With the bidding for free agents most likely to be absurd, the Cubs need to be judicious in allocating their resources. It's true the Cubs have an increased budget, but even if it's not a Yankee or Red Sox size budget, there is still plenty of money if used wisely.
The Cubs went into 2006 with a $94 million budget. Gone is Maddux,$10+ million, Wood, $11+ million, the three headed second baseman, Perez, Walker and Harriston Jr., $9 million, and Pierre at $6 million. Those cuts dropped last year's payroll to $58 million and, our GM tells us the Cubs will have up to $115 million to spend for 2007. That leaves Hendry, $57 million to work with in order to rebuild the mess the Cubs are in.
Resigning Ramirez even if the extension isn't backloaded, which they most always are, will eat up $4 million. Wood's buyout of $3 million, plus his resigning at almost $2 million, is another $5 million and Miller was resigned for an increase of about $1 million as well. Izturis is costing us about $5 million, so as it sits today, the Cubs payroll stands at $73 million, leaving the Cubs $42 million under the 2007 budget.
Now that Ramirez has been locked up, we only hope Hendry does the same with Zambrano. An extension should increase Zambrano's salary around $6 million, most likely to be backloaded as well, and bring Zambrano's salary in line with Roy Oswalt's $13 million. Budget now stands at $79 million.
That still leaves Hendry, $36 million to work with. So what are the Cubs biggest needs to fill?
Well if history teaches us anything, it's that superior pitching will usually negate superior hitting.
With that in mind and last years demise of the rotation, it seems imperative for Hendry to acquire at least one stud starter, one second tier starter and an inexpensive and dependable
insurance innings eater. This will insulate the rotation from turning into the mash unit it did in 2006.
What will adding these kind of pitchers cost Hendry? Well it looks like a stud, Zito or Schmidt, will be in the $13 to $15 million dollar range. A second tier starter, and this is where it's tricky, Hendry is definitely going to have to do his homework, could be had for anywhere between $6 and $10 million. A dependable, insurance innings eater starter can be acquired for about $2 million.
So if Hendry does his homework and gets a stud for $15 million, a second tier pitcher at $6 million and a dependable 5th. starter at $2 million, he will spend approximately $23 million.
Now remember we most certainly will get some 2007 payroll relief from the backloading of the big contracts for the two expensive starters acquired, as well as the extensions for Ramirez and Zambrano. I would expect on average, a minimum of at least a $2 million in relief for each of the four big contracts mentioned for 2007. That reduces the $23 million hit to upgrade the rotation about $8 million and leaves Hendry, roughly $21 million for further acquisitions.
With a solid, if not superior rotation in place, Hendry can move to address last year's other most glaring weaknesses, another power hitter and quality bench.
It should be emphasized, that although the good offensive clubs usually have a dynamic 3, 4 and 5 hitter, the rest of their lineup, especially at the top, is usually comprised of hitters with good OBP's.
Besides the power outage last year resulting from D. Lee's absence, the top of the order's OBP was miserable. That needs to change. While it is easy to look at Soriano and see he could fill the power numbers, Hendry also needs to be mindful that rounding out the bench with disciplined hitters who can play the fundamental part of the game, ie; catch the ball, advance a runner, take a walk and an extra base, are what QUALITY TEAMS are all about.
It would be good if Hendry had a well thought out plan, with contingencies in place, for the monumental task facing him.
I'd like to hear your thoughts in detail, if you were in Hendry's shoes.
PS. In the upcoming days, I will be evaluating, not just the stats of, but hopefully with some insight from the media, the available talent to be considered by Jim Hendry.
Remember, no lollygaggers need to opine.