8:16 AM PST, February 12, 2013
Talking baseball while wishing we could fast forward to first-round games in the NCAA basketball tournament:
1. No matter what Ken Rosenthal and Buster Olney were suggesting before Michael Bourn’s deal with Cleveland was finalized Monday, the Cubs were never a factor in the process.
Yes, Bourn would have helped them short term, but Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are interested in building toward 2015, not playing .500 baseball in 2013 or ’14. And, more importantly, there was no way they were going to give up a high, second-round draft pick to get him, not under the current rules.
In his piece listing the Cubs as one of four teams other than the Mets who could get in on Bourn – the Indians were one of the four – Rosenthal suggested that Scott Boras could involve the Cubs because the draft pick they would lose would be the 42nd overall. But he missed a key point about the situation.
The Cubs would not have been interested in Bourn on even a one-year deal because the Braves had made him a qualifying offer last fall. That meant that the team signing him would lose a first- or second-round pick – only the top 10 in the draft are protected – AND have their signing pool reduced by the amount of money allocated to that spot in the draft.
The second part is the killer.
Before signing limits were introduced and the compensation system was changed, teams that gave up draft picks to sign a Type A free agent could try to recoup that loss by spending heavily later in the draft to land a talent who had slid because he was supposedly unsignable. You could make up for losing that pick, but not anymore.
Given how hard Epstein and Hoyer work trying to out-scout the opposition, you’re not going to see them give up a pick to sign a top free agent – well, not unless they’ve told Tom Ricketts it’s time to start hunting big game, like Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Buster Posey or another of the top 10 players in the game. The Cubs are at least a couple years away.
2. The Indians are loaded. Sorry, I just wanted to type that to see if auto-correct would allow it. But the happiest guys in Arizona have to be new Cleveland manager Terry Francona and his bench coach, Brad Mills. Francona was out of baseball last season and Mills was in an even rougher position, managing the Astros. Now they are with the second most upwardly mobile team in the American League. If the Indians can get decent seasons from two of the three newcomers in their starting rotation – Brett Myers, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Trevor Bauer – they could compete for a wild-card spot, if not scare the Tigers.
3. It’s really bad news for the World Baseball Classic that Verlander is staying at the Tigers’ camp in Lakeland. You can understand Verlander’s position – that he can’t extend himself this spring because he is coming off 28 1/3 innings in the post-season – but Team USA needs one of the best American starters to step in to add to the credibility of the event. Gio Gonzalez, who was recently selected, was a good addition but he’s not yet an elite guy. With Verlander out, the onus shifts to David Price or Kershaw, but there have been no indications that either is willing to participate.
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