Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Boras up to his old tricks...

The Beltran sweepstakes have [allegedly] heated-up with the reported high-level interest of the Mets in the center fielder:

Sources familiar with the negotiations told Newsday the Mets were finalizing the details of their offer, expected to be in the range of $100 million.

Now certainly I might be mistaken on this, but my suspicion is that these "sources familiar with the negotiations" would include (and perhaps be limited to) sports agent extraordinaire $cott Bora$ or one of his proxies, and that this information has been leaked to the press in order to stimulate the bidding war and drive up the prices for the interested parties.

My reasoning goes something like this - what possible motive would a team interested in Beltran (like the Mets or Houston) have in leaking their offer to the press? We already have 2 different reports coming out of Houston concerning the size of their offer - one report has the offer in the $70 million range while the other report has it in the $90 million dollar range. Think about it - making this information public seems like a nifty and fairly effective mechanism to drive the price up - especially for teams that have a high level of interest in the player - and higher prices certainly aren't in the interest of teams making the bids - on the contrary leaking a bid seems like a foolish thing for teams in the bidding process to do in most circumstances.

Add to this bit of speculative reasoning the history of $cott Bora$ - he has already demonstrated the ability to dupe owners into bidding against themselves and paying far higher sums than other teams were willing to entertain and therefore I think you could make a reasonable case that $cott Bora$ is up to his old tricks again with another marquis player. It just remains to be seen whether Fred Wilpon is as much of a dupe as Tom Hicks proved himself to be by bidding nearly 100 million more than the next closest bidder for the services of a certain short stop turned third baseman.

I've got Maggs on the mind...

Now whether my suspicions about Bora$ turn out to be accurate or not, the Cubs seem resolved (by all indications from the press at any rate) not to break the bank on Beltran with a nine-figure/seven-year offer - and I think they are justified in this posture. It's not that I'm concerned about saving the Tribune execs money (I could care less what kind of profits the fat cats at the Tribune bring in), but I want to avoid contracts that pose a serious future liability for the club (contracts like Jason Giambi, Mike Hampton, Kevin Brown, et al). Burdensome long-term contracts (especially for players who slump or get injured) become like large millstones around the neck of a franchise and seriously and often fatally limit the ability of the club to make other moves (we see this for example with Sosa's bloated contract interfering with acquiring Beltran) - it can often turn out to be a concrete lesson in the dangers of sacrificing the future on the altar of the present. Could Beltran become our future Sammy Sosa (I mean this in a negative sense obviously)? I don't think it's likely but it's certainly possible. And these types of considerations all go into the risk/reward analyses that responsible teams need to make every year. Anyway if the Cubs can make a reasonable offer for Beltran (6 years @ $95 million), fine. If they land him great - if they don't - that's fine as well - the Cubs still have prospects to fill the spot in the outfield created by Alou's departure that seem attractive.

That being said, I think the Cubs need to make an offer to Magglio Ordonez - and sooner rather than later since once Beltran goes, Mags becomes the only potential big bat position player left on the market and his stock is liable to jump at that point with the limited supply and high demand of teams like the Cubs, Astros, Tigers, and Orioles. I say offer Maggs [right now] a one year incentive-laden contract similar to the one offered to Nomar. In light of the cloud of potential injury hanging over both players it certainly seems justified. The only hang-up to this proposition is the fact that Maggs has the aforementioned $cott Bora$ for an agent while Garciaparra has Arn Tellem. Perhaps Maggs would relish shoving it in the face of the White Sox by playing for the Northsiders and he would accept this type of offer to play for his once cross-town rival. I would be more than happy with Maggs as a replacement for Alou and I think we would have as much reason for hope as we had at the beginning of last year. Why? (1) I think Sosa will have a better year (remember, he is prideful and he knows he will be on the market next year), (2) KKKKorey couldn't have a worse year, (3) we'll have Nomar for a full year (consider what an upgrade that is over the Cedeno/Martinez/Macias monster we had there last year - I get shivers just thinking about that unrighteous platoon!), (4) I can't imagine injuries will plague this time in the same degree and extent they did last year (Prior AND Wood each gone for 1/3 of the season?!), (4) Walker’s bat will be in the lineup the whole year (remember the 2 months we lost while Grudzie was trying to catch up after his injury?), and (5) Bako’s departure is addition by subtraction – at least his bat won’t be stinking up the line-up every fifth game.

Who knows - only time will tell of course, but in any event, I think the Cubs should make a serious one-year offer to Maggs and they should do it now before Beltran signs which will inevitably drive up the price for Ordonez. Here's the line-up with Mags:

1) Walker
2) Garciaparra
3) Maggs
4) Ramirez
5) Sosa
6) Lee
7) Korey
8) Barrett
9) Pitcher

That's not a bad lineup and it's not one where you see any open fields that opposing pitchers can just breeze through at certain points in the order. Of course Beltran would be nice to insert in there - but my thoughts are Bora$ will make the price of acquiring him far more than the actual value of actually having him. But let's see what this new year brings us. Until then it's wait, wait, wait...