This might be the worst time of year for baseball. As much everyone loves furiously rosterbating the cold days and nights away, we tend to lose focus on whaft really matters: actual baseball. I can only speak for myself but I like baseball because of the baseball, not because of the economics and nebulous applications of the term “value.”
Signing Scott Feldman to a one-year, $6 million contract with $1 million in potential performance bonuses, as first reported by Paul Sullivan of A Chicago Paper, represents good value. It is a good deal for the Cubs and the raves came in instantly, as many rushed to laud the Cubs for picking up another cheap rotation arm on a short-term deal, a player with potential trade value and a hearty appetite for inning nomnomnoming.
All of which obscures the point that Scott Feldman isn’t particularly good. I mean, he’s okay, but Scott Feldman has made just 23 starts in the last two seasons. He is a control/ground ball guy who gets fewer ground balls as the years go by and he just sort of…exists, mostly as a swing reliever and spot starter. Not the sort of pulse-quickening move to lighten the dark days of late November.
It reminds me of a Just for Laughs bit that used to re-run all the time, joking about how once somebody gets a great bargain they just can’t stop telling you about it. That’s Scott Feldman. He’s a bargain and Cubs fans or whoever will beat you over the head with the greatness of Scott Feldman’s bargain.
It is at that very moment that Scott Feldman ceases to be a bargain. The Cubs presumably outbid other teams for his services, offering to pay more for the limited services of Feldman than any other team. Then it’s not a bargain, it is just a deal. Acting as though the Cubs know something everyone else misses is naive (except for the Royals, who are just looooool.) Even if it doesn’t work out – if Feldman breaks down or pitches terribly for Chicago – the dollar amount does nothing to hinder the Cubs in the future.
But that doesn’t make it a great signing. It’s a depth signing for a team that lost 100 games in 2012. It is the kind of signing that demonstrates how easy it is to get a team to 80 wins but how difficult it is to get to 90. Feldman helps optically and provides a bridge to brighter times but, in the best case scenario, is he on the next good Cubs team?
Too much time and effort is expended gleefully using the genius tag to justify low cost, low ceiling signings. Signing Scott Feldman isn’t sexy but it is important. The risk is low but remains a risk for the Cubs, who must put in this grunt work if they wish to scale the NL Central in a timely fashion.
If Feldman comes out and pitches 180 innings for just the second time in his career, re-establishes his value as a full time starter and hits the free agent market again, the Cubs are winners right alongside Feldman. The stakes are as low as the risks in these contracts, and they should be treated as such – with little regard.