Eloy Jimenez to Sign After the Trade Deadline
Jesse Sanchez reported Sunday that Eloy Jimenez will sign for $2.8 million with the Cubs on August 1st or 2nd. This is not overly surprising, as his agreement with the team has been in place for weeks, and the extra time gives the Cubs the opportunity to acquire pool space in trade prior to the deadline. More interesting, though, is the tidbit that Jimenez turned down a five million dollar offer from another team. I don't dismiss this report out of hand simply because of what the Rangers have done in completely ignoring their spending pool in pursuit of top prospects. The Rangers are clearly going incurring max penalties for next season, so it's easy for me to believe that they threw money at Jimenez this year in an attempt to woo him away from his established relationship with the Cubs. If Eloy did agree for a little more than half of what another team was offering, the Cubs need to give whoever their Dominican Calipari is (Louis Eljaua?) a substantial raise. While they are at it, maybe send a few sweaters Sammy Sosa's way.
Small Bear Grab Catfish?
On July 9th, Sanchez reported that the Cubs were close to a deal with Taiwanese RHP Jen-Ho Tseng (aka Catfish). At the time, I was skeptical that the Cubs would exceed their international spending pool limits if they could avoid it. However, I didn't think they would go so far as to negotiate with a prospect under false pretenses simply to regain some leverage in trade talks aimed at acquiring more space. As we have seen, in the IFA market, informal agreements carry a lot of weight. This led me to believe the price of acquiring space had become too high and they were resigned to the fact that they would go over, deciding instead to make the best of it and go for Tseng. Two weeks later, though, Catfish still has not signed, and I'm leaning towards my original position.
Tseng is not a typical IFA. If the Cubs were to back out on their agreement with Eloy, they would be wise to hire extra security for their shiny new island facility and instruct them to be on the lookout for angry buscones. Tseng, on the other hand, is represented by Scott Boras, who seems to be following the typical Boras playbook in these negotiations. The first step, of course, is to threaten to forgo signing and attend school. (Check). The second step is to play two teams against one another, even if one of the teams is less than completely serious about the negotiations. Usually this step requires the infamous Mystery Team, but not in this case. The Cubs are as happy to use Boras as he is to have a bigger offer to take to another team, because the Cubs need to prove they are not that desparate to acquire more pool space.
My guess is that the Catfish negotiations played out something like this: The Indians and Twins were interested Tseng, and were offering in the neighborhood of one million dollars. The Cubs approached Boras, and said they would be happy to offer substantially more, say $1.5 million, but that figure was contingent upon the lack of an appropriate trade happening prior to the deadline. For Boras, it was worth the risk, and he took that offer to the Indians and Twins to get them to match. The Indians moved on, while the Twins decided to wait and see how it would play out.
The main piece of evidence in favor of this theory is simply that Tseng has not signed yet. In the case of Jimenez, the Cubs can maintain the company line that they are not concerned about exceeding their allotment, because once Eloy signs for his $2.8 million, they will no longer be able to acquire more space and "save a few dollars in taxes". In Tseng's case, this rationale doesn't hold water. The Cubs currently have about $2.3 million in remaining space, and could sign Tseng for up to $2.29 million and still acquire more space before making things official with Eloy. Tseng won't require anywhere near that amount, meaning there is no real reason for the Cubs not to act now if they are completely committed. The Taiwanese media seems to get the picture.
The Cubs need to acquire around $460k between now and the deadline to be able to sign Eloy Jimenez and stay out of the 2014 penalties. At this point, I expect them to either pull that off and end their pursuit of Tseng, or fall short and lock up the righty.