As a Cubs fan, to me there is only one free agent left on the market. I don’t care what happens to Travis Lee, Ugueth Urbina, or even Randall Simon. My hot stove interest has dwindled to cool, but I still check my Internet hourly for word on this generation’s #2 pitcher. Sure, I’ll concede that the hated Astros got the best pitcher in the last fifteen years, but no one has come close to Greg Maddux in the National League.
While I would love for Greg Maddux to join my team, am I overestimating his ability? Do I simply want Maddux because what he’s done in his 571 starts prior to 2004 rather than his possible contributions this season? Does 1994-1998 cloud my thoughts of Maddux so much that I don’t clearly see 1999-2003?
The consensus rumor around the media is that Greg Maddux has been offered a contract by one team, but has received calls from four. The Cubs admit to making an offer believed to be worth between $14-16M over two seasons. The Cardinals’ pitching staff is offering to defer money so that ownership will sign the right-hander. Frank McCourt’s Dodgers placed a phone call days within the ownership change. The fourth team is a bit of a mystery. Jeffrey Loria of the Marlins announced his team will not make a formal offer to Maddux, leaving many to believe the mystery team is the Baltimore Orioles.
Greg Maddux is a wanted individual, until cost comes into play. Is Maddux worth between seven and nine million dollars a season at age 37?
Mad-dog won sixteen games last season, meaning the last time he failed to win fifteen games was during the Reagan presidency (1987). His 1994 and 1995 seasons were both in the top 5 for WHIP and ERA against league average since 1900. His 1997 season had the best BB/9 against league average ever. He’s renowned for being a student of the game, as well as for teaching his art to young pitchers. A true class act, Maddux was one of the Braves best additions ever, and along with Lou Brock for one of the Cub’s worst.
Along with all the great numbers, Maddux has some negative indicators. His H/9 has gotten worse each of the last four seasons, topping the 9.00 mark for the first time since 1998. The K/9 also is on the decline, 5.11, which he hasn’t had since 1989. His 3.96ERA was the highest since 1987, his rookie season in the Major Leagues.
Many people accuse Maddux of being a five-inning pitcher, but his IP/GS last year was 6.06. That was better than the 5.86 in 2002, but hardly close to the years that he bested seven. Maddux was actually significantly better in innings 4-6 than 1-3 last year, giving up a .625OPS against a .779. His largest struggles came in the first fifteen pitches, the only group that his SLG allowed was greater than .500. Maddux gives six good innings on most outings, and surviving the first is his biggest key.
Turner Field has been very good to Maddux, as his ERA has been 0.76 less at home than on the road the last three seasons. It was 1.20 better last year at home, as his road ERA was an ugly 4.61. But as some consolation, Maddux had only a 3.03ERA after the All-Star Break last year, after a 4.63 before the break. After June he warmed up, and finished in top form including a hard 3-1 loss in Game 3 of the NLDS when Mark Prior outpitched the veteran.
Could Maddux be joining the team that beat him in the playoffs, or will he go for their largest rivals? Will Frank McCourt start his term out with a boom, or will Peter Angelos throw another curveball into this offseason? First of all, let me eliiminate the Orioles. Maddux thrives against the 7-9 spots in the order, a spot much weaker in NL lineups than in the AL. Greg would not do well in the American League, and I think he would recognize that.
You can’t blame Frank McCourt: in order to get the Los Angeles fans to like him, the new owner wanted to surprise the city. The team showed interest in Greg Maddux, implying that McCourt’s regime would be filled with the free agent signings that this offseason so desperately lacked. While this is a good symbol to send out, it also will come with a bad message. The Dodgers don’t need pitching at all, and should be spending all available resources on offense. They know this, and have given a town hope that will surely be left unfulfilled.
St. Louis Cardinal pitchers want Greg Maddux. Matt Morris, along with a few other players, have asked to defer money in order to sign the right-hander. If the Cardinals get creative, they might be able to have Maddux sign a deal that defers money as well. But there is one problem: the team has no money to offer. Scott Rolen is signed to a huge contract, and the team is working on long-term deals for Albert Pujols and Matt Morris. Throw in the large amount of money that Jim Edmonds and Edgar Renteria are owed, and the numbers just don’t work out. This is a good thought by the Cardinal pitching staff, but one that won’t be followed by ownership.
That leaves one team, my Cubs. I’ve thought for awhile the team would scoop Maddux up, and it is likely that I will be right. Maddux should be a good change of pace from the hard-throwing group that makes up the rest of the rotation, and will renew the thought that the Cubs have the best rotation in baseball...not the Astros. Bringing back one of their largest mistakes would be a good move by the Tribune Company, though it will come at a cost.
Scott Boras is tough. He’ll milk every dollar an organization has left for his client, and appears to be doing that with Maddux. In response to the offer the Cubs made, it’s believed that the Maddux side sent back a counteroffer of two years and $18M. This would put the Cubs well over the $90M mark, a barrier they have never topped before.
Is Maddux worth that kind of money? Probably not. But, he’s a great addition, and would send a symbol of winning that Chicago needs. Not advocating a Maddux signing is impossible for me, no matter what the cost. He won’t be the pitcher he was in the mid-90s, but seeing him back in Cubbie Blue will be worth the cost of ticket for me.