According to Dave Kaplan, who claimed to have talked to several baseball men around the league, all signs point to the Chicago Cubs going forward with a complete rebuild mode. What this means, if what Kaplan reports is true, is that there will be several more changes coming over the next few days and weeks leading up to Spring Training and the start of the 2012 season. If you are wondering how accurate these rumors Kaplan is spreading about the rebuilding process the Cubs appear to be heading into, look no further than the rumors surrounding pitchers Matt Garza and Sean Marshall.
We all know about the situation regarding Garza and how the Cubs have been shopping him to clubs around the major leagues, such as the Texas Rangers who will likely be out of the running now that they have won the bidding rights for Yu Darvish. If that wasn’t a sure fire sign that the Cubs were serious about rebuilding and going with youth, then the reports which came out last night should make their plan crystal clear. With the possibility of the Cubs trading left handed relief pitcher Marshall to division rival Cincinnati Reds for left handed starting pitcher Travis Wood and two pitchers we now have a clear sign which direction the Cubs plan to go in the very near future.
Many fans have been opposing the idea of trading away Marshall because he is the Cubs best relief pitcher, but if the Cubs are in full rebuild mode, then this move makes perfect sense. A trade of this sort fits into Theo Epstein’s typical thought process of trading players nearing free agency for those who have not yet reached their arbitration years. Wood fits that mold and has a very high ceiling, which Epstein finds very attractive.
Some fans may be wondering, if the Cubs are rebuilding why did they go out and sign Reed Johnson today to a one year deal. After all Johnson is an older outfielder and will not be around much past this season. His signing does not fit into a rebuild mode. But actually, if you think things through, his signing does indeed fit into plans to rebuild. A team that is rebuilding does need some veteran presence sprinkled here or there, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a veteran presence on the bench backing up your entire outfield. After all, you would be much better suited to have a veteran sitting on the bench than a young kid who you want to get a look at everyday, such as Brett Jackson who is still blocked until another starting outfielder is traded. Do not hold your breath, that likely will not be Alfonso Soriano as he is still owed $54 Million, so the more likely candidate is the man playing his position Marlon Byrd.
Rebuilding also means that anyone and everyone not named Starlin Castro from the Major League roster is available to anyone who has an interest. As we saw earlier, Tyler Colvin was sent packing for a third base replacement for Aramis Ramirez who will now be spending his summer with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Trading away fan favorite players like Byrd, Marshall or even Geovany Soto will be sure to anger some Cub fans, but if the plan is to rebuild then you have to get rid of the aging stars. Soto will be 29 years old when the 2012 season starts, and has been more inconsistent than most baseball executives and fans would care for. Outside of Colvin, everyone else who has been mentioned in trades has been 28 years of age or older, players who will likely be on the downside of their careers in three or four years when the rebuilding process is scheduled to end and the Cubs are ready to compete again. Stewart (who like Colvin) is 26 and will be turning 30 in the heart of the Cubs emergence from the bowels of the rebuilding stages, the middle of his prime and hopefully ready to take off offensively if he has not done so already. Much like with Johnson, the signing of David DeJesus, who just turned 31, does not fit the mold of a rebuild. He was likely signed as a place holder for Brett Jackson who Epstein and Jed Hoyer may feel is still a year away from being major league ready.
What rebuilding also means is that you can almost certainly count out the Cubs spending big money on established superstars like Prince Fielder. While he is only 27 years old, the Epstein and Hoyer may feel that, for whatever reason, in three or four years the money he is getting paid will far outweigh the production he is giving to them. Look no further than Soriano if you want a good reason why you should never give long term deals to players. They are always one injury away from being a vastly overpaid player who is giving you half the production you were hoping for and expecting when they were signed. Do not mention the no prior injuries tag, because that fit Soriano before he came to the Cubs.
Whether you like the idea of rebuilding or not, you better get used to the way Epstein wants to do things around here. You will see players you love leave the team and be replaced by the players that Epstein and Hoyer feel are vital pieces to a contending team. Not all trades or signings will work out for the better for our boys in blue, but no team hits on every deal they make. I know I must sound like a broken record by now, but when Tom Ricketts brought in Epstein to be the Cubs President of Baseball Operations, he signed off on all baseball moves. Ricketts gave Epstein free reign to do whatever he felt was in the best interest of the Cubs, and that includes trading away popular players.
They are going to happen whether or like the idea or not, so you better sit back and enjoy the ride.