Cubs have more on tap than A-Rod acquisition

By Dave Fultz

The Cubs’ playoff push kicked into high gear this weekend and their play has them on the verge of turning a ball club that was 30 games under .500 last year into a playoff contender in one season.

The team rallied in its last homestand of the season, going 5-1 at Wrigley Field over the last week to end the season with a winning home record. The Cubs treated the Sunday crowd of more than 41,000 to an 8-0 victory against Pittsburgh to sweep the final home series and push the divisional lead to 3.5 games.

Regardless of whether the Brewers win or lose on Monday, the Cubs will begin play Tuesday with at least a three-game lead in the division. And with just six games left to play in the regular season, anticipation is building throughout Cubs Nation.

Lost in the excitement of the Cubs’ big weekend on the field was a story that could have huge ramifications on the team for years to come.

New York Magazine reported on Sunday that Alex Rodriguez’s agent, Scott Boras, has been in contact with the group he believes to be the front-runners in the bidding for the Chicago Cubs, discussing an unprecedented deal that would bring Rodriguez to the north side of Chicago.

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    According to the report, the talk was of a possible deal that could be worth as much as $300 million for the next 10 seasons and even include a possible ownership stake in the club.

    Rodriguez does have the right to opt out of his current deal with the Yankees after this season, which would pay him $27 million in each of the next three seasons.

    Both Boras and Rodriguez have denied any knowledge of possible negotiations and it should be noted it is a violation of MLB rules to discuss the future employment of any player under contract with a team. And, as ESPN’s Rob Neyer pointed out Sunday, Major League Baseball prohibits player ownership and the negotiation for future ownership.

    The 32-year-old perennial All-Star is one of the best hitters of his generation and is the front-runner for this year’s American League MVP award after leading the Yankees to another playoff appearance this season.

    With purely wins and losses on the field in mind, it would be hard for any Cubs fan not to salivate over the thought of having Rodriguez slide into an everyday lineup that already has three potential All-Stars in Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano.

    But with the business side of things to muddy the waters, things get more complicated.

    First off, the team has not been sold to anyone as of yet. This makes any contract negotiations difficult, let alone illegal ones that may or may not bring one of the greatest hitters of all time to Wrigley Field.

    The fan favorite to buy the team would have to be Dallas Mavericks owner and Internet billionaire Mark Cuban, but his chances do not look good. The owners around Major League Baseball get a vote of approval when any team is sold, and Cuban’s antics in the NBA will not be ignored by the other owners.

    To make things more difficult for Cuban, the group that is believed to be leading the pack of potential bidders is headed up by John Canning, a Chicago-based private equity mogul and friend of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.

    And it is just the tip of the iceberg; according to reports from around the industry, there may be at least a half dozen groups that would compete for the Cubs when the Tribune Company finally opens the bidding.

    Regardless of the Cubs’ ownership situation, signing a player to the type of contract that would be necessary to land Rodriguez is a big decision that can affect a team for years.

    The Texas Rangers signed Rodriguez to the richest contract in MLB history in 2001 – $252 million for 10 years – and are still paying a portion of his salary even though they traded him to the Yankees four seasons ago.

    After the Cubs committed nearly $400 million to player payroll in this year alone, the monetary strain on the franchise may hinder their ability to field a competitive team down the line.

    But for now, all of this is speculation. Instead of focusing on all of the decisions that face the team in the coming months, fans should remember to enjoy the moment. There are only six games left in the regular season, and October baseball is (hopefully) just around the corner.

    Dave Fultz is a junior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected].