The Cubs have studied the Boston Red Sox and tried to make their own blueprint, from hiring Theo Epstein to signing Jon Lester to restoring Wrigley Field.
But the Cubs still haven’t built up the same financial muscle as the Red Sox, who just gave David Price the biggest contract ever for a pitcher, completely changing their philosophy about players in their 30s and spending $217 million to fix a last-place team.
Price sent signals that he wanted to come to Chicago, where he could play for manager Joe Maddon again, remain close to his home in Nashville, Tennessee, and become the finishing piece for a team that advanced to the National League Championship Series and hasn’t won a title since 1908.
Dave Dombrowski – Boston’s new president of baseball operations and apparently not an avid reader of The Red Sox Way – made Price a seven-year offer he couldn’t refuse.
“We had a lot of interest in David,” Epstein said Friday, “and I think the Cubs are certainly one of the organizations he could have seen himself with. But the Red Sox were aggressive and signed him and they got themselves a great pitcher. I wish him success there.
“Obviously, it was a big contract and they’re a little bit more fully developed and fully realized from a payroll standpoint now – and it’s a place we hope to be in several years. Right now, we just couldn’t compete at that level.”
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The Cubs already have a Plan B lined up, reaching an agreement with veteran right-hander John Lackey on a two-year, $32 million deal that should still allow them to deepen their overall pitching staff and potentially find a difference-maker for center field.
Epstein’s front office will have to keep getting creative while waiting for Crane Kenney’s business side to put together the TV megadeal – and waiting out the restrictions put in place by the leveraged partnership between the Ricketts family and Sam Zell’s Tribune Co.
With Lester still guaranteed five more seasons on his $155 million deal – the richest contract in franchise history – the Cubs couldn’t win a bidding war with the Red Sox. As great as Price is now, that might not be such a bad thing, given the history of those contracts.
“I still think we can do plenty of things that are going to help our club in 2016 and beyond,” Epstein said. “And do things that make sense for us. That type of commitment made sense for them and they got themselves a heck of a pitcher. We’re going to focus on the plenty of options out there that make sense for us. But we wish them well. It should be a good marriage.”