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The Cubs Overpay for Soriano and Other Sobering Thoughts

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Surely you know by now: the Cubs have signed Alfonso Soriano to an 8-year, $136 million dollar contract. The consensus seems to be that the last few years contain options. However, this isn't football, where the annual "X signs 90 million dollar deal" stories actually means "X signs 40 million dollar deal", the bottom line is that the Cubs have spent alot of money.

Whats it all about, Alfie?

As has been pointed out here and many many places elsewhere, the money rules are changing again, after a few years of collusion errr "a market downturn/correction". The boys over at Bleed Cubbie Blue seem properly energized and the radio discussion I heard on three Chicago radio stations (WGN, WSCR, WMVP) while driving across the Midwest today was almost universally positive. On WMVP, Phil Garner of all people weighed in on the deal and pointed out that the concept of "overpaying" is really only relevant insomuchas your other roster spots become comprimised and complicated. The Cubs, like the recently famous Red Sox, have money and exist in hyper-interested media markets and have an odd situation wherin they are essentially guaranteed ticket sales, but still must uphold some form of social contract because of that.

As Joe Sheehan reminds us over at Baseball Prospectus:

the wins a team gains between 86 and 93 each have a large impact on its chance of making the playoffs, and playoff appearances are the real moneymaker for teams, worth up to $25 million. The Red Sox are in that sweet spot, where every marginal win is worth a heck of a lot of potential revenue in terms of their chance of making the playoffs. If Matsuzaka's five wins above replacement push the Sox from being an 87-win team to a 92-win one, he's added a staggering amount of marginal value to the roster. This is a restatement of the earlier premise: the Red Sox have a lot to gain by signing Matsuzaka, and can justify paying more as a result.

With a few caveats regarding the horribleness of the National League and some optimism evaluating the roster on the Northside, you can apply that analysis to the Cubs, especially considering the quality of the "World Champion" Cardinals.

Still, Soriano's been something of a polarizing player the last few years. His old home park in Texas hid various warts, especially the free-swinging ways which so sourly ran down the original brilliance of his Yankees career. Mix in some (allegedly) bad defense and the general split on the value of RBIs and steals and you've got a guy that the Joe Buck set praises a little too grandly. In the next few days we should see this split reassert itself with litmus like clarity: wanna know how stats-inclined a writer is? Check their Soriano take.

On the internal SB Nation listserv its been brought up that J.D. Drew's a much better player and the fellas at U.S.S Mariner have gone so far as to label the deal "a monumental millstone", while Adam J. Morris at Lonestar Ball calls the deal, "the worst contract in baseball history".

Most bizarrely, the rumor I read/heard somewhere today was that the Cubs plan to a) hit him leadoff and b) play him in Centerfield.


All that being said, I'm not sure what any of this means for the Royals. Today also saw the utterly non-great Justin Speier sign for 4 years, $18 million, which seems to suggest that just about anyone Dayton Moore signs will be expensive.

As I wrote last week, the fate of the franchise is on Dayton Moore's shoulders and the latest news just means his job will be even more difficult and that he has even less of a margin for error than before. In a market like this, the good GMs gain separation from the bad ones. We'll find out alot of Dayton these coming months.