The Cubs have made their second big splash of the free agent season signing starting pitcher Jon Lester to a 6-year, $US155 million contract that could be worth as much as $US170 million according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports and Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
Combined with the signing of Joe Maddon to be the club’s manager, the Cubs have moved on to the next phase of their unorthodox rebuilding plan and are now a legitimate World Series contender.
While all teams would like to develop cheap, young talent, large-revenue teams tend to spend more money while small-revenue franchises are more dependent on building through their farm system. The Cubs are doing both and they are doing it in an unusual way.
While cheap, young pitchers are the most valuable assets in baseball, the Cubs have built one of the top farms systems in baseball around a plethora of top position prospects.
The Cubs are now spending a lot of money on a veteran starting pitcher to anchor their rotation.
This is the exact opposite approach of the highly-praised, team-building method used by the Tampa Bay Rays who have put an emphasis on developing an excess of starting pitchers and building a team around them through trades and free agent rejects.
The difficulty of the Rays’ plan is that it requires an abundance of starting pitcher prospects as inevitably some don’t pan out and others get hurt. So far, it has worked for the Rays as they consistently have a full rotation of young starters despite trading several away and seeing some get hurt.
But the advantage to the Cubs’ strategy is that talented position player prospects are almost never busts. They may not all become stars, but injury is much less of a concern and most become at least serviceable everyday players in the big leagues.
Now the Cubs have added a veteran ace to the rotation who has made at least 31 starts each of the last seven seasons.
The result is that with Maddon and Lester on board, the Cubs are now the fourth favourite to win the 2015 World Series at 12-1 according to Bovada sportsbook. The Cubs were 50-1 before signing Maddon and Lester.
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