cub fans everywhere have been afforded a good long time now to savor the moment of signing alfonso soriano on the heels of resigning aramis ramirez. hendry himself claims to have paused in advance of the winter meetings.
but that apparently doesn't mean all is at rest. jake westbrook continues to feed the hot stove, most recently with ryan dempster's name attached. and rumors have surfaced regarding a three-year/$44mm offer to jason schmidt that would as likely as not make schmidt a cub.
with adam eaton signing with philadelphia and randy wolf going to the dodgers, the market for pitching is taking shape -- both landed deals averaging $8mm a season, which is somewhat less than might have been expected in light of what has been splashed out on offensive talent around baseball over the last few weeks. and that has to bode well for the cubs getting schmidt if this rumored offer turns out to be true -- schmidt has a career head and shoulders above a pitcher like eaton, but such a deal puts a 34-year-old with peripherals and performance that are declining from his peak seasons on a financial par per annum with soriano, who is coming off a career year and was widely tagged the most desirable free agent available.
schmidt is something of a difficult prospect to assess. he has long been one of the most abused starters in baseball -- ranking top ten in pap every year since 2002 -- and it is difficult not to believe that the wear and tear is compounding the normal ageing of his talent. schmidt's deteriorated velocity has episodically been the talk of san francisco, and of his last four halves of baseball three have been accompanied by whip in excess of 1.42. even if he remains a good pitcher -- one who compiled 45 pitching runs above replacement even in a disappointing 2005 campaign -- this is probably no longer the dominant figure that drove the 2003 giants.
is he worth this contract? the answer largely depends on whether or not the signing would preclude obtaining the rest of the help that the cubs would still need in the event of his signing. for everything the cubs have done since october to improve, the club started from such an abysmally low point that a fair prognosis of the club as it stands plus jason schmidt would still be a season-long struggle with the .500 mark.
but the apparent new fiscal environment has put any guesswork as to what the ceiling for payroll will ultimately be on hold -- and there can be little question that even a declining schmidt would be, even if falling short of high expectations, an improvement on what the cubs have heading to the mound today. and there's always the chance that he could experience a continuation of his former glory.
UPDATE: the mother ship denies the bid.