Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers gestures after he hit a double in the top of the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
So the Texas Rangers are the lucky club (depending on your definition of "lucky") who will get to spend probably $75 million on top of their $51.7 million posting fee for Yu Darvish.
Personally, I think that would have been worth doing. The Rangers, clearly, can afford it with the money they have from their deal with FSN Southwest. For Darvish, pitching with Rangers Ballpark -- a known launching pad -- could be problematic, but Darvish gives up very few home runs, just 19 in his last three seasons, covering 616 innings.
Congratulations to the Rangers, although maybe "congratulations" on having to shell out $125 million or so for one player isn't the right word. When will the Cubs see Darvish? They last played the Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in May 2010; Texas last played in Wrigley Field (the only appearance by a Rangers team there) in 2002. Depending on how they arrange the interleague schedule after the Astros move to the AL after 2012, perhaps we'll see Darvish pitching against the Cubs in Wrigley in 2013.
Meanwhile, what should the Cubs do next?
There are many here who think the Cubs should do a total rebuild -- in other words, do what the Astros did last year and deal away players who are coveted by other teams. In this scenario, the Cubs would trade Matt Garza for prospects and put a team of mostly kids on the field in 2012.
The problem with this, in my view, is that you can't market a team like that. The Astros lost 106 games, a franchise record, in 2011. While the Cubs kept many season ticket prices flat and reduced bleacher season ticket prices, what do you think putting a team like that on the field would do to single-game sales? Last September, I wrote of my estimate of no-shows for 2011; that total was approximately 700,000.
If the Cubs put a total-rebuild team on the field for 2012, those no-shows could very likely turn into no-buys. Do the Cubs really want to risk total ticket sales dropping to 2.3 million? 700,000 no-buys compared to 2011 would translate into a reduction of revenue of about $30 million -- and that's not to mention that corporate sponsorships might drop, and TV ratings might drop, and...
Well, you get the point. The Cubs are a major market team and they should, as TheoJed have already stated, build a strong organization and also compete (however you want to define that) every year. If you tank one year to try to rebuild, you risk getting into the rut that the Pirates find themselves in, now 20 years after their last winning season. Or the Royals, who last made the playoffs in 1985 and who have had one winning season since 1993.
Been there, done that, from 1947-66, with just one winning season in those 20.
So the Cubs should sign Prince Fielder. Yes, it will cost a lot of money. There is plenty of money coming off the books at the end of 2012 (Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano, $32 million there alone), and Alfonso Soriano's deal ending after 2014 (if they can't dump some of it now). Backload a Fielder deal creatively and the Cubs can certainly afford it.
Will a signing like this make the Cubs contenders in 2012? Probably not, but at least it would make the lineup quite a bit better and would create buzz and sell tickets, in anticipation of contending in 2013. It would, essentially, "swap" Aramis Ramirez for Fielder, since the former Cubs 3B is now playing in Milwaukee. That would make Cubs/Brewers matchups for the next couple of years fascinating to watch, not that this rivalry isn't interesting already.
Less talk, less rumors, more signing action. That's what I'd like. It's fine to talk about getting Anthony Rizzo, who might turn into a star in two or three years. I'd like to jumpstart the rebuilding. Sign Prince Fielder.