Cubs GM Jim Hendry says Carlos Zambrano's contract wasn't a bad deal … and he's right

3 Comments

At this point anything having to do with Carlos Zambrano seems like a disaster, but general manager Jim Hendry said yesterday that the five-year, $91.5 million extension the Cubs gave the now-suspended right-hander in mid-2007 was a perfectly reasonable deal:

There was nothing wrong with the investment. This guy was an outstanding pitcher in the National League, in the game, for the four, five years before that. There was no question that the deal was a solid one in the industry. He certainly would have been one of the hotter tickets on the street if that thing went to the end of the season.

This guy pitched a lot of innings, won a lot of games. Really, over the body of work, pitched as well as anybody in the National League for a three, four year period. He certainly pitched well enough to earn that contract whether it’s here or somewhere else.

And you know what? He’s right.

At the time of the deal there were certainly some signs that Zambrano wouldn’t age particularly well, because his performance had already slipped a bit and he’d racked up a ton of mileage on his arm. However, he was a 26-year-old workhorse with an 82-55 record and 3.41 ERA in nearly 1,200 career innings, including five straight 200-inning seasons and top-five Cy Young finishes in three of the previous four years.

There’s some room for debate about whether the Cubs should have committed themselves to five more years of Zambrano, but there’s no question $91.5 million represented significantly less than he would have received on an open market that was much more flush with cash than the current version. That was $35 million less than Barry Zito got from the Giants just six months earlier, and that same offseason the Cubs gave $136 million to Alfonso Soriano.

Perhaps the Cubs should have seen this coming, whether from a performance or personality standpoint, but if anything investing $91.5 million over five seasons in a 26-year-old Zambrano was a bargain in the ’07 market.

What happens with all the players the Braves lost yesterday?

Braves
5 Comments

Yesterday’s unprecedented sanctions leveled on the Atlanta Braves hit them pretty hard, but it also turned a dozen players into free agents. What happens to them now? Who can sign them? When? And for how much?

First off, they get to keep their signing bonuses the Braves gave them. It wasn’t their fault the Braves messed up so it would make no sense for them to have to pay the money back. As for their next team: anyone can, theoretically, sign them. As far as team choice, they are free agents in the most narrow sense of the term.

There are limits, however, because as young, international players, their signings are subject to those caps on each team’s international bonus money which were imposed a few years back. Each team now has a “pool” of finite dollars they can spend on such players and, once that money is spent, teams are severely limited as to what they can offer an international free agent. Each summer the bonus pools are reset and it starts anew.

Which, on the surface, would seem to create a problem for the 12 new free agents, seeing as though a lot of teams have already spent much if not all of their July 2017-18 bonus pools. The good news on that, though, is that Major League Baseball has made a couple of exceptions for these guys:

  • First, the first $200,000 of any of the 12 former Braves players will not be subject to signing pools, so that’s a bit of a break; and
  • Second, even though these players will all likely be signed during the 2017-18 bonus pool period, teams have the option of counting the bonus toward the 2018-19 period. They can’t combine the money from the two periods, but they can, essentially, put off the cost into next year for accounting purposes.

Which certainly opens things up for clubs and gives the players more options as far as places to land go. A club can decide whether or not the guys on the market now look better than the guys they’ve been scouting with an eye toward signing after July 2018 and get a jump on things. Likewise, teams don’t have to decide whether or not to take a run at, say, Shohei Ohtani, burning bonus money now, or instead going after a former Braves player. Ohtani’s money will apply now, the Braves player can be accounted for next year.

The new free agents are eligible to sign during a window that begins on December 5 and ends on Jan. 15. If a player hasn’t signed by then, he can still sign with any club but cannot get a bonus. If a player hasn’t signed anywhere by May 1, 2018, he has the option of re-signing with the Braves, though they can’t pay the guy a bonus either.

Ben Badler of Baseball America has a rundown of the top guys who are now free agents thanks to the Braves’ malfeasance. Kevin Maitan is the big name. The 17-year-old shortstop was considered the top overall international free agent last year, though his first year in the Braves minor league system was less-than-impressive. There are a lot of other promising players too. All of whom now can find new employers.