after protracted negotiations between general manager jim hendry and agent paul kinzer nearly led nowhere,
With a midnight deadline looming, the Cubs couldn't close a deal with free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez late Saturday night, meaning a complicated offseason just got a whole lot tougher.
The Cubs no longer have exclusive negotiating rights with Ramirez. Starting at 12:01 a.m. today, other clubs could begin bidding, and agent Paul Kinzer's phone lines must have been burning up.
Kinzer said Ramirez's demands will rise to a six- or seven-year deal in the $100 million range once the power hitter hits the open market. Sources say the Cubs had discussed a five-year, $75 million package.
Even once the outside bidding begins, Kinzer insisted the Cubs would get a ''a hometown discount'' because Ramirez's first choice is to stay in Chicago. However, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry knows there will be a feeding frenzy for Ramirez when Kinzer begins shopping his client Monday at the general managers meetings in Naples, Fla.
Even with a hometown discount, the price surely will rise if the Cubs don't act quickly. The deep-pocketed Los Angeles Angels have Ramirez as their No. 1 free-agent target.
As for Hendry, Ramirez is square one in what looks like a 12-step program to get the Cubs straightened out in time for spring training. With Ramirez and Derrek Lee, the Cubs have a solid foundation in the middle of their lineup to begin building a winner. Without Ramirez, they have Lee and a lot of question marks.
and this, as reported by fox sports, who broke the story:
The only bright side for the Cubs – if you're looking for positive spin - is that the elimination of Ramirez's $22.5 million guarantee over the next two seasons would better enable the team to add pitching and sign a major free-agent hitter such as Alfonso Soriano.
The competition for Soriano will be fierce, with the Phillies and Dodgers also expected to be leading suitors. But rather than overpay for starting pitching, the Cubs might prefer to make Soriano their new franchise player and patch elsewhere.
To address their rotation, the Cubs could trade for one starting pitcher and sign another as a free agent. It's easier to buy hitters than pitchers; that's why it would be more logical for the Cubs to use their trading chips on a pitcher rather than a hitter such as Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells.
Oh, and lest anyone forget, the Cubs still must sign their best pitcher, right-hander Carlos Zambrano, to a contract extension or risk losing him as a free agent after next season. The additional payroll room also should help in that regard.
The Cubs suddenly have plenty of money. What they don't have is Ramirez.
was dramatically followed by a last-minute push from jim hendry to render this:
Ramirez, 28, has agreed to a five-year contract with a vesting option, FOXSports.com has learned. While exact terms of the deal were not immediately available, it was believed to be for at least $70 million.
Just in time, too.
The Cubs' exclusive negotiating period with Ramirez ran out at midnight Saturday. And the Angels were reportedly expected to make a big push for Ramirez as early as Sunday.
But the Cubs shouldn't be too fired up about keeping Ramirez in the fold, at least from a financial perspective.
Think maybe now the Cubs regret giving Ramirez an escape clause rather than additional money in the four-year, $42 million extension he signed at the start of the 2005 season?
If the Cubs had increased the size of that contract, by, say, an additional $10 million, Ramirez likely would have dropped his demand for the out clause. The Cubs then would have had him signed through '08, at a far lesser salary than they will pay him in his new deal.
Talk about a hollow victory: Proud as the Cubs might be that first baseman Derrek Lee is signed through 2010 and Ramirez through 2011, they still must pursue two starting pitchers, an outfield slugger, a center fielder and maybe a second baseman this off-season.
ramirez will instead
yes, that's right -- potential hall-of-fame career. some will call that a bridge too far, but through nine seasons through age 28 ramirez has amassed 3897 at-bats, 224 doubles, 196 home runs and 669 rbi, slugged .493, scored 517 runs, and collected 1089 hits at third base, a position he looks to easily continue playing for several more seasons. take a moment to forecast the trajectory of his career -- which probably includes three more years similar to those that have made him one of the premier slugging infielders in baseball, followed by a decline into a retirement at age 38 some ten seasons hence -- and, should one unscientifically presume an average of 142 games played per year henceforth and 4% declines in all major stat catagories (which leaves aramis in his age-38 year a paltry hitter) one realizes that it is quite possible that ramirez could finish with totals approaching 2500 hits, 500 doubles, 450 home runs, and 1500 rbi. these totals will be higher still if ramirez plays longer and ages better. compare that to the third basemen in the hall of fame today, and health is the only thing that is likely to keep ramirez from showing up on hall ballots in the early 2020s.
that is, of course, a limiting factor in many careers -- this is not a prediction, so much as it is a contextualization of just what a massive offensive force ramirez is, and how proper it is for him to be the best paid free agent this year. the money he is going to get from the
is that an argument for the cubs to pay him $90mm over six years? yes -- especially for a team that allowed greg maddux to escape under similarly inauspicious circumstances some fourteen years ago. but,
jim hendry should be
but hendry made a difficult decision last july pay off by closing the deal that he absolutely had to in order to carry any pretense of winning in 2007 -- and for that he must be credited.
and what's on the tribune sport website's lead this morning? a series of vapid stories about sammy sosa's 38th birthday -- even photos from the party, don't you know?
worse still, of course, is that -- having failed to deal for gary sheffield and still looking to upgrade in the outfield -- the paper is possibly laying the groundwork for sosa's return on a cheap contract flyer.
this should provide plenty of reason for any true fan of this club to join the hue and cry for a change of ownership, which is more clearly now that ever the only, only, only hope at even mere competence in the future. the risk is meaningless -- what have cubs fans to fear? a bad owner? news flash, people: YOU HAVE ONE. this club will never win a goddamned thing under the tribune, and men like macfail, hendry and mcdonough are why. if you as a fan want to win, you want the team to be sold -- if you have reservations, then it is plain as day that you put other priorities first and winning is an afterthought. there has never been a clearer litmus test in the history of litmus tests....
lol -- reader, i'm laughing too hard at the moment to strike this last paragraph. it's still true that the tribune and its ballclub are both ineptly run -- two decades of results aren't reversed by a last-ditch success in landing ramirez. the final question remains:
do you want to win, dear reader?
and the answer is still just as surely tied to wanting new ownership. but let the dog have his day -- and never let it be said that this writer is always right! hendry was in a very tough spot and made it work. the wisdom of the deal can be argued when the terms emerge, but the chasing of the lightning is still an operational plan.