real question mark throughout the season. If Burnett can turn his season around, Nova can turn into an every 5 day starter and the Mark Prior project can make strides, the Yankees will be pushing for yet another division title. Look for them to contend with the Sox until the last month of the season and either walking away with a wild card spot or best case scenario a division title.

3) Orioles; The Orioles are my surprise team of the league this year. They have done a great job of loading up on young talent and I feel that 2011 is the year they start making some noise. With Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters being the focal points of this team, the pitching talent needs to step up and you may be looking at a very dangerous team in the next few years. Look for the Orioles to have an above average year and finishing 3rd in the AL East.

4) Tampa Bay; Tampa Bay is in a transitioning period. They lost Crawford, Garza, and Soriano to free agentcy/trades and that leaves some big holes to fill for some young talented players in their farm system. With the acquistion of Manny and Damon, the Rays bring in some experience to their club with a more risk/reward mentality. The Rays staff is still a dangerous one lead by David Price and Evan Longoria will only improve and maybe a darkhorse candidate for MVP this year. Give the Rays some time to develop and they will be back in the postseason within the next couple of weeks.

5) Toronto; With still lingering questions on what Toronto’s next move is going to be, look for them to have a down year this year. Jose Bautista coming off a 54 home run year campaign and getting an extention I could see having a downer year. With some young potential pitching talent, look for the Blue Jays to use those as trade bait especially strikeout specialist Brandon Morrow.

AL Central:

1) Twins; It is difficult for me to pick a winner in this division being as the parity is so well distributed, so I will take experience and choose the Twinkees as the division winner. With Morneau coming back and the ability to resign Pavano, who is an innings machine, the Twins are poised to be the front runners of this jam packed division. If Nathan comes back healthy from his season ending surgury last year look for the Twins to be the winners of this division.

2) White Sox; Last year was a disappointment for the White Sox. With much publicity hovering over Ozzie Guillen, the White Sox struggled for most of the season. With the key offseason acquistion of Adam Dunn and resigning Paul Konerko this team will have quite a powerful 4 and 5 spots in their line up. Also, Buerhle leading the staff followed by Floyd and Danks, look for this team to contend with the Twins for the division title and the loser will be in the wild card hunt.

3) Tigers; The Tigers 2011 season is on the shoulders of how healthy/sober Miguel Cabrera can be. The man has as much talent as their is in the MLB but, off field troubles have put the Tigers in a spin. Offseason acquistion Victor Martinez adds some power to a line up that was in desperate need for help around Cabrera.  Verlander leads this young staff, and when he is on is one of the most powerful pitchers in the league. A sophmore slump from promising young star Rick Porcello was a key difference maker in the Tigers 2010 season. If Porcello can get over his 2nd year struggles, look for the Tigers to contend for a majority of the season, but I feel the off the field publicity and inexperience in pitching will lead them to a 3rd place finish.

4) Royals; Its been a bad decade for the Royals but, this year,  I can see them making some strides to becoming a better squad. Alex Gordon needs to become the player we all thought he would become when he was drafted 4th overall in 2005. Luke Hochevar splashed onto the scene last year with a decent season and showing signs he could become a decent starter at the Major league level. The Royals still have a long way to go but, if their draft picks start stepping up the next 5 years could look promising for this squad.

5) Indians; The Indians are in the rebuilding stage as an organization. With many young prospects gained from the Cliff Lee trade and Victor Martinez trade, look for this team to show a lot of new faces this year. Shin soo Choo is a rising star in the outfield showing signs of power and batting average and a good piece to build around. This will be a struggling year for the Indians and will stay that way unless they make some noise at the trade deadline.

AL West:

1) Angels; Coming off a very disappointing season last year look for the Angels to make it back to the postseason this year. With a star studed staff lead by Jared Weaver, Scott Kazmir, and Ervin Santana look for the pitching to help carry this team into October. Kendry Morales maybe the biggest difference maker on this team this season. If he comes back as healthy as he was before his ACL accident, look for him to be another darkhorse MVP candidate.

2) Texas; Losing Cliff Lee to free agency crippled this teams potential for years to come. Coming off of the organizations first World Series experience the sky was the limit for this team. Led by MVP Josh Hamilton and power slugging OF Nelson Cruz, this team will go as far as these 2 stars can stay healthy. With questions surrounding the starting staff, look for the Rangers to pick up an arm at the trade deadline in hopes of making another push into October.

3) Athletics; The Athletics have one of the best young pitching staffs in baseball and they live and die on how well these young guns can do. Grant Balfour, Dallas Braden, Trevor Cahill,  Brett Anderson, and Andrew Bailey are the cornerstones of this young franchise. Dont be surprised if they A’s make a push at the deadline by moving one of these players for a bat in an often weak line up with an aging Eric Chavez. Look for the Athletics to continue rebuilding and continue improvement for years to come.

4) Mariners; The Mariners need power and they need it fast. The Mariners were last in almost every statistical batting category last year and they need to add some power to that line up. With much promise in former 2nd overall pick Dustin Ackley from UNC, it wont be a surprise to see him starting by mid season. Felix Hernandez is just a decent offensive team away from being arguably the best pitcher and baseball and look for him to continue his dominence in 2011.

NL East:

1) Phillies; Many analyst have it already penciled in that the Phillies will be holding up another World Series Title come October in 2011. With possibly the best 4 starters ever to be assembled on a single team, look for them to dominate most of the teams in the NL. Additions such as Cliff Lee only make this team even stronger and a star studded line up to back him up it will be quite a challenge to take this team in a 7 game series. With Werth gone that opens up the spot for top prospect Dominic Brown to take the rains of right field. The Phillies will walk away with this division and by July be focusing on the Playoffs.

2) Braves; The Braves suprised many of us last year and this year are a team not to mess with. With Hudson, Hanson, and Lowe leading the staff and the emergence of Jason Heyward becoming a star in the MLB, and the acquisition of Dan Uggla,  look for the Braves to win a wild card and being on an upset alert come playoff time.

3) Marlins; The Marlins have been trying to develop young talent for most of the past couple of years in hopes of turning into a legit playoff squad. Lead by MVP candidate Hanley Rameriz and pitching stud Josh Johnson, the Marlins are looking for an additional bat and arm to help make a charge at a competitive East division.

4) Mets; I really do not know where to start with Los Mets. They have as much talent as a team would need to make an apperance in the postseason but, for some reason they never seem to all click at the same time. Look for this years Mets team to be centered around David Wright and a healthy Jose Reyes. Pitching is very suspect due to Johan having elbow surgery. Look for the Mets to try and compete but come up short in the East race.

5) Nationals; Being from Northern Virginia and having been to multiple Nats games its difficult for me to put them in this position. Strasburg is what brought this team alive and made them play with passion and pride but, with Tommy John Surgery dont look for Strasburg to be throwing until September, if they even decide to let him throw at all. With key acquistion of Jayson Werth, the Nats will be along the same lines of production as last year. The future looks bright in Washington and if Strasburg can come back as good as he left, and Harper doesn’t disappoint down in the minors, this team will be fun to watch in the coming years.

NL Central:

1) Cubs; I know its as shocking to you as it is to me that the Cubs are going to finish first in the division. The Cubs made a key move in acquiring Garza this winter, and if their young talent continues to produce look for them to be a sneaky good team come playoff time. This pick is definitely a stretch and my upset of the year.

2) Reds; The surprise team of the year in 2010, the Reds will be looking to capitalize on thier run last year and continue it into this year. Joey Votto is the leader of this squad and looks to duplicate is MVP year last year and transition it to this year. Pitching was a strong point for the Reds last year but, I feel that they will struggle this year with to much inconsistentcy. Look for the Reds to make it back to the post season and be a contender as a wild card.

3) Cardinals; The Cardinals would be first in the Central if it werent for the staggering news on Adam Wainwright out for the season. The loss of Wainwright equals trouble for this club. With the huge injury to the staff and an unhappy Albert Pujols, look for this club to have a difficult time with all the distractions and end up chasing a wild card spot.

4) Brewers; The Brewers have 2 young stars in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, arguably 1 of the best tandems in the league. With the line up set up to produce runs the Brewers made a huge trade in aquiring Zack Greinke to help with the staff. Look for the Brewers to improve and possibly take the Cardinals spot and fighting for a spot in the post season.

5) Astros; It is easy to say that the Astros are in a rebuilding year. Losing Roy Oswalt to a trade pretty much sums it up. With young talent in the minors and an aging outfield minus Hunter Pence, look for the Astros to struggle most the year and look to being sellers at the deadline

6) Pirates; This team is the only team that manages to get great prospects and trade them away. The Pirates have not had a well established club since the 80′s and I don't see that happening this year. Their one true star Andrew McCutchen is a lead-off hitter and you can’t build a team around that. Zack Duke will finish with a sub .500 win record and they will use many new arms from their farm system this year. Sorry so called “City of Champions” but you may want to concentrate on NFL happening in the fall and Crosby recovering over watching this squad this year.

NL West:

1) Giants; The defending World Series Champions have to be the favorites to come out of this jam packed West division. Offseason loss of World Series MVP, Edgar Renteria, leaves a big hole at shortstop and Juan Uribe’s departure to division rival LA leaves a big spot open at the utility role. With the young guns on the pitching staff such as Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner leading the way and crazy Wilson closing out games, look for this team to make it back to the Postseason in a coinflip of a division.

2) Rockies; the Rockies struggled last year despite the fact they are known as being a second half team only 2 years removed from their prolific playoff run. With flame thrower Ubaldo Jimenez leading the staff and Troy Tulowitzki the captain of the team. Look for the Rockies to make some noise and be a strong challenger for being the wild card team come October.

3) Padres; the Padres had a banner of a year last season coming down to the wire last season with the Giants going into the last game of the season. The Padres have an underrated pitching staff lead by rising star Mat Latos, with verterans such as Jon Garland to help mentor the fire baller. Free Agency hit the Padres hard by losing their superstar first basemen Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox. I can see the Padres relying on their arms to keep them in the race but with no one significant to replace Gonzalez, runs are going to be hard to come by for this club.

4) Diamondbacks; This team is tricky to pick. One day their hot the next day their not. After giving up Dan Haren to the Angels in return for some prospects, the diamondbacks are clearly a process in the making. Relying heavily on star outfielder Justin Upton is going to be too much for this team to overcome.

Playoff Predition:

AL                                           NL                                         World Series

Red Sox                              Giants                               Phillies vs. Red Sox

Yankees                            Cubs                                         Phillies win 4-2

Angels                               Phillies

Twins                                 Rockies

Wednesday's Morning Links:

January 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

Colts Set To Show Manning The Money: This year's biggest NFL free agent isn't going anywhere as the Colts have made it abundantly clear they will pay Peyton Manning whatever he is worth. My guess is it will be bigger than Tom Brady's deal and carry more guaranteed money, but don't be shocked if its more creative as well. I think that without a doubt the salary cap will be back next season, and it is even possible that the NFL slows its growth rate. Regardless of how large it is, and how much it will grow each season, it is in the Colts best interest to find ways to defer costs into the future. Look for extra years to be tacked on with some of the money guaranteed, well past when they'd want to pay Manning so that they can lower his costs now. Sure the money will accelerate when Manning retires, and there could be a significant dead money amount that season, but its the smart play. What would you rather have one year of a big dead money hit, during a season where I'm guessing the playoffs will be a longshot without Manning, or paying an extra $2-3 million over 4-6 years, while you are a viable playoff and Super Bowl contender with Manning. Those extra million per year would be the equivalent of another solid starter compared to a minimum salary guy, and that could be the difference. Manning's contract will be a fun story to watch, but there really isn't any suspense involved, he will be a Colt well into the future.

Rumors Persist That The League Will Force The Players Hand: While there has been a number of accusations on both sides during this posturing period of labor talks, this is one story that could hold water. Basically instead of the league 'locking out' the players over contract negotiations, they will publicly announce their final offer, and force the players to decide whether to accept it or 'strike'. That is the only feasible way I could see a work stoppage in the NFL. While neither side wins in a labor dispute, the owners and league have more on the line. Even if a work stoppage doesn't affect one single game next season, they would have to deal with the process stories all year long. How they couldn't sign/trade a certain player because of the work stoppage, or that a player got injured because he didn't have a full offseason workout plan. And finally certain teams went to the playoffs, because they didn't have a significant amount of turnover, and other teams couldn't compete because they did. If the players strike you will still have stories, but the main culprit won't be the owners. And lets face it the owners can't face the bad press in a down economy. When unemployment rate is at an all-time high, no one wins in a battle between billionaires and millionaires. And the billionaires even get a bigger share of the blame as they need to now go out and sell season tickets and merchandise. Unlike the NHL which had a lockout and has recovered nicely, there was an actual reason for the lockout as salaries were exceeding revenues and could have become a real solvency issue for the league. There is no solvency issue for the NFL as even the poorest teams are quite capable of paying their bills. Look for an agreement to be reached, but if not don't look for the NFL and the owners to take the fall.

Matt Szczur Chooses MLB Over the NFL: Villanova star wide receiver Matt Szczur will commit fully to the Chicago Cubs, and forgo his NFL career at this time. Szczur was a 5th round pick last season by the Chicago Cubs and signed for a bonus of $100K, with an additional $400K (or $500K) if he choose baseball over football by this February. Szczur played rookie ball for the Cubs last summer, and looked really good and was even named the Cubs 7th best prospect according to Baseball America. At the same time though he went back to Villanova for his senior season, and had another impressive year. He was projected to be drafted in the 4-5th round based on workouts, but given his work ethic and character (which are both off the charts) he could have heard his name called much sooner. Szczur seemed likely to choose football over baseball, so the Cubs stepped up their offer to $1.5 million. Szczur will now be heading to Spring Training as opposed to the NFL Combine this spring. He is still a bit raw as a prospect since he split time between two sports, but he has a ton of potential. He profiles as a starting center field prospect, who could be up within 2-3 seasons. Its a bold move for Chicago, and one that I'm sure many an NFL G.M. hates to see.

Wednesday's Morning Links: Hot Stove Edition

December 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

Cubs Lock Up Carlos Pena: It was a bit of a surprising move since Chicago wasn't as closely linked to Pena as some other teams were, but fills a major need for the Cubs. The terms are a bit surprising at 1 year for $10 million, since Pena is coming off his worst professional season. Even if it was just a one year deal, I'm shocked Chicago went 8 figures for him. Now I would have understood $6 million with another $4 million in incentives, but then at least he'd be earning a big part of that contract. If Pena doesn't rebound, this could be a big waste of money for Chicago and a huge regret. The free agent first base market got noticeably thinner with this deal, and it could lead to some interesting trades.

Angels Get Involved In the Cliff Lee Market: With the Angels stocked full of pitching and expressing an interest in a number of other key free agents, no one ever thought they were a serious suitor for Cliff Lee. That might be on the verge of changing as the Angels are expected to make a serious bid for the ace. Some of the thinking is that Lee's two most likely destinations, Rangers and Yankees, are big time rivals of the Angels, and would hurt L.A.'s playoff chances if he signs with either one of them. On the flip side though, their biggest needs are on offense and in their bullpen, and it might be hard to fill those if they sign Lee. Sure they could then trade one of their starters to save money/bring in talent, but it might not be as beneficial as signing Carl Crawford or Adrian Beltre.

White Sox and Konerko Parting Ways?: The White Sox seem to be taking a firm line with Paul Konerko in their latest negotiations with their star first baseman, but really I think it is just posturing. The free agent market has really dried up, and if they lose Konerko their signing of Dunn will be a little more than a wash. Chicago needs Konerko at this point, and I really can't see him playing anywhere else. Yes, he might have a few other suitors but none of them are as close to winning as Chicago is. I'm guessing it ends up being a 3 year $40.5 million deal, which is just under the average that Dunn was signed for.

Bad News For Nationals Fans

September 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

The reports seem to be growing louder and louder that the Nationals won't be bringing Adam Dunn back next season. And if true, would represent a huge set back for the organization. The reports have been consistent in saying that the Nationals are hesitant to offer Dunn the 4 year's that he wants, instead preferring to stick to 2 or 3 years. Defense seems to be the chief concern among the naysayers in resigning Dunn, despite it being better this year at first base. Now no one will confuse Dunn for an elite defender, but he has improved his defense enough to warrant a job at first for the Nats.

And if you had made this decision that Dunn wasn't worth 4 years, why didn't you move him two months ago at the trade deadline? I know you might not have gotten the cream of the crop in prospects, but even a couple 2nd tier guys (Dan Hudson+ from the White Sox perhaps) would have been worth it compared to the draft picks you will receive. For all the hype about getting two first round picks, it really isn't true. It is only a first round pick if a team has one of the top 15 records in the majors. So that means team's like say the Angels who might look for an upgrade at DH over Matsui (not to mention one that can play some 1B in case Morales gets hurt again), or the Cubs who need a power hitter in the middle of their lineup and a 1B, or even say the Brewers if they deal Fielder might look for a big bat to replace him, would only have to give up a 2nd round pick to replace him.

What's worse is those aren't going to be the only weak teams chasing him, the A's could get interested as they need a big bat and have always valued three true outcome guys like Dunn. Also the cross town Orioles have been looking to make a splash for years and could upgrade over Ty Wiggington at 1B. While the Nats could get a 1st round pick if a team like the White Sox, Giants, Braves or Rangers (among others) sign Dunn, it isn't a given. Dunn is on the low end of the spectrum for Type-A free agents (the system is a bit antiquated, and Dunn's average weighs him down) so if a team like the Braves were to add both Dunn and say Jayson Werth this offseason the Nationals would get the Braves 2nd round pick. While it is a bit less unlikely a team could add two Type-A free agents that rank higher than Dunn, and the Nationals would end up with a 3rd round pick. Same thing is true for the teams that finish with one of the 15 worst records, so while unlikely if the Cubs go on a spending spree the Nationals could have a 4th round pick as compensation for Dunn.

Yes they would still get a supplemental 1st round pick, but that kind of compensation pales in comparison to what they could have potentially gotten in the trade market (not to mention the fact the Nationals would have to spend millions of dollars to sign these players). Draft pick compensation is nice and all and beneficial to rebuilding, but as the Nationals showed this year, extra picks aren't necessary to having a top draft. Even taking Bryce Harper out of the equation, the Nationals had a good draft getting three young quality pitchers in Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole, and Robbie Ray (a long with a few other talents). Sure it will be nice to have a few extra picks, but it won't increase the talent pool that much overall, as now they might not spend as much on later picks. All-in-all compensation picks are exactly what they were intended to be, a consolation prize but one that should have had zero impact on the Nationals decision to trade Dunn (though they do increase his trade value, since a contender trading for him can get some talent back).

Yes there are some decent bats on the free agent market who can replace some of Dunn's production and who might be better fielders (maybe not all of them). But with the exception of Paul Konerko (and even he isn't as good or consistent as Dunn), none of these guys (Adam LaRoche, Aubrey Huff, Carlos Pena) offer the true middle of the order hitter the Nationals are looking for or are the box office sensation that Dunn is. Now maybe it could have made sense if they had gotten some prospects in return for a Dunn deal, that helped them at other positions (all three OF spots, starting rotation etc.).

But to just replace Dunn with Pena or LaRoche won't do the trick, and will only save the Nationals money. While thats nice it isn't exactly a deep free agent crop to invest in. Even if they sign Werth and say LaRoche and lose Dunn, the Nats offense won't really improve to the point of contention. Sure their defense will be better, but if their offense ranks 20th in both OBP and Slug %, where will it rank without him? Sure Willingham will be back from injury, but the Nats were ranking in the 20's even when he was healthy. I just don't see how there is a lateral or positive move out there by not signing Dunn.

While I realize it is a growing possibility that Dunn could be gone when free agency begins, I hope the Nationals reconsider (or build a time machine to go back to the trade deadline). Sure it might have killed some (of the little) Nationals fan base, but at least they would be building for the future. If they don't end up resigning him, I hope the team will make the most out of a tough situation and add the money necessary to the draft budget to sign two additional young talents. Time will tell if the Nationals made the right move in this situation, but I have to tell you as a Nationals fan I worry that it will be a bad offseason.

Braves Desperate For Offense, Add Derek Lee

August 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

The Deal: The Cubs trade 1B Derek Lee and cash ($1.7 million) to the Braves for RHP Robinson Lopez (Low-A), LHP Jeffrey Lorick (High-A), RHP Tyrelle Harris (Double A)

The Braves: Atlanta desperately needed a big bat with Chipper Jones on the D.L. and Troy Glaus becoming totally ineffective. Unfortunately by waiting till after the trade deadline the Braves severely limited their options (Chipper wasn't injured at the time, but they could have still used a power OF or 1B bat at the deadline). While Derek Lee is a big name, his production has fallen well below his career standards this season. Lee has been hot of late and does bring a veteran presence to the club, but the Braves paid a steep price to rent Derek Lee for the rest of the season, when he only is a marginal upgrade to what they currently have. Lee is a free agent at the end of the year, and will likely be too expensive to offer arbitration to. In return for him the Braves gave up three young pitchers, including one who has a good bit of upside.

The Cubs: Chicago had been trying to trade Derek Lee for sometime, but with his ability to veto trades they hadn't had much luck. While this might not have been the Cubs first choice in trade partners, they did quite well in this deal. Lee wasn't in the Cubs long term or short term plans, so they were likely going to move on from Lee this offseason anyways as their first baseman. By moving him now the Cubs save an additional $1.7 million, and by agreeing to pay half of Lee's salary they got a pretty good prospect return. Robinson Lopez is the real talent in this group and could make this a big win for Chicago. Despite being just 19 he has the upside to become a frontline starter down the road. It will be a couple years until Chicago sees him with the big league club, but it is likely their patience will pay off. Lorick and Harris are both bullpen arms, and likely in the non-closer variety limiting their value. On the flip side they have both been very successful in the minors, and are more advanced to the point where if they make it, they could be ready within the next 2 years. Lorick is also left-handed giving him quite a bit more value. In all it was a good return for an under-performing rental player.

Winner: Braves were kinda backed in the corner here, but I think they overpaid for Lee making the Cubs the winner in this deal. Atlanta improves some on offense, but trading for someone like Adam LaRoche (again) would have made more sense for Atlanta, and probably would have cost roughly the same (maybe even a little less in terms of a prospect return).