Coupled to this was a severance package valued at $3.5 million that would have to be paid immediately by the Cubs within thirty days after being traded. By trading Sosa, the total cost of his contract would be $43 million over two years rather than the sum of $21.5 million over two years if the Cubs simply were to keep Sosa (in this case the severance pay would be paid in sums of 350,000 over the ten years that followed).
At such a price, the Cubs would have trouble getting any team to take the slugger off their hands unless they were willing to pay as much as half of the amount owed. At least this was the case until now.
Adam Katz, Sosa's agent, has been taking proactive steps to help move his star client to a team that would present him with a fresh start. Preliminary discussions have been made with the players' association that would allow the reworking of Sosa's contract to make it more palatable for someone to trade for him.
Since the money due in 2006 is not guaranteed, there is hope that this clause in the contract can be removed in exchange for basic compensation for the facilitation of a deal. That compensation could come in the form of additional contract years that could be added by the team acquiring Sosa.
Most importantly, the contract value would now be worth much less, making Katz' client far more attractive to acquire. One team interested is the New York Mets.
The Mets' new general manager, Omar Minaya, has a desire to make a bold statement by acquiring a high profile player. Rumors have surfaced that Minaya has been given full control over his decisions allowing him to pursue an old favorite of his, Sosa.
Having scouted and signed Sosa in the Dominican Republic, Minaya would love to be reunited with the star. In fact, during the GM meetings in Key Biscayne, Fla., there were numerous sightings of meetings held by Minaya, Katz and Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, leading to the belief that a major trade is in the works.
According to sources, Cliff Floyd would be the primary player the Cubs would receive from the Mets in any possible trade scenario involving Sosa. Floyd is due $13 million over the next two year ($6.5 million each year) and is a player the Mets are interested in trading.
If the trade were just a swap of Sosa and Floyd, the Cubs would be extremely happy to accomplish such an arrangement. Not only would the Mets be taking $17 million off the Cubs hands, but in exchange, the Cubs would only be responsible in 2005 for $6.5 million in Floyd, as well as paying $4.5M to cover the remaining guaranteed amount left on Sosa's contract. This would allow the Cubs to save up to $6 million in payroll in 2005, and even more in 2006.
The Mets, however, would not be so receptive. The only way they would trade Floyd for Sosa straight up would be if they did not have to add money to payroll. Such a trade would be adding roughly $10 million to the payroll in just one player.
To remedy this, the Mets might want to include Mike Piazza in the deal to help even out the money differential. The Cubs have no need for Piazza, forcing Hendry to involve a third team to finalize the deal. Such a team may very well be Los Angeles Dodgers, who have expressed public interest in reacquiring Piazza.
In fact, some officials from other clubs have asserted that the Mets, Dodgers and Cubs have held exclusive three-way discussions during the GM meetings in Key Biscayne. Also interested in Piazza are the Anaheim Angels, who expect to be able to use him as a full-time DH in the American League.
Now, assuming that a deal was to go down exactly as presented, would this move be beneficial to the Cubs besides resolving the tension between Sosa and the team? Would the team's production be improved with the addition of Cliff Floyd and the loss of Sammy Sosa?
On the surface, the answer would be 'no' if one were simply to compare the stats between the two players. But looking at Hendry's intentions for this off-season, a deeper look would say that the answer could be 'yes.'
During the 2004 campaign, Sosa produced 69 runs, 35 home runs and 80 RBIs to go with an average of .253, and an OBP of .332 in 478 at bats. Floyd, in roughly 75 less at bats, produced 55 runs, 18 home runs and 63 RBIs to go with an average of .260 and an OBP of .352.
By comparing the two sets of numbers for last year, production does not seem to be affected very much when the stats are equalized to similar at bats. However, looking deeper into the career numbers it is clear that Floyd is no Sosa, with less HR and RBI potential.
However, no one ever stated the Cubs were expecting a Sammy Sosa in return. But any gap in potential between the two can be easily offset at a position where the Cubs suffered greatly last season: shortstop.
One of the major holes, performance at the shortstop position, was a grave disappointment. The collection of starters that manned the position compiled numbers that make upgrading an easy task.
In more than 600 at bats, Cub shortstops compiled a line of 72 runs, 11 home runs and 66 RBIs to go with an average of .255 and an OBP of .305. Not exactly the numbers a team with expectations to compete in the World Series desires.
Nomar Garciaparra leads the pack of candidates with Hendry publicly stating he is actively trying to strike a deal with the All-Star shortstop. In a healthy year, Garciaparra can produce 100 or more Runs, 25 or more home runs, and 100 or more RBIs along with an above-.300 average and an OBP above .350.
Therefore, by filling the shortstop position correctly, Hendry can balance out the loss in production caused by the loss of Sosa. In fact, both positions in the lineup would demonstrate improved batting averages, as well as on-base percentages above .350 (something severely lacking on the Cubs during the 2004 season).
The deal would then end up being a wash or better as far as overall production is concerned, and the Cubs could save money in the process. The Cubs would also improve defensively in left field with the addition of Floyd, and add speed to the team. So with Floyd and Corey Patterson in the outfield, the Cubs would only be missing one more player to complete their 2005 outfield.
The remaining spot in the outfield originally belonged to Moises Alou. During the 2004 season, Alou compiled a total of 106 runs, 39 homers and 106 RBIs to go with an average of .293 and an OBP of .361. Those numbers are not easy to substitute, as even re-signing Alou may not solve the problem.
In fact, only one player currently available in the free agency market is capable of that kind of production in the outfield with consistency: Beltran.
At age 27, Beltran could be the ultimate answer to Sosa's absence. Already a player as recognizable as Sosa, Beltran not only matches Alou's 2004 numbers but can also add yet another gold glove-caliber defender to the outfield, and speed on the base paths.
With rumors already abundant that the Cubs will indeed make a brave attempt at acquiring the center fielder, moving Sosa will only help the cause. The quest to acquire Beltran will never be easy, but if Sosa is indeed traded all eyes will be on the possibility of acquiring Carlos Beltran.
In the coming days and weeks, everyone will be paying close attention to the MLB Players Association. Their decision will ultimately determine if Sosa stays or leaves.
The gears are in motion and the reality of a Sosa trade draws nearer.
Editor's Note: You've seen his daily rants on the message boards; now he's coming to the ITI front page. David Hernandez (Nexus89) brings you up to date on the latest off-season rumors in his daily "Quick 4-1-1" threads each day on ITI's Chicago Cubs Baseball Forum. Be sure to shoot Nex a quick e-mail by clicking Share on Twitter