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The Ghost of Mike Hampton

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Old Style Cubs had a nice post the other day when its two contributors each answered some questions about Glendon Rusch.

This post, for some reason, got me thinking seriously about the Cubs efforts to re-sign Carlos Beltran. So, I had to ask myself this: Will the Chicago Cubs organization really sign a guaranteed deal for 7+ years?

Although I've never been inside the front office at 1060 West Addison St. I am willing to bet that there is a recurring institutional nightmare: The near signing of Mike Hampton.

In December 2000, the Cubs joined the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets, and the Colorado Rockies in a bidding war for a 28 year old left hander who had won 37 games vs. 14 losses in the last two years with an ERA around 3.00. During that time, Mike Hampton had pitched 456.3 innings and looked like he would be just the left handed arm the Cubs needed to combine with Sammy Sosa, a young Kerry Wood, and a certain fire-balling 100 MPH stud prospect going by the name: "The Farns."

The 2000 off-season was the year baseball lost its mind.

  • Carlos Delgado signed a 4 year $68 million contract ($17 M per year).
  • Todd Helton inked an 11 year $151 million contract. (~ 13.72 M)
  • Derek Jeter signed a 10 year $189 million contract. (~ $18.9 M)
  • Alex Rodriguez signed a 10 year $252 million contract (~ 25.2 M)
  • Manny Ramirez signed an 8 year $160 million contract (~ 20 M)
  • Chipper Jones signed a 6 year $90 million deal in August 2000. (~ $15 M)

There were some other exorbitant contracts that winter (Darren Dreifort, Denny Neagle, Jason Kendall, ...), but there are too many to list, and I can't seem to find a source with them all listed together.

Anyhow, the Cubs lost out on Mike Hampton when the Rockies offered him an 8 year $121 million contract, and a chance to live in the mountains (and pitch there too :) ).

Now we all know the story of Mike Hampton, a good, but not great left hander who had two good 'money' years on top of a decent career. Now, three teams later, Hampton is pitching well for the Braves, but the majority of his salary is being paid by the Rockies and Marlins.

The reason the Hampton story is relevant is that the Cubs barely lost out on him, offering well over $100 million for at least seven years. I can't find the details of the Cubs offer, but I remember vividly an interview with Andy McPhail at the Cubs Convention -- "Executives Q&A Session" when McPhail got booed and questioned mercilessly for letting Mark Grace go. During the session McPhail said that the Cubs had offered over $100 million to Hampton and that he felt that when a team offered that much money, the decision couldn't have been about not offering enough money to the player. Rather, McPhail re-iterated Hampton's claim that he like the schools in Colorado better.

So what is my point? I would be willing to wager my lunch money that Andy McPhail goes to bed everynight and thanks God that Hampton chose to go to the Rockies, and not sign with the Cubs (way to go Chicago Public Schools!). Moreover, I would be willing to bet that McPhail is extraordinarily gun-shy about getting locked up in any kind of long-term deal.

The Cubs idea of 'locking a guy up' is three or maybe four years with option years... i.e. Kerry Wood's 3 year deal with a mutual option for year 4, or Sammy's 4 year deal with a mutual option in the fifth.

Currently, Kerry Wood is under contract the longest for the Cubs, who have guaranteed him money through 2006. A seven year contract would guarantee Beltran money through 2011.

All that said, I hope the Cubs realize that a Beltran contract would be more similar to Albert Pujols' (7 years $100 million) than Hampton, in that Beltran is likely to be worth the money. Additionally, McPhail is no longer the general manager, having returned to the President's seat when Jim Hendry took over for him in mid 2002.

Long story short? I think the Cubs may get scared away if Beltran's contract demands extend more than 7 or 8 years and $150 million. I believe the Cubs would at least offer what they offered Hampton, plus a few million for inflation, but I cannot envision the Cubs offering more than $150 million in guaranteed money... the Ghost of Mike Hampton is just that scary.

Posted by Byron at November 24, 2004 2:50 PM | Bookmark and Share | BallHype: hype it up!
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