Almost fifteen years ago the Cubs GM had an easy decision to make, but for whatever the reason, he was unable to come through and Greg Maddux left for Atlanta. Two decades later, Larry Himes is still despised by many, but he may have some sage advice for Jim Hendry. Should the Cubs resign Carlos Zambrano or should they let him loose after the ’07 season? Will Jim Hendry and the Cubs step up to the proverbial plate and resign this guy before the beginning of the 2008 season or will they let him walk? After the typhoon of free agent signings this off-season it would appear the Cubs are in no mood to stop now, however, there are many factors in this equation. What will it take? How many years? How much cash? Unfortunately, until Barry Zito signs his “my grandchildren’s grandchildren are set for life” contract, the market will remain a bit unstable not allowing any practical predictions. I want Big Z back as much as any other Cubs fan, but I must be realistic. Pitchers do not receive 8 year contracts; it is unheard of and must stay that way. The Cubs have already spent close to $300 million in the past few months, can they really afford $100+ more. While Carpenter resigned for less than his market value giving the Cardinals their own off-season home town discount, the Cubs already received one of those, so it may be asking too much for another one.
The Cubs current salary may also be a detriment to this pursuit. A rough calculation puts the Cubs 2007 payroll at or around $120 million, adding Cliff Floyd would get it closer to $130 million. With that being the case, Carlos’ extension would add a minimum of $16 million to that figure, skyrocketing the Cubs payroll near those of some recent Yankee squads. While this may be higher than anyone ever dreamed, it is simply shocking. In fact, it is so out of character that I cannot buy into the fact that the Tribune Co. will keep spending at this rate. They are tying to sell a business and adding a monstrous amount of overhead contradicts smart business practice. Obviously the Cubs have always defied odds, especially in the Accounting arena, but fiscally they cannot keep this up at the current pace, they could alienate many potential buyers. Therefore, I do not see this contract getting done prior to the rumored sale, which adds another element to the Carlos situation, who will buy the Cubs?
The answer to that may play the biggest role in all of this. The new owner(s) of the Cubs may be responsible for re-signing Carlos. Many media outlets and have fans discussed potential buyers for the Cubs in a mythical way. There are plenty of expectations out there, none bigger than the potential budget. It is believed that any new owner will automatically spend millions, if not billions on this team. Why is that? Where did this come from? The new owner could spend less than the Tribune Company did in the 1980′s. The new owner may simply not care and just want to make money. Or the new owner could be Mark Cuban. The bottom line is that we just do not know and no one can make a viable supposition without that knowledge.
The Chicago Cubs are an investment and if one invests $500 million, he or she expects a return and it has been proven that the Cubs provide a stellar return on investment, even with a low payroll and dozens of losing seasons. This fact may not bode well for Cubs fans in the days of a new owner, just like before. Though the attitude has changed in the front office neither John McDonough nor Jim Hendry will have any input as to who buys the Cubs. I just hope that the new owner is unaware of the meaning of frugal, or it could just begin the familiar vicious cycle once again.
Carlos Zambrano may be the best young pitcher in baseball and I would hate to see him go. This team and their fans have been haunted since the last great, young pitcher departed After he won the 1992 Cy Young award, Greg Maddux bolted town to pursue Championship rings in Atlanta. Since then, no one has really forgiven Larry Himes. He helped secure the departure of one of, if not the best pitcher of the modern era right when he was entering his prime. Are you beginning to see the similarities? Just like Maddux, Carlos Zambrano is on his way to a Cy Young award, I just hope he is not on his way out of town.
Larry Himes was vilified just two years removed from signing Danny Jackson and George Bell, creating the most exciting off-season until this year. Jim Hendry has pulled the puppet strings and landed Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez while building a solid bench and adding a few mediocre pitchers. It is safe to say he has been reborn in the eyes of many Cubs fans, but if Zambrano skips town, Larry Himes may actually be forgotten.
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Stay Classy Cubs Fans.