Commentary

Silva shouldn't feel slighted

With $11.5 million coming his way, the fiery pitcher makes out like a bandit

Updated: March 28, 2011, 10:00 AM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There is a joke somewhere about the Chicago Cubs "eating" Carlos Silva's contract, but I'm not the guy to make it.

After all, my Friday night was centered on a trip to In-N-Out Burger.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Silva
AP Photo/Morry GashCarlos Silva will make $11.5 million from the Cubs this season without pitching an inning for the team.
But it's safe to say the Cubs will be better off after cutting a significant amount of dead weight with the departure of Silva.

In essence the Cubs were eating his salary from the get-go. The strong first half from last season was a welcome surprise, nothing more. The reality of Silva's usefulness hit the Cubs this spring.

On Saturday morning, the Cubs told the veteran pitcher he won't be joining the team in Chicago, preferring to keep hard-throwing rookie Marcos Mateo, who had a 21-appearance cup of coffee with the Cubs last year, and a nice spring, as the 12th man on the pitching staff.

As expected, top prospect Andrew Cashner will fill the fifth starter's role, even though he topped four innings for the first time this spring during Saturday's start in Surprise, Ariz., on Saturday. (After a rough first inning, Cashner settled in nicely, pitching four shutout frames.)

I wasn't in Mesa when Cubs general manager Jim Hendry informed the media that he will try to work out a trade for Silva, but I'm guessing he used his best poker face. I'd like to say there's a better chance of Hendry trading me to the Economist.

Then again, he dealt Milton Bradley, so anything is possible.

This move, and the red ink involved in writing off Silva's $11.5 million owed this season, officially ends the Bradley Error that has so tortured the Cubs and Hendry. Giving Bradley a three-year $30 million deal blew up so spectacularly, Hendry has joked it will go on his tombstone.

If his latest team doesn't win, and the club doesn't sell more tickets, Hendry's demise as general manager of the Cubs might come soon. Mateo is certainly a better option than Silva in the bullpen.

Silva was given the option of going to Triple-A Iowa, but he said he will refuse the assignment, just as the Cubs assumed.

Silva, like Bradley, was thought to be untradeable given his bloated salary and miniscule value. In Seattle, Silva is still as despised as the owners who carpet-bagged in and stole the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City. But Hendry got the deal done last year in order to rid the team of Bradley's moody presence, not to improve the pitching staff. Silva was just the price of doing business.

For roughly half of a season it worked, and Silva mostly behaved himself in the cramped confines at Wrigley. His early spring dustup with Aramis Ramirez in the Cubs dugout got a lot of attention, but his overall performance this spring was more jarring. Before his strong six-inning start on March 23, he had given up 20 runs and 29 hits in 11 1/3 innings. Even for Arizona, that's bad.

Silva had a heck of an exit interview with the Chicago media he loathed, blaming new pitching coach Mark Riggins for not being honest with him on the Cubs' plans for him.

"It's like when you have something to say, be straight," Silva said. "He has to learn he's in the big leagues now. You know what I mean? The way he laid it out, I don't know what he was trying to do. He talked about going out there and continue building and throw in some games. But when I told him I'm ready to pitch, and he said there's no spot in the rotation or the bullpen."

I know what you're thinking, but there's no need to boycott the Cubs because of how they treated Silva.

As you can tell by the previous quote, there was little hope that Silva could adapt to a reserve role and unless he had a smoking start like last year, he would've only been a placeholder in the rotation for Cashner. He wasn't going to last the season either way. So, releasing him now was the smart move. It shows everyone in the organization that a big salary won't keep underperforming veterans in the majors.

But at the same time, is the organization doing right by Cashner? Is he ready to start in the majors, or would he be better served by another year as a reliever in the majors? His spring has been unimpressive so far. Silva said the Cubs had planned this all along.

"I knew it was a competition, and I have nothing against [Cashner]," Silva said. "He's a great kid. But the way they laid out everything, [it wasn't] the right thing. [It wasn't] fair for either one [of us]. You know."

Casey Coleman, who was in the running for the last pitching spot, is a guy the Cubs are counting on as the "sixth starter." He'll start the year in Iowa.

Life isn't fair, as Silva learned Saturday. But he'll get $11.5 million not to pitch for the Cubs. If only we were all that unfortunate.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.