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Spring Training Game #20: Rockies vs Cubs

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Brian Lawrence vs Ted Lilly

Lilly's signing with Chicago was part of the Cubs' extravagance with free agents this offseason, and part of a league wide spike in player salaries. The Rockies -along with several other clubs- didn't partake in this, preferring to hold close to a previously determined very moderate increase in salary dispersement for 2007. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the end, but the spenders vs the non-spenders in the Winter of 2006-2007 were fairly evenly divided, and not necessarily by market size. Within the division, you can see the delineation as San Francisco and Los Angeles thought it suitable to give their payroll a significant upgrade, with the other three teams holding close to what they were at last season.

Why the divide? All teams can expect a significant boost in revenue with the newest broadcast television contract that was agreed to last year. Some teams are spending the money before they actually get a cent of it. I think if your team is close enough to the playoffs and you have a specific hole to fill that will get you over the hump -and if a player who can fill that hole is available- this makes sense. What the Cubs did this offseason, however, makes far less sense. Chicago had multiple needs, and hoped to fill them all by opening up the bank vault on a wide swath of a relatively weak free agent class. Lilly, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano are good players, don't get me wrong, but the Cubs needed and spent a lot more than that, and they still have holes or they wouldn't be poking around Clint Barmes right now.

As these players age, much of what the Cubs dished out this offseason is going to haunt and handcuff them three years from now -that's almost a given- but if they are able to get a deep playoff run in that time, they might be able justify the hardship they're giving themselves staying competitive in the next decade. For the Rockies, meanwhile, prudence this past offseason won't necessarily prove a virtue if their frugality in finding and retaining key components proves the undoing of their own playoff aspirations. The Cubs of the past few seasons are actually a good example of a talented farm system that fails to produce at the top level without well thought out additions from outside the organization. It will be interesting to watch what direction these two franchises -divergent in their spending patterns- take in the coming seasons.

FSN will air the game today, also on MLB.TV