Cubs Need To Add Via Subtraction
When Theo Epstein came over from the Boston Red Sox to become the Chicago Cubs President, it was the first time since the Jim Hendry spending spree that Cubs fans had a reason to be optimistic about the team they root for during the summer months of each year.
The reasons for optimism couldn’t be more opposite though. Hendry’s spending spree (landing Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Dempster, Kosuke Fukudome, and more) gave fans an immediate expectation of greatness. The Cubs were already set with some great players on their roster (Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Aramis Ramirez, etc.), and Hendry’s additions made the Cubs favorites in the National League. That era of Chicago Cubs baseball would go on to produce just one playoff series win.
Epstein’s approach is drastically different. First, he hired Jed Hoyer as general manager. Together they let Ramirez leave and eventually sign with division rival Milwaukee, and they let first baseman Carlos Pena walk and go back to the Tampa Bay Rays. Fukudome left and headed across town to the White Sox. Within the first month of the season, centerfielder Marlon Byrd was traded to Epstein’s former team in Boston. In return? Additional draft picks in the recent first year player draft, minor leaguers that may not be with the team in a couple years, and a major cut in payroll.
So immediately, the speculation began on when the Cubs would be World Series contenders. The talk was 2015, which would give Theo about three years to rebuild. Now that the 2012 season is more than two months in, and the draft has past, we can now take a closer look at Theo’s plan and where the Cubs are headed. After an in-depth glance at the organization, it is clear that three years may not be enough to completely revamp a system that still needs to be freed from the leftovers of the Hendry era.
Soriano’s contract remains a large dent into the overall payroll of the team. Dempster’s contract does as well, but he’s been one of the better pitchers in the National League this season, despite what his W-L record will tell you. Dempster could eventually be dealt for prospects good enough to have an impact on this club in a few years. As can Matt Garza, who may have the most trade value of anyone without the last name of Castro.
The only three players the Cubs have in their minor league system that scouts seem to think will surely make an impact are Brett Jackson, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez. Jackson is 23, Rizzo is 22, and Baez is 19. Many also believe recent first round pick Albert Almora has a chance to be a big leaguer as well. Add that to Starlin Castro, who is the Cubs current starting shortstop, and there seems to be some legit chance for the Cubs to have some tremendous offensive power in the near future.
What is lacking there is pitching. The Cubs pitching prospects aren’t exactly the types that have stood out to scouts. According to baseballprospectus.com, the Cubs only have two pitching prospects in their top ten, both falling in the three star category (five being the highest). Dylan Maples is their top pitching prospect. Maples is 20 years old, and according to BP, he has the potential to be an above average starter with an ETA of 2015.
Their other pitching prospect in the top ten is Trey McNutt. McNutt, 22, has had some exposure with Cubs fans, but injuries have held him back a bit. That, mixed with the fact that not many are sure whether he will be a reliever or a starter, leaves many unsure on his potential. And that folks, is it for top tier pitching prospects in the Cubs farm system.
What this means is that there is all the more reason to trade Garza and Dempster, neither of whom will be around when the Cubs are ready to contend. With an added wild card team this year, more teams than ever will be in the playoff race, meaning extra teams looking to add a piece, with fewer teams being open to deal players. The end result of that is less players on the market, meaning value increases on guys like Dempster and Garza.
The Cubs are adding pieces to the puzzle at every possible chance. The youth movement has given them some high potential prospects who can be impact players a few years down the road. The only question now has become, “is three years unrealistic in the Cubs rebuilding process”? Looking at it right now, four or five seems more likely. Can the Cub faithful be patient long enough to reap the rewards. They really don’t have a choice.
This is a guest post by Chris Gasper from MidwayMadness.com. Midway Madness is a site dedicated to Chicago sports. It is written by Chicago sports fans, for Chicago sports fans. Chris Gasper grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. He went to and played baseball at Columbia College. Wanna read more from Chris? Click here.
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