For those of you who enjoy looking at player contracts and berating Jim Hendry for the mess he's made, there is an excellent website out there called Cot's Baseball Contracts, which tracks player contracts for each team. There is even a link to a spreadsheet that shows the projected contracts for 2010-2014 (when Alfonso Soriano's contract FINALLY expires).
Looking at the Cubs contracts, their opening day payroll for 2010 was $144,359,000, third in MLB behind only the Yankees and Red Sox. With the contracts of Ted Lilly, Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot now off the books and Xavier Nady's contract expiring after the season, the Cubs have some money to spend, should they decide to pursue some big name free agents this offseason.
With those contracts going away after this year, that frees up about $33 million for 2011. However, 5 Cubs (Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall, Tom Gorzelanny, Koyie Hill and Geovany Soto) will be arbitration eligible this offseason and could be in line for significant raises (last year's average was 174%). Let's estimate that they will get raises totaling about $4 million.
In addition, I would think that the Cubs will likely non-tender Angel Guzman and Jeff Baker. Baker is expendable, as the Cubs have an abundance of middle infield prospects and can easily replace Baker with Darwin Barney or Ryan Flaherty. Guzman will likely be non-tendered due to his career threatening shoulder injury, although he may be resigned to a minor league deal. If we add their salaries back to the pot, Jim Hendry has roughly $30 million to spend.
Now, with attendance waning the last couple years (this year's average attendance of 37,879 is the lowest since 2003), its possible that the Rickett's family will cut the payroll for 2011. I think its likely that the payroll will drop a little to the $135 million range, which is where it was for the 2009 season.
Thus, with about $20-25 million to spend this offseason, what will Jim Hendry do? Well, a few weeks ago there was speculation that the Cubs are interested in signing Adam Dunn and that Dunn was interested in the Cubs. The Cubs could probably land Dunn with a 3-4 year offer of about $10-12 million per year. That would leave Hendry with some extra cash to pursue some bullpen help.
The question would be is that the best use of the Cubs' money. Dunn is the left handed power hitter the Cubs have been looking since their 2008 postseason ended so abruptly. However, Dunn has some issues, he strikes out a ton and, although his defense at first has improved some this year, he is still below league average and will probably get worse over the course of a 4 year contract.
As I mentioned in another post, I think the Cubs would be better served by trading for a major-league ready first baseman, such as Yonder Alonso of the Reds. If Hendry really wants to make a big splash in the free agent market, I would go after an ace pitcher, such as Cliff Lee.
Despite an abundance of starting pitching options for 2011, the Cubs do not have a true ace on their staff. Plus, with concerns over Carlos Silva's health (he's now dealing with elbow soreness) and Carlos Zambrano's temperment (he might be traded this offseason), the Cubs could use another quality starter.
Despite the reservations about Dunn, I think that Jim Hendry will end up signing him this offseason for about $44 million over 4 years. The Cubs need to make a big splash in the free agent market to get fans interested again and in a few years Cubs fans will be lamenting another bad contract by Hendry.
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