Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Employee #18

It would be nice to see the Cubs stay ahead of the curve and lock up Geovany Soto to a long-term deal.  A catcher with his ability is hard to come by, where I would argue that he is the best all-around catcher in the game today.  In my humble opinion, the cubs should lock-up what they've got right now and sign this kid through his arbitration years with options extending beyond then.  The cubs aren't going to find a better catcher anytime soon, and there certainly isn't anyone presently in the system that I see coming to take his job anytime soon either.  Instead avoid the arbitration hearings, the strong possibility that Soto could become a super-two arbitration candidate after 09, and just pay the kid what he deserves right now.  At this point, giving Soto a 4 or 5 year deal makes sense, as the team would be effectively buying out his arbitration years possibly even his first year of free agency.

Soto is young, at 26, and has caught in only 500-600 games since 2003.  Soto is a productive hitter batting near .300 with 20+ HR power while putting up 80+RBI's.  He was the unanimous ROY last season earning all 1st place votes except for 1, the starting catcher on the NL All-Star team, and he finished 13th in NL MVP voting.  I would argue that he made a strong case for winning the Silver Slugger Award as well as a Gold Glove to go with all the other awards he got.  He had virtually identical numbers as McCann offensively, with McCann having a higher batting average.  But I would argue even more strongly that he should have won the gold glove over Yadi.  Yadi played in less games, had as many passed balls, made twice as many errors along with a lower fielding percentage, but he threw out runners attempting to steal at a better clip than Geo (35% vs 27%).  Few players on any team, at any position, can boast being as talented of a player on both sides of the ball as Geovany Soto.

Fully agreed. I hope Soto

Fully agreed. I hope Soto stays a Cub for a long, long time.

agreed

I fully agree as well. I live on the AR/TX border, thus I am close to the Rangers and am still sad that Pudge left Texas. I think Soto (barring injuries, etc.) will be to this generation what Pudge/Piazza were to their hey day (better defense than Piazza, but ya know...). I hope he's always a Cubbie.

Pudge has always been my

Pudge has always been my favorite player, which is why I wanted the cubs to sign him so badly to be the 2nd catcher on the team. Soto, in my mind, is the most valuable player to the cubs' success because he does so many different things for the team. I would have signed Pudge in a heartbeat if he were to even consider it; which would have given Soto the opportunity to get more rest throughout the season, Soto could have learned a great deal from a Hall of Fame catcher over the course of a season, and it could have created a situation where when Pudge caught Soto could potentially be used at 3B to spell Aramis on occasion. Unfortunately, Pudge isn't coming to play in Chicago in 2009, but I can live with that since GeoSoto should be catching for the cubbies for many years to come.

No Worries

Depending on his performance this year I can see Hendry dropping some dimes on Geo. He is under team control for at least the next 4 years, we have time lets see how he performs this year. Hendry has never let a player that he wanted to keep get away (Lee, Z, Ram...)

The issue of how long Soto

The issue of how long Soto is under control could actually be debatable. Depending on the type of season he has in 2009 I think that he can still qualify as a Super-2 arbitration eligible player, which would eat up one of his non-arbitration years. So, if that were to be the case the cubs would have him under control for 3 more seasons after 09, all of which he would be arbitration eligible. One thing is certain, and that is the fact that GeoSoto will get paid in the arbitration process, which is a big part of the reason that I would advocate just paying him now. The team doesn't want to let him go or let him test free agent waters and he's going to get paid regardless, so it makes sense to initiate talks concerning a long-term deal. Soto had a rookie season on par with Ichiro's first year in MLB, and I only see Geo getting better.

My understanding (I could be

My understanding (I could be wrong) of the way the process works is this -

Soto should "belong" to the Cubs until the end of the 2013 season, but because he had some time on the ML roster in '07 he should be eligible for arbitration a year earlier than usual.

The one thing I like about the Cubs is that they NEVER let a player go to arbitration, so I don't think there should be an immediate urgency regarding a long-term deal. More to the point, we only have to look back to Rick Wilkins to find an example of a catcher having a great year and then flaming out ... back then Wilkins wanted "Piazza money" which the Cubs were smart to avoid giving him. In other words, I'd argue that Soto should have 3 full seasons under his belt before the Cubs start thinking long term and they won't exactly be burning bridges by handling it that way.

As much as I understand of

As much as I understand of it, you are right. If he attains Super-2 status wouldn't that just give him the right to go to arbitration 4 times as opposed to 3? The only reason I would suggest a long-term deal is because the team may be able to lock in value over a long-term deal as opposed to four successive raises through arbitration. The arbitration process basically will grant Soto a raise for at least 3 seasons and up to four if the team chose to go that route. The deal I would suggest would be similar to what the Rays did with Evan Longoria, as I would say they effectively bought out his arbitration years ahead of time at likely a pretty good value. I understand what you're saying with the Rick Wilkins example, but Soto is a much more complete player than Wilkins was. Wilkins was more of the flash-in-the-pan type of player because he offered little offensively outside of power while his defense behind the plate was solid. Admittedly I'm assuming here, but Geo doesn't seem like the type of player that is out to break the bank. He seems more like a throwback type of guy, that wants to be paid what he deserves but is more concerned with winning games. You don't see a lot of catchers in baseball go 0 for 5 with 5 K's (a golden sombrero plus one against the Nationals no less) who are happy at the end of the game because the team won. GeoSoto is a different breed than most of the players that are around the league today; he's a young heady, team player that in this day and age is hard to find. I have little doubt that he will develop into the team leader, despite the fact that the team is laced with stars like Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Alfonso Soriano. Soto is different; he's a player you covet if you don't have, and he's a player that if you do have you reward and lock-up with a long-term deal because he deserves it just as much as this team needs him

Also I'm not saying that the

Also I'm not saying that the cubs are likely to go to arbitration at all throughout those years he is eligible, as they would likely settle with him before it got to a hearing. But my point is that the process would likely generate 3-4 consecutive annual raises that in the long-run may be more costly to the team than a long-term deal now.

Why would Soto take that

Why would Soto take that deal? Just to be nice?

Because he is putting up

Because he is putting up ridiculous numbers for the major league minimum and he may be happy to sign a long-term deal with the club. It wouldn't hurt to find out.

Also it is possible to give

Also it is possible to give Soto a deal that is desirable to him while at the same time beneficial to the team. I don't know what kind of money it would take to do it, but the idea isn't all that uncommon among teams that have quality young players. Joe Mauer was given a 4 year $33M dollar deal that bought out his first year of free agency: where the team was able to give him enough money to keep him around but at the same time it was likely a relatively good use of the money, if not a bargain. Brian McCann signed a 6 year contract a couple of years ago as well that pays him near $30M over the course of the deal. Russell Martin has been re-signed annually to this point and he will be paid $3.9M in 2009. Soto can likely rival any catcher in either league that you put him up against in terms of talent and value, where Mauer will be paid $10.5M this season and Soto will make $500K. Point being; catchers get paid, Soto's value is on par with the best in the game at his position, so he too will soon be getting paid as such. I don't see the prospect of locking Soto up getting cheaper as time goes on, which is why I'd suggest initiating the process now.

I am wrong in the statement

I am wrong in the statement above. Gaining Super-2 status will allow Soto to go to arbitration an extra time, where he would potentially be able to go 4 times beginning in 2010. Regardless of whether he gains Super-2 status or not the cubs have full control of him through 2013.

I'll give you a little more

I'll give you a little more insight as to what I'm thinking here. The cubs have two options. One, let the process play out and re-sign Soto annually to one year deals through the 2013 season. Or, two, make an attempt to re-sign Soto to a long-term extension at any point before he can become a free agent.

In the first scenario Soto could potentially go to arbitration 3-4 times, though it would likely never reach a hearing, he should still expect annual raises over that time period regardless. So a fair estimate of the arbitration process could look something like this:
2010 Soto gets $5M
2011 Soto gets $7M
2012 Soto gets $10M
2013 Soto gets $12M.
All together the cubs would spend in the neighborhood of $34.5M to keep Soto through the 2013 season, upon which the following offseason Soto would be eligible for free agency at a time where he would just be turning 31. Letting things play out that way sounds pretty expensive, with the possibility that he could enter the free agent market during the prime of his career. The $5M estimate could be on the high end to start the process, but I don't think that it would be unheard of as Soto won't have many players for comparison.

What I'm suggesting is the team consider signing Soto to an extension tomorrow. I would throw a 4 year extension at him that begins in 2010, with 2 option years taking the deal to 2015 -- in total the deal could be worth $55M over 6 years. By doing this the team can buy out his arbitration years and hold options on his first 2 years of free agency as well. In these circumstances Soto doesn't become a free agent until he's 33 years old, and the team would have a young player locked up in the prime of his career. Soto's annual salary could be drawn up something like this:
2010 -- $5M
2011 -- $7M
2012 -- $10M
2013 -- $10M
Two additional option years for 2014 & 2015 for $10M each season

The above structure doesn't even use all of the money suggested in the contract, so the team could use the remaining $3M as a signing bonus or for a much deserved raise for the 2009 season. In the end the numbers of this example aren't really important. Its the idea. My point is if the team has the opportunity to lock up a young, valuable cornerstone with a deal that financially benefits the team as well they should at the very least consider it. Look at the gamble the Rays took with Evan Longoria six days after the kid had been in the big leagues, but I would be willing to bet that will be viewed as one of the best signings that have been made anywhere around the game in recent history. By making the move the Rays have guaranteed that they have no worries who Longoria will be producing for in the years to come, and more importantly they did so at a cost that lends payroll flexibility. Nothing says that a big market team can't make moves like a small market team.

GEOVANY SOTO SNUBS CANCER VICTIM

Sure, Geovany Soto is a great player. Great stats, great player, great this, great that. But who is he as a person? How about what does he do on a humanitarian level for others? NOTHING. Geovany's people and reps basically said he would not autograph a replica #18 Cubs Jersey that I wanted to give my brother, a Chicago cancer patient, unless I booked him for a paid appearance. What?

I am a public figure and will keep my name unknown, but people pay for my signature on a book every week. I constantly donate to charity and do for those less fortunate, so why doesn't Geovany Soto? I am actually going to return the #18 Jersey and get my $$ back and could now care less about him or his stats.

Geovany, if you read this, listen up. Tell your people, pitbulls and guardians that your image will fail unless you loosen up a bit. You should tell them that in extenuating circumstances, you wish to be contacted to make final decisions on potential charity work. That signed jersey would have put a smile on my sick brother's face. Have a great career, buddy. Remember, the greatest power one can have is the power to help others. There is no greater "stat" than that.

There was a piece on OTL on

There was a piece on OTL on ESPN.com earlier this week about a boy who lost his mother during the day, and played in the game that night. I strongly recommend looking it up; I won't spoil the story.

I mention it here because it's a reminder that sport is about more than stats. Displaced, I appreciate your story; it's a potent one. Of course, these guys are professionals, and have standards and reputations to uphold, but hopefully some of our favorite stars can make us proud off the field every once in a while.

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