Negotiations have been oh so quiet, but Maddux, Cubs still not close
Posted January 12, 2004
By Barry Rozner
Unless there's a dramatic change in the Cubs' philosophy over the next 24-48 hours, fans can stop dreaming of a return to Chicago for Greg Maddux.
A Cubs source said Sunday night that the team was trying to scrape up money for an offer befitting the future Hall of Famer, but that the team probably wasn't going to be able to match significant offers from two other clubs.
As reported here more than a month ago, Maddux's first choice was to return to Chicago to end his career with the Cubs, hopefully with another World Series ring in his pocket and his 300th victory in the bank.
Since then, negotiations have been quietly ongoing, sources on both sides have been telling us for weeks.
The Cubs have tried to downplay expectations of a Maddux return because another failure to sign Maddux would be heartbreaking to the fans who still haven't gotten over the Stan Cook-Larry Himes disaster of 1991-1992.
The Cubs have to deny it for public-relations reasons, but the fact is talks have been slow but consistent, with Maddux waiting to see if the Cubs would emerge from the pack with a respectable offer.
Sources close to Maddux say he already has on the table two major offers (rumored to be from the Cardinals and the Orioles), and several smaller ones from teams hoping to get him at a ridiculously reduced price.
The Giants also are thought to be entering the fray.
The problem, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry is probably thinking, is that if he somehow finds the extra money it would take to sign a Maddux and/or a Pudge Rodriguez, he would leave no funds available for midseason acquisitions.
As dominant as the Cubs would look by adding Maddux and/or Rodriguez, you can never forecast injuries, and Hendry is smart to worry about contingencies.
However, the Cubs might be able to run out to such a big lead in the NL Central that they won't have to worry about finding the next Randall Simon and Kenny Lofton.
Besides, the Cubs could make a fortune off these guys and earn their money back plus some when they're playing meaningful games in August and September.
No, they can't sell many more tickets than they already have without two more big names, and it's a hard sell to ownership when it knows it can win the division without any more signings.
But imagine the TV ratings when Maddux is going for No. 300.
Imagine the ad rates the Cubs could charge down the stretch when they're attempting to clinch.
Imagine the fun this would be.
Maddux is no fool, and neither are Cubs fans. Everyone knows the market is shrinking and there aren't any better places for Maddux to pitch.
He wants to win. He wants to stay in the National League. He wants to pitch at least two more years. He wants to be paid a reasonable wage. He wants to be within a few hours' flying distance of Las Vegas.
He'd like to come "home'' and give something back to Cubs fans, who still treat him like a king.
Only one team can give him all these things. The Cubs are aware of this and are trying to use that leverage to keep the price down, hoping he will fall into their laps.
But that's not going to happen.
It's really quite simple. If the Cubs don't make a respectable offer very soon, Maddux will find another place to play.
The reason you've heard nothing about these talks in the last month is because Hendry also is no dummy. He knows if this falls apart, he will have to deny negotiations ever took place, or risk alienating Cubs fans.
It's just that there are so many reasons to do it and only one not to: money. The Cubs can find it, and they should.
If they don't, the Cubs still are the team to catch in the NL, and it won't derail their World Series train.
But it sure will take some of the steam out of it.
i think the orioles will probably offer maddux the best financial package but i think he would prefer the NL and someplace midwest or west. i find it somewhat hard to believe that the cardinals have made a 'significant' offer though.