And it has.
But if you really consider the value of the signings, you have to look at the Cubs' signing of James McDonald as being one of the shrewdest of Theo Epstein's tenure, and definitely the best of this offseason.
Not much of a horse race
Let's not kid ourselves, even though the Cubs did get exceptional value in McDonald (more on that in a bit), when your flagship signings are Jose Veras, Justin Ruggiano, and Jason Hammel, it isn't like you've got a bunch of big names to compete with.
Don't get me wrong, I think Veras will be a welcome addition to a bullpen that scuffled last season, but the Cubs also had to pay him $3.85 million for 2013, and the club option puts it at $5.5 million should they want him back for 2015. It's not a bad contract, but McDonald's is better.
The price was right
The Cubs got McDonald for just a minor-league deal and a spring training invitation -- so, for virtually nothing. When you consider he'll have an outside shot of cracking the backend of the starting rotation, the value seems even higher.
The Cubs are going to be paying Travis Wood $3.9 million, Jeff Samardzija is in pre-arbitration limbo but will get between $4.4-$6.2 million, Edwin Jackson's banking $13 million, and the recently signed Jason Hammel is bringing in $6 million.
But the price doesn't mean much without looking at some numbers
McDonald has only started 82 games, but sports a career record of 28-26, has an ERA of 4.32, and is just 29.
The numbers aren't electric or anything, but his career ERA as a starter is exactly equal to Samardzija's (4.32), and he's pitched more innings -- 454 to Samardzija's 412. McDonald also has a better ERA than both Jackson (4.43) and Hammel (4.88).
Prior to his injury-plagued season in 2013, McDonald was coming off back-to-back 170-inning seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. During those seasons, he started 50 games and posted a 4.21 ERA.
The 2012 season was his best season, going 12-8 with a 4.21 ERA and had a career-low WHIP of 1.263. The injuries this past season really derailed a pitcher who looked like he was starting figure things out.
All the above isn't meant to convince you that McDonald is some candidate for Cy Young Awards, or is going to lead the Cubs to playoff glory, but when you look at his numbers in comparison to those pitching around him in Chicago, and then compare what the Cubs paid to bring each of those players to town, McDonald starts to look like a rare piece of art you buy at a garage sale for $12.
A possible starting rotation piece for the price of a minor-league contract. Well played, Mr. Epstein. Well played.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs follower. He was heartbroken in 2003, disappointed in 2007, and truly believed in 2008. Living in Illinois his entire life has given him a chance to closely follow (and suffer with) the Cubs and he is cautiously optimistic about the current rebuilding scheme. He also writes music and short stories.
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