During much of this off-season, there has been talk about the problems with the Chicago Cubs and solutions to those problems. One of the most recurring indictments is too many long-term contracts, and that they have to get rid of all the bad contracts before they can start to fix the team. I want to look at the idea that the Cubs have too many long-term contracts. Here is the list of players signed beyond the 2012 season at the beginning of the off-season:
Alfonso Soriano $18 million in 2013 and 2014
Carlos Marmol $9.8 million in 2013
That's it. Now, the Soriano contract is a definite liability, but this is very low level of future commitment for a large-market team. I would even go as far to say that the bigger problem for the Cubs is not the number of long-term contracts being too numerous but that it is too few. If the Cubs had a few more quality players locked up long-term they would look a lot better, even with the deadweight of Soriano's contract. The true indictment of the Hendry years was the failure to produce talent that was worth extending long term, not the signing of expensive over-the-hill veterans.
In truth, the Cubs only had two contracts that were clear liabilities coming into the off-season, Soriano's and Zambrano's one-year $18 million contract*. I have heard numerous times that the Cubs should use the money that they would have spent on Prince Fielder** to pay off Zambrano's and Soriano's contracts. This idea makes no sense, as they have to pay those contracts regardless. The money that would have been used to sign Fielder would have been on top of that, essentially the salaries of Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena. This idea especially does not make sense for Zambrano, as I suppose you could use the "Fielder money" this year to buy out Soriano's last two years.
*They also owed some deferred salary that was not helping things.
**I do not want to suggest that signing Fielder necessarily would have been a good idea. I am just arguing against the supposed alternative use of the money.