Calculus, Sunk Cost … and Other Cubs News, Notes and Rumors

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer continued shaping their roster for the upcoming season on Thursday when they officially shipped Carlos Zambrano to Miami for Chris Volstad. The Cubs received a starting pitcher they control for the next three seasons for a pitcher that would have had a difficult time walking back into the Cubs clubhouse.

The seemingly daily drama that has surrounded Carlos Zambrano since May of 2007 overshadowed how good Zambrano actually was early on and for a majority of his Cubs’ career.

Epstein addressed why they decided to trade Zambrano instead of give him another chance in a conference call with the media. Epstein said the trade talks with the Marlins heated up earlier in the week. The Cubs were reportedly trying to move him for a majority of the off-season. The opportunity came together with Miami and the two sides worked out the details. After talking to players and staff, Epstein realized that Zambrano could never again regain the trust of his teammates. Epstein admitted he was skeptical that Zambrano would be able to earn his way back on the team.

As for Zambrano’s contract, Epstein said, “The calculus for us was would we rather spend that $18 million on one year of Carlos and try to make it work with him here. Best case scenario is that if it did work, he’d be leaving as a free agent at the end of the year. Or, if we had to spend that money anyways as a sunk cost, would we rather spend it on a 25-year old who we can put in our rotation and control for three seasons? That made a lot more sense.”

Will the Cubs’ new regime take the same approach with Alfonso Soriano?

Here’s the update …

Alfonso Soriano
Reportedly Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are trying to find Alfonso Soriano a new team. After the Cubs completed the Carlos Zambrano trade on Thursday, many feel that Alfonso Soriano could be next. Rumors have suggested the Cubs have spoken to at least eight American League teams about Soriano.

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs have had a couple of inquires about Soriano but could not find a match.

The Boston Globe reported that the Red Sox are not interested in Alfonso Soriano, not even as part of the compensation for Theo Epstein (most think the compensation for Epstein will be a lower-level minor leaguer and possibly cash at this point).

The feeling is that the Cubs would have to eat between $40-$45 million of the $54 million owed to Soriano in order to trade him. At $3-$5 million a season, the thought is an American League team looking for a DH would be willing to take a chance on Soriano.

Theo Epstein emphasized on Thursday that Soriano remains a valuable offensive asset according to a report from Bruce Levine. Epstein also left the door open to trading Soriano. Epstein pointed out that it’s the organization’s responsibility to work with Soriano to get the best out of him.

“At some point in the future, if there’s a transaction that makes sense with any of our players that puts the Cubs in a better position moving forward, we are going to pursue it. But in respect to Alfonso, he has power and is an offensive contributor. We can work with him to get the best out of him and see where that takes us.”

According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs have spoken to at least eight AL teams over the last six weeks and the Orioles and Mariners could be interested in trading for Soriano.

Theo Epstein talked about sunk cost after dealing Zambrano and the same logic can be used to work out a deal for Soriano. The money is already spent, it is up to the Cubs to decide if they are a better team with or without Alfonso Soriano.

News, Notes and Rumors

Ryan Dempster, Kerry Wood, Matt Garza and Marlon Byrd were among the players Theo Epstein polled about Carlos Zambrano possibly rejoining the Cubs. According to the Tribune, the verdict was unanimous that he would not be able to rejoin the team.

According to the Tribune, as the Cubs roster is currently constructed Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster would anchor the Cubs’ rotation with Travis Wood, Randy Wells and Chris Volstad being strong possibilities for the back-end. Jeff Samardzija, Andrew Cashner and Andy Sonnanstine are looking for an opening.

Keith Law broke down the Volstad-Zambrano deal … an insider subscription is required but it is well worth the read.

The Nationals appear to be deep in the mix for Prince Fielder according to Jon Heyman, but the Cubs are still one of nine teams that are in the running for the slugger. The Cubs do not appear to be willing to go more than five years for Fielder.

According to Jerry Crasnick, don’t count out the Cubs in the Prince Fielder derby.

Some baseball people think Carlos Pena could end up signing a short-term deal with the Cubs. Pena and Fielder are two of Scott Boras’ clients still looking for a team this off-season.

Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel joined Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy during Power Alley (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio) to discuss the Carlos Zambrano trade Thursday. Rodriguez was also asked if the Marlins would be in the middle of the bidding for Yoenis Cespedes. Rodriguez expects Miami to be in on Cespedes until the price escalates past what the Marlins are willing to spend on the outfielder.

During an interview on MLB Roundtrip (MLB Network Radio/XM Radio), Chris Volstad told Mike Ferrin and Cliff Floyd that Jed Hoyer called him to welcome him to the Cubs. Volstad is looking forward to meeting Hoyer, Theo Epstein and his teammates at the Cubs Convention.

Well, there’s the update … and I’m sticking to it.

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  • Scott McMeekan

    Great job as always Neil.  Would love to get your thoughts on Z-trade.  I also want to say that from a business owners standpoint, I *love* listening to Theo and Jed talk about how they make decisions.  I know fans don’t particularly like to think of players as “assets” but that’s exactly what they are.  And in business when you have sunk costs into an asset, you are constantly measuring your return on that asset, throughout it’s life cycle.  

    Now to be sure, I realize these men are people too.  But for too long this franchise has had people at the top who don’t understand the bigger picture nearly as well as the current regime.  JH would use buzzwords without having a flipping clue as to what they actually meant.  

    These guys get it.  They mean it.  And we will win in the near future guys, and by win I mean win it all.  

    Happy Friday!

  • Tony_Hall

    As Scott points out below, I love hearing intelligent words coming out of my Cubs management when they discuss their decisions.  

    As far as Soriano, with 3 years left on his contract and the cash in any trade having to be paid within 18 months, the only way to spread out the payments over the 3 years of his contract to include 2012, 2013, and 2014 is to trade him after July 1st.  If they trade him now and a team even were to pay $15M (not happening), the Cubs would be on the hook for the remainder of the $39M, and have to pay it over 2012 and 2013, which would mean $19.5M per year.  But this would get his contract off the books for 2014, a year earlier.  This year earlier may be why they do want to move him now, versus holding him for another year.  

    They will replace him with a defensive minded player, who offensively, works the count, makes contact, and plays team baseball.  Since Soriano’s only contribution to the team is 1 HR on avg each week against the back of the rotation pitchers he faces, this will be a net gain, even with minimal power production from his replaement.

    Now, one other option is do they sign Fielder or even Pena, and they plan to put Lahair out in LF.  I don’t see it, but it’s possible.

    • cubtex

      Buy Low….Sell Low.  This team will be brutal next year with or without Soriano. IF…..the Cubs have to eat more than 10 mil of his remaining 54 mil contract…do not trade him now! He is not blocking a prospect. Hopefully he will have a good first half and some team will need a bat due to injury or other reasons. They don’t need to dump him now.

      • Jeff in AZ

        They probably will be brutal, but this is how it has to happen because of the current state of the team. This is said daily on the CCO lately, but throwing money at the problem just because they are a big market team will not bring a world series. This approach was tried by JH and now we are trying to move guys like soriano left over from that approach. You will be a miserable cub fan until you get on board.

        • Jeff in AZ

          Sorry Cubtex, Once I read your post thuroughly I realized you werent ripping the team. My bad.

          • cubtex

            My point is that Soriano is not a cancer in the clubhouse…like Z. I understand the need to move Z immediately and eat 15.5 mil out of the 18 mil. That is my point with Soriano….If there is no market for him now…..keep him and start the year with him. Does anyone obviously think they will compete this year? They have DeJesus in RF who is not your future…so why not keep Soriano to start the year. Like I said….if he hits,maybe a team will be interested later. If he doesn’t hit…you can release him at the end of the year.

      • Tony_Hall

        How can it be any more brutal than the last 2 years, when the Cubs were out of it in May.

        $10M…that has no chance. 

        If they don’t want his 1 HR/week in their lineup, since almost everything else he does is a negative, then yes they do need to move him out.

        JH missed the windows to Sell High on players, as he kept going for it every year.  Now, Theo has to get something, for basically nothing.

      • JimBo_C

        Soriano might be blocking Jackson.

        This regime probably values a player like Byrd (for his effort and defense) more than Soriano (who has regressed into a one tool guy with HR power). Byrd seems to be the type of guy that fits the veteran leadership description that the new regime wants (e.g. Dempster, Wood) around.

        Moving Soriano would allow for much improved OF defense with Jackson in CF and Byrd in LF.

        • cubtex

          It is my understanding that they will keep Jackson in AAA to start the season(mainly for future cost savings with arbitration)
          That is my point. Who is ready to take over LF now? If they trade Soriano for Brian Roberts…what is gained?

  • Tony_Hall

    It looks like we will have an old-fashioned tryout in ST for the rotation.

    Garza and Dempster are the only sure things, IF they don’t get traded.

    Wood, Wells, Volstad, Samardzija, Cashner, Sonnanstine – there’s 6 guys who will be doing everything they can to earn a job in ST…I like that.  Now I get that means we aren’t loaded with top talent in rotation.  But we have been nothing more than back of the rotation guys, being paid like front end starters for awhile anyway (except Garza).

    Competition in ST is good, and will lead to better results.  

    • cubs1967

      if cashner’s shoulder holds up and smardz has advanced liked he showed last year………those 2 gotta start in a quitting-er rebuilding year from day one.  we’ve seen wells enough.  should be the long relief guy.  they would be wise to keep garza and really talk to dempster about going somewhere; otherwise; travis coleman estes may NOT make the rotation; as the key piece in the marshall trade, which would be very disappointing; as the better volstad would beat him out.

      cash and smarza can only go 150 IP anyway…..so wells can get a few starts….or estes jr.

      if estes jr doesn’t make the rotation as the soft tossing lefy; assuming demp stays…..genius theo is gonna get a major beat down on this site.

      • Tony_Hall

        I agree on Cashner and Samardzija, that they need to be starting this year, to see if that is their future.  They can always go back to the bullpen down the road.

        Wells is done and has been, IMO.

        Garza and Dempster both, could be gone between now and the trade deadline.

        Until then some guys may be at AAA starting

        Options left
        Cashner – 3
        Volstad – 2
        Sonnanstine -1 
        T Wood – 1

        Out of options – Wells and Samardzija 

  • Steve_RocVegas

    So now that it’s come out Theo was willing to cut Z if he had to, I hope everyone realizes what a miracle deal Theo pulled off to actually get a young, usable player with lots of upside in return.  After yesterdays rants I can’t believe that view and the news that all the other vets in clubhouse didn’t want him back, wouldn’t be clearly viewed as a great deal for a player about to be cut.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    There is a report that Starlin Castro has been accused of sexual assualt. The incident supposedly happened last September. Obviously this is a very serious charge and with that said, I am going to wait to expand on this until more details are made public. One thing I do not understand is that the report I have linked to says that the Chicago Police is wanting to talk to Castro. From the way I understand it, he was in town around the time of the GM Meetings in November.

    Here’s the link: http://blogs.thescore.com/mlb/2012/01/06/starlin-castro-accused-of-sexual-assault/

    Statement from Castro’s lawyers

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/01/06/attorneys-for-starlin-castro-we-are-confident-these-allegations-are-baseless/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    Statement from the Cubs:

    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/report-starlin-castro-accused-sexual-assault-142444594.html;_ylt=AlblrzYizfbNgyD4tHX8fJ3sYcp_;_ylu=X3oDMTE4NWRia245BG1pdANCbG9ncyBJbmRleARwb3MDMQRzZWMDTWVkaWFCbG9nSW5kZXg-;_ylg=X3oDMTFvcGs0cnBnBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANibG9nBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25zBHRlc3QD;_ylv=3

    I have edited twice to add the links for both statements.

    Let me make this clear, I am neither defending Castro nor the accuser.

    • cc002600

      Holy crap. This organization is truly cursed.
      :-)

      boy o boy

    • texcubnut

      No comment except “innocent until proven guilty

    • paulcatanese

      Agree Neil, no one should think about a judgement either way for either person. However it works out let the whole thing run its course. One had to be there to see what really happened, and since we were not,well, no opinion.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    From Phil Rogers … so please consider the source

    Alfonso Soriano talks between Cubs and Orioles go back to winter mtgs,
    at least. Would Soriano and Brian Roberts waive no-trades?

    Darwin Barney doesn’t really block Roberts’ acquisition. He
    could go back to Triple-A for 2012, a loss for him but not Cubs’
    inventory.

    • cubtex

      I know if it Phil Rogers but….what sense would that trade make. One older player on the decline for another older player on the decline. So…instead of blocking LF for a couple of years…you are blocking 2B for a couple of years. What is the difference? I know Darwin Barney is not the future at 2B but who is the future in LF that Soriano is blocking? I am sure they money will be the same either way. Roberts has 10 mil per year for the next 2 years so they will probably balance out the difference to make it work.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

     Cubs today acquired 1B Anthony Rizzo and RHP Zach Cates from the for RHP Andrew Cashner and OF Kyung-Min Na.

  • cubtex

    I like Rizzo…but not for Cashner!

    • Tedtop16

      These guys are really thinking outside of the box. They are methodical about changing the look of this team. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Soriano and Byrd gone before spring training.

      • paulcatanese

        Yes they are, all players were probably assigned numbers when Theo took over. He’s not trading people he’s trading the number they were assigned.

    • paulcatanese

      Agree, Cashner,wow. And now what happens with LaHair?

    • Tony_Hall

      I was thinking just the opposite, Rizzo for just Cashner, and we look like we got the better end on the throw-ins.