Monday, February 27, 2006

flea market pitching

the cubs this weekend quietly signed brian boehringer (see the very last line) to a minor league contract, joining jason simontacchi and wade miller as the product of this year's adventure into the most neglected recesses of the pitching market in an effort to discover value.

it has become clear that this is how the cubs under the tutelage of andy macfail build the margins of the pitching staff. they take unwanted failures and rejects and sift for deep value. past examples of rehabilitated value signings include glendon rusch, tim worrell, todd van poppel and joe borowski -- testament to the possible upside of bottom fishing.

but this is a team with one of the highest revenue bases in the sport -- employing a strategy fit for the twins or royals. the cubs are clearly very capable of signing four or five really good relievers like bob howry and building reliable pitching depth. there were certainly plenty of quality arms on the market this year again. but it's cheaper to take these chances than to pay for known quality -- and profit is where the priority lies.

many would argue that that the strategy is essentially cost free -- the players sign minor-league contracts for nothing and are not guaranteed anything. i completely disagree. it's all well and good to cite van poppel, worrell and borowski -- but with the good, you have to cite the bad.

jimmy anderson. alan benes. manny aybar. jerry spradlin. brian williams. all these stiffs and more have poisoned the pitching well of a cub team at some time or another in the last several years. and their trials by loss and blown save are a necessary consequence of the strategy -- because the cubs can often have no idea which will work out and which won't until those that won't have already helped lose a few games for them.

does that mean the strategy is worthless? certainly not -- one could argue that the rewards of the success of the few who work out are worth the cost of the failure of the many. but this is a team with financial resources more than capable of putting them beyond this flea-market method of pitching depth construction.

sadly, most paying cub fans still don't demand they employ those resources.

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