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Theo not settling for "middle ground" is absolutely the right strategy

Theo not settling for "middle ground" is absolutely the right strategy

Theo Epstein spoke about the possibilities for the Cubs this season and said he won't settle for the middle.  The team will try to make the playoffs but if its not going to happen, they're not going to try and squeeze out a few extra wins.  They're going to do what's best for the long term health of the franchise.  That means trading short term pieces for long term assets.  It could also mean securing a protected draft pick.

What I want to avoid is the middle ground,'' Epstein said. "It'd be nice to make the playoffs or get a protected draft pick (awarded the bottom nine teams). We're not hiding that. There's no glory in 78 wins instead of 73. Who cares?

"We're going to see where we are and take a real cold assessment in the middle of the season. If we have a legitimate chance to push for a playoff spot then 2013 can become our primary focus. If we think a playoff spot's not in the cards, there will be no concern for appearances or cosmetics whatsoever. We'll continue to address our future and trade off some pieces that would keep us respectable. Those are the type of things we have to be tough enough to withstand. I hope we surprise some people. There is definitely more talent here than people give us credit for.''

Now, while I have been very much against tanking an entire season.  I'm completely on board with this.  One of the things that drove me crazy about the Hendry/Quade era was the insistence of not just hanging on to veterans, but giving them the lion's share of the playing time down the stretch at the expense of younger players.

Now, I cannot stand to watch the Cubs lose but I think meaningless wins can cause more harm in the long term.  Quade's late run in 2010 cost the team a higher pick in the 2011 MLB draft, which many considered the best in many years.  Thankfully, the Cubs still did well and got Javier Baez with the 9th pick -- and he has gone on to surpass many of the names taken ahead of him on prospect charts, but the Cubs had their eye on several other top prospects that year, most notably elite pitching prospect Dylan Bundy.

That 2010 Cubs team could not come to terms that their window was closed.  They not only kept most of their team in tact and played them down the stretch, but they also called up Starlin Castro when the team got off to a bad start, a move that unnecessarily started his service time clock.

The short term strategy worked.  Sort of. The Cubs played well down the stretch.  Unfortunately that included wins against teams that were wisely using the end of the season to evaluate young players.

More importantly, it was a flop in terms of long term strategy.

Not only did that late season run cost them a higher draft pick, but the meaningless wins deluded them into thinking they could still compete the next year.  They signed 1B Carlos Pena to replace Derrek Lee and traded their top pitching prospect Chris Archer, plus top SS prospect Hak-Ju-Lee, both of whom are still top 100 prospects, along with 3 other young talents for Matt Garza.  Garza has been a good pitcher but most believed the Cubs had no realistic chance to win in 2011 or 2012.  Now they enter 2013 projected to finish in last place and Garza is going into his free agent season injured.  Not only did the team no win more games with him in the rotation, it's almost a certainty that the Cubs will not be able to regain the value they gave up to get Garza in the first place.

Epstein has done his best to undo those mistakes.  The signing of Starlin Castro to a long term extension has erased concerns about starting his clock too early.  The Cubs were able to get a draft pick for Carlos Pena and also let Aramis Ramirez go, picking up a second supplemental first rounder.

Last season was year 2 of the repair job.  They did not hang on to players that did not fit into their long term plans.  They got good prospects for top pitchers Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm.  They even managed to pick up intriguing young arms for Geo Soto and Jeff Baker -- and, in what would have been the icing on the cake, almost traded Garza for two top Texas prospects, Mike Olt and Martin Perez.  Only Garza's untimely injury foiled that deal.  Without 3 of their top 4 pitchers, he team predictably faltered down the stretch and wound up securing the 2nd overall pick for this season, a pick they'll use to add to their growing stable of impact prospects that includes Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, and Arodys Vizcaino.

The key now is to stay on the path and continue avoiding the kind of mistakes Hendry made in 2010, even if it means another painful last two months.  It may not be much fun, but it's certainly better than taking another two years to try and fix them.

That is not to say, however, that the Cubs plan on losing this season.  Epstein did say that this team is better than a lot of people think and that if they find themselves in the playoff hunt, then they will focus on winning down the stretch.

But even if they aren't in the hunt, notice that Epstein didn't say he was aiming for the top overall pick.  He just wants a protected pick.  That's significant to me because it means the Cubs plan to look at free agents again --  perhaps (if they feel the team is getting close) an elite free agent that costs them that second round pick.  So even if they don't win in 2013 we could see the Cubs make a big signing after the season.

So while I'm against the idea of a total tank job, I have no issues with losing down the stretch if the team is out of it.  If it means developing and picking up more young impact players for 2014 and 2015, then I'll hold my nose and get through another August/September like we had last season. Even if they lose 90 games or so, I'll consider the season a success if the Cubs continue to build their foundation while seeing more young players become part of the core -- players acquired through trade as well as in-house players like Vizcaino, Brett Jackson, Welington Castillo, and perhaps a surprise player or two.

It'll be even more worth it if it means the Cubs sense that the young core and their top prospects are getting close.  If that's the case, perhaps they'll decide it's time to add that impact, in-their prime veteran through free agency.

That will make waiting for 2014 and 2015 worthwhile.

 

Filed under: Rebuilding

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  • Agreed. I don't mind firesales. I just want that decision to be made in July, not the previous November, with an honest effort in between.

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Exactly how I feel.

  • In reply to Kyle:

    Everyone here agrees with the concept. But the real question is determining whether they have "a legitimate chance to push for a playoff spot." That will be the real debate because this team as presently constructed has a chance. So where's the line? Five ages out? At .500? Where were the ChiSox at the time of the infamous White Flag trade that sparked so much outrage?

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    All the outrage over the white flag trade came from the Sox fans but was fully supported by Reinsdorf. they knew even though they were "in contention" that they weren't good enough to win and made the trade to build their farm system up. That's why having Ricketts fully behind Epstoyer is so important. The Cubs could very well be "in contention" near the trading deadline but they will not mortgage the future for the present until they are legitimately World Series contenders. That may cause outrage from some fans but as long as Ricketts is behind them they will not give up top prospects until they believe it makes sense.

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    In reply to Teddy KGB:

    Teddy,

    Theo actually said in Haugh's article "If we have a legitimate chance to push for a playoff spot then 2013 can become our primary focus."

    The White Sox had a legitimate chance to make the playoffs in 1997. They were .500 and three games back of the Indians when they traded they're best starter (Wilson Alverez) their closer (Roberto Hernandez) and a another starter (Danny Darwin). The Indians only finsished with 86 wins, six games ahead of the Sox. Would the White Sox have won the Series that year? Probably not. But as Theo has said before every chance to make the playoffs is precious. The Sox did piss one of those chances away.

  • One of the most frustrating years for me as a Cubs fan was when they refused to trade Andre Dawson even though everyone, including the Cubs front office, knew that they would not re-sign him.

    A concept that has been repeated over and over.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Wow...I forgot about that. Good call.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Yep,... loved Dawson,... but holding onto him too long was an idiotic move.

  • OT but Starling Peralta got roughed up pretty bad today gave up 6 earned, and walked 2

  • In reply to MIke 02:

    Saw that. It has to increase the chances of getting him back.

  • The difference between a fire sale this year and last is the quality of arms we should have left after it.

    Vizcaino, Shark, Jackson hopefully are here and healthy. We shouldn't trade all of Feldman, baker, and Garza. At least we aren't looking at losing 80% of our opening day rotation. I still think Garza may fit long term, maybe.

    However, if we have a fire sale this year, more than likely we struggled to score runs. Selling off our lineup could make that even worse down the stretch. However, Jackson and Vitters both have more experience than last year. Fire sale would almost certainly get lake and Watkins up, I am not sure if Watkins would be that much of a downgrade for 2 months of Barney, if Barney happened to hit the block.

  • In reply to waitingOn2015:

    Good points...and perfect handle for this article :)

    I don't think the Cubs will trade Jackson or Samardzija, so they should at least have those two guys and I on't think they'll trade Baker unless someone pays a lot. I like the theory they got him with the eye of getting a cheap look and then seeing if they can extend him.

    The major guy the Cubs may lose is Garza. I think everyone else is potentially replaceable.

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    This is the perfect way to think if you are running a baseball team. If in July it is apparent you are not going to make the playoffs, there is no point to try to go for wins. 85 losses means the same thing as 105 losses when you miss the playoffs. Missing the playoffs on game 162 means the same as missing the playoffs 50 games in. As long as the Cubs keep trading veterans for talent, you hope eventually there is enough kids being groomed to make this a homegrown contender for years.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    Agreed.

  • One of the things that really bothered me about Quade was that it seems to me like he didn't give the kids a chance after they were out of it in August/Sept... DJ LeMahieu, Clevenger, Wel Castillo, Dolis... I don't think they got a fair chance in their first taste... Even when LaHair came up, Quade made some comment about playing Pena everyday to give him a chance to hit 30 hr's, like if that was more important than seeing what the farm had.

  • In reply to Caps:

    That's right. I remember that 30 HR thing. Priorities were all messed up those 2 years.

  • Yeah I really don't see Baker getting out of here. He is going to be on an innings limit so no need to even begin to really push him till mid April or may. Wood will also figure in somewhere down the stretch, not sure anyone will come calling for him.

    Considering last Sept and being able to call on samardzija, Jackson, baker, vizcaino, and wood this Sept would be great.

  • In reply to waitingOn2015:

    Looks like a much more solid rotation. I can't see them tumbling as far as they did last year.

  • I like how they're handling the rebuild. One question I would like to see asked to Epstoyer is if they are in contention around the trade deadline, what will their strategy be? I'd hate to see them give up any of the top end prospects or potential impact arms for a rental and set the future back to be a "fringe" playoff team.

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    In reply to Teddy KGB:

    I really think their plan would be to just not make trades. I can't see them trading any top prospects for a season run. Most likely you won't have to worry about this though. One major injury to this team and it is completely doomed.

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    They have said if the cubs are in it they will do whatever they need to do, because every playoff chance is sacred.

    With that said I think they have two to 3 guys that will move before they even access the standings. (Marmol, maybe Soriano, maybe Garza)

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    I really doubt they would trade top prospects. If they do make a trade, it'll be a minor one -- like the one where the Cubs traded for Randall Simon that one year.

    Remember when Ed Lynch traded his top two pitching prospects for Matt Karchner and Felix Heredia just so he could eek into the playoffs and lose in the first round?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ed Lynched (Us).

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That was the Jon Garland trade...

  • Not to say I wouldn't want them to go for it but don't want them to make any pie in the sky type deals. Here's where you'd want Hendry type deals circa 2003-04 with the Ramirez and Lee deals that where absolutely highway robbery.

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    I think anytime you can make that kind of deal you have to do it. If it somehow comes up again I could see Theo trading for in their prime players like that.

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    If we were in it and say there was an open seller and David Price out there, I wouldn't mind going all out as long as the piece will add long term. I think it would be crazy to do it for a short term piece and don't think that is what thy are saying.

  • Completely agree and I'm so pleased Epstein is taking that stance. The middle ground is absolutely the worst place to be for a sports franchise. The Bulls and Bears are perfect examples of this, not good enough to legitimately win a title, but not bad enough to draft an elite talent to build towards a title shot.

    I recently had an animated discussion with a 'diehard' cubs fan who was absolutely livid that the front office didn't go after guys like Prince Fielder, Zach Greinke, or even Michael Bourne. It shocks me when fans just have no concept of long term strategy.

  • In reply to DemonBerryhill:

    Definitely against those kind of signings -- especially the Bourn signing because of the draft pick and the fact that he's 30 already. Just bad timing on that one.

  • In reply to DemonBerryhill:

    That should have been an easy conversation has he seen the last 25+ years that has been our strategy, if hasn't worked.

    I think multiple org have shown to build consistent winner you have to be stable from the front office all the way to the farms. Rebuilding 7 teams take some time, and mistakes will be made, patience has to be there at the top no matter the public perception

  • In reply to DemonBerryhill:

    You forgot to put the White Sox in this category as well. Their plan after Kenny Wiiliams was hired was to take whatever talent was in the system and trade it away to go for it. All the "stars aligned" and they won a title. But every year they are respectable but not a realistic threat to win the World Series. Remains to be seen how Rick Hahn will be.

  • In reply to DemonBerryhill:

    Agreed - have gotten into similar chat-based arguements with some of the "Yahoos" who post on Yahoo!

    Not signing Prince, Pujols, Grienke or Bourne and chosing to sign other, cheaper, flippable assets as a rebuilding process was exactly the right way to go.

  • Epstein's comments on the LeMahieu and Colvin trade being a mistake were interesting too. I don't think I'd get too comfortable if I were Ian Stewart.

  • In reply to RSBeast:

    That was interesting. Also said leaving Flaherty unprotected was a mistake.

    It was probably more in the light of losing good players than directed at Stewart -- but I agree that he shouldn't get too comfortable when the head honcho says the deal to acquire you was a mistake. If Stewart was playing and playing well then I don't think he would have considered it a mistake.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree. The comment probably was not directed at Stewart. That said, it can't feel good to be mentioned as the wrong side of a mistake. Hopefully Stewart redeems himself and that move gets re-evaluated, but he sure isn't catching any breaks.

  • In reply to RSBeast:

    Yep, I wouldn't get too comfy if I were Stewart.

  • Love that Theo is so transparent. You can tell he has the full support of ownership and is really getting to run the team the way he wants to. Hope he's with us a long time.

    My first thought on him saying if we're not competing we want to secure a protected draft pick was that we'll be going for a big free agency signing next year. The more I thought about it though, the more it seems like it's just a more palatable way of saying we want one of the top draft picks, which is an even more palatable way of saying we want to lose a lot of games. As someone said above, I have no problem with this firesale as long as that decision is made in the middle of the season based on our play and not the preceding offseason. I'm not a fan of trying to lose on purpose, it's bad for the integrity of the game, and unfair to the players and staff on your major league team. But I think when you're a seller at the deadline and then go on to play more young players to evaluate them, that part of it takes care of itself.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    It could be just that and I may be reading into it too much, but I do think there will come a time when the Cubs will favor an impact free agent over a draft pick -- and it makes more sense when that will only cost them a 2nd pick.

    I remember a column once, I think it was Kaplan or Mooney, about the Cubs eventually having to sign their "Jayson Werth" the way the Nats did when they knew they were getting close. Hopefully the Cubs signing goes better than that but I think they may follow that formula.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree and would even go farther and say I think they're open to that route every year if the timing and money fits. Hoyer even confirmed their interest in Bourn this year, and this was about as bad timing as we're gonna have.

  • At what point though do you go against trading players for prospects? For instance say were out of it in June, but Scott Baker is looking really good, do we take our chances to extend him and see if he fits the rebuild or trade him for assets? I understand the firesale and I'm not advocating to keep everyone and finish at .500 but some of these guys seem like they can still produce in the long-term and there certainly young enough. (Feldman 30, CarlosV 29)

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    In reply to Furiousjeff:

    I think that just comes down to the offer. They may think Baker could be a long term piece, but if we're out of it and a contender makes a really good offer for Baker, then I think they do it.

    Even if they like Baker, when it comes down to it, you're talking about getting prospects for 2 months of Baker. Hence the 1 year contracts.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    I think they're willing to keep these guys if they don't get the right offer but part of their trade value comes with that younger age. I don't think Theo will give anyone away but if those guys have good years, particularly Feldman, they'll become free agents and will probably get more expensive, which erases some of their value. As I said above, if they look to keep one guy, it may be Baker. Going to be hard to get value when he'll probably start in May and will likely be on an innings limit -- especially since a team that trades for him is expecting to go deep into the playofsfs.

    I think with pitchers you keep Shark, EJax (maybe Baker) and get one more top pitcher to give them a solid top 3 or 4, then mix and match with the last spot or two, hopefully guys from the system like Vizcaino and Pierce Johnson over the next couple of years.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    If it was me,... and a healthy Baker was excelling on the mound come June/July I would be working my arse off to sign him for a 2-3 year extension.

    There are not that many starting pitching prospects currently in the farm system at AA or AAA in next couple of years that are likely to have the impact of a healthy Baker

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    That's exactly what I want to hear from Epstein.

  • You nailed it right on the head, John. I don't see this FO doing what the previous regime did. Theo knows what he needs to do to make this team a contender for years to come. This is exactly what Cubs fans want to hear.

  • The comment that caught my eye in the Tribune Haugh written article was

    "It was really invigorating,'' Epstein said. "I know this sounds silly coming off the year we had but we are really clicking on all cylinders in scouting and player development.''

    Epstein is usually not boastful and for him to say the Cubs were clicking on all cylinders in scouting and player development is a very good sign to me. It looks like one of the Trib writers has figured it out. Do you think others will follow?

  • In reply to John57:

    That is a nice quote. It makes me think that they're pleased with their young players.

    I think the tide is starting to turn out there and they are starting to buy in. I think the CSN writers are already buying in and so is Bruce Miles.

  • Theo has made it clear to everyone how he plans to go about doing his job, and he's done so over and over. Anyone griping about him not doing something else might as well go find something else to do. To a person here, we are excited about what he brings to the franchise, and just look at how tied in we are to all the prospects we have now. On top of that, we see the regime is dedicated to the DEVELOPMENT of these prospects by taking steps to add staff for that purpose alone. Imagine what this is going to look like in just a couple years.

  • In reply to cubs1969:

    He has made it very clear, hasn't he? I've gotten to the point where I'm not reporting on every interview he makes because the message is always the same. Every once in a while it's good to be reminded that our guy knows what he's doing and is going to stick to it.

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    I think if we're out of it, Shark and Jackson are safe. I can see Epstein moving everyone else in the rotation (including Travis Wood, for the right price) with the dual goal of hoarding prospects and improving draft position.

    Having said that, I think we may just shock the world and be in it. The only way I could see a "big" deal in that case is if Alcantara is raking in AA. He's the definition if superfluous, so you might move him to stock the major league team.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think everyone other than those two are fair game this year. Although if a team really wants Jackson I'm sure they'll listen.

    I think they'd trade Baker but I question how much value a guy who will be on an innings limit will have to teams that aspire to get deep into the playoffs. If they get value, great, but I'm not he's the guy you want late in the season as the innings start to pile up. I also think that other than being a couple of years older than ideal, he's exactly the kind of pitcher the Cubs want, so they're going to ask for a lot if he's healthy. If they get it great. If not, then I'm not interested in getting mid-level guys for him.

    The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of re-signing him to a 2-3 year extension and then adding a top arm in the offseason. A top free agent SP, Shark, EJax, and Baker as a top four, a guy like Vizcaino at #5 -- that's a playoff caliber rotation.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Baker can actually work in Theo's plans by staying, too, and fill the role of Shark last year. "We're very happy with the performance he's given us. We're looking to extend him long term but, in order to protect his arm, we're going to shut him down for the balance of the September."

    I also wouldn't be against this. Assuming he returns from the surgery, of course. Though, I'm not sure what top free agent SP you're thinking of. It seems like the guys better than Shark are all being locked up by their team.

    I actually agree with the post above that Theo talking about a protected pick is a palatable way of saying, "We're going to stink in August and September." If there's a potential FA out there that intrigues me next winter (other than Garza), it's Robinson Cano, who might just be out of the Yankees price range. We've all agreed that Darwin Barney and his most likely successor, Logan Watkins, are more MLB average guys than impact players, and the potential impact guy, Amaya, is years away.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't think Cano is in the Cubs future. First of all the yankees really like him and they will not let him walk. Second he is going to want at least 10 years and 200 Million, or more if the dodgers have anything to say about it. I think that is still a lot of money for the Cubs and plus he is close to 30 if not already there. Just don't see it happening. If the Cubs go for a big time player, I want them to go after David Price. He is younger, more what the Cubs are short on (pitching) and the Rays probably can not afford him and I don't think the dodgers will have the prospects to pry him loose. I am not saying this will happen, I just think it is more likely.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like the core of that starting rotation John. Couple of questions though?

    1) What top of the rotation FA SP's will be avail after this season?
    2) Do/will we have the pieces to acquire David Price?

    I think Shark, E-Jax and 1 of Garza/Baker makes a great 2-4. We have multiple candidates for the #5 -7 spots. If Vizcaino sticks as a starter and if McNutt/Cabrera are able to make it back to Starters... we've got lots of depth/options for the 2-7 spots. Shark is really the only one with Ace stuff, or at least the only one who has the chance to become a true Ace in 2013.

  • John, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Garbage wins late in the season in MLB and even more so in the NFL, do wholesale damage to a team's future. An additional problem that has plagued the Cubs was an unwillingness to select "hard to sign" kids in the draft. I have many friends who are Cardinal and Braves fans and they love to tease on the "lovable loser" Cubs, but it is easy to point out the problem: Wrigley and the Tribune were never keen on spending the money necessary to build a minor league infrastructure to support the team. Additionally, the team hired GMs who seemed to cave to the desires of the outspoken fan base...patching holes with either expensive free agents or trading young, valuable players to acquire them.

  • In reply to RayA:

    Exactly Ray.

    We can criticize some of the recent picks, particularly before the 2011 draft but the fact is that Wilken and company had their hands tied. They really liked Matt Wieters, for example, but the short term plans of the Trib sale didn't jive with that kind of long term investment.

  • In reply to RayA:

    Exactly why they lost Gordie Goldsberry and Dallas Green, maybe the only really top notch talent evaluators they had.

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    I don't disagree with the philosophy; frankly, 84 wins is a disaster in terms of long-term development.

    It's actually, hard, though, to get to the bottom late in the season. It's very possible we play .500 ball the first 3 months or so; then what? We would really have to trade alot of guys to get to the bottom 10. That's not easy.

    And no matter what, we're finishing ahead of the Astros and Marlins. The Astros in paritcular, it's like they are TRYING to be the worst team in baseball. They might be worse than last year......

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I have no doubt the Astros are trying to be the worst team in baseball. They probably don't have much choice anyway.

    .500 by trade deadline might be the worst case scenario. It's in no mans land. I think they'll sell but they may not get to bottom 10.

    I think if they're on a pace to win 75-78 games, they'll get there.

  • Lee & Archer are back up players at best......no real loss of "key"prospects.......if Graza gets traded in July, which I doubt, some team might overpay .......Garza will be on the DL, he gets a one year offer, refuses and signs $100 million contract with the Dodgers....

    88 wins in 2013....playoff bound!

    John, you forgot to mention about the Marlon Byrd trade and the Cubs getting that great pitcher called Michael Bowden......

    lets end the talk of previous front offices of the mistakes they made....don't cry over spilled milk.....it is the "Theo Era" now....

    Good News....Guido, the Italian Sausage, was found unharmed in a bar in Milwaukee .......

    Zach Greinke said it is all about the money.....if a last place team offered him $200 million, he would take the money......

    Yes, Bowden did have a good inning yesterday...so did Russell and Camp.........don't be surprise if Russell gets traded this July....the guy has high value for being LHP reliever......

    Sveum said Cubs might be big time sellers again this July....look for the Phiilies to be even bigger sellers if they not in the race....

    Theo will have no problem trading any player off this roster if they do not perform to the new Cubs standards.

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    Has anyone taken a look at the month of April for the Cubs? I would be absolutely shocked if the Cubs come out of April with a good record. Heck, the Cubs might only win 5 games in April. We should know pretty early just how good the Cubs can be this year.

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    88 Wins!

  • In reply to Demarrer:

    Tough schedule to start the year. Makes it more likely Cubs are selling by deadline.

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    In reply to Demarrer:

    Completely disagree with that. April is a manageable schedule, the Pirates are beatable, the Brewers and Rangers aren't what they were the last couple years, and the Marlins and Padres shouldn't give the Cubs any problems. They're going to lose the Giants, Braves, and Reds series' but the rest is winnable.

    Now their August schedule is completely brutal. I think if they want to be "in contention" they have to have at least a 5 game lead. Their toughest challenges come right after the trade deadline and Theo has to know that.

  • Being .500 (middle of the road team) sucks for pretty much every sport. Especially the NBA and now baseball with their insane compensation rules. Be really good or bad, it's the only way to survive.

  • In reply to Justin:

    Agreed, but you also have to pick a point at which finishing .500 ish is the step before contention. If you keep adding core pieces every year sooner or later you'll be good enough to finish close to .500 even if you do sell parts of at deadline. At some point the Cubs will have to decide they're keeping their core and going for it the next year. Not this year, but its going to get trickier after next year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's an excellent point John. I really can't believe Theo was as honest as he was about this. There are a lot of idiotic people who don't get going all in every year. On a side not even if the Cubs were in first in the Central I would be shocked if they became buyers at the deadline this year.

  • In reply to Justin:

    *don't get NOT going all in every year.

  • In reply to Justin:

    I think if they buy it will be minor. i.e. picking up a role player -- unless they get a good deal on someone who fits into long term plans.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd look for the White Sox pick ups from last year as blue prints for what the Cubs would do if they were iclose in the wild card. The Sox added Youk and Liriano for guys that weren't even in their top 20 prospects. That's the equivalent to guys that aren't even in our top 30 prospects.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Maybe that is how they know they are close. When you sell off mid-season and then the system guys you use to fill in maintain that .500 record.

  • In reply to SDCubFan:

    I think that's a pretty good test.

  • In reply to Justin:

    In the NBA, the Utah Jazz of the ear,ly 90s is exactly what you didn't want to be. Win 55 games every year, make a 3-4 seed in your conference, and lose in the 2nd round every year. Even the Braves, for all the playoff appearances of the 90s/early 2000s, only won one world series. That's frustrating.

  • I think the LeMahieu trade is a direct result of Quade not playing him. Theo didn't have enough info on LeMahieu (his indirect quote) and so he undersold him. If Quade give the man some playing time
    Theo may have had a better idea of the player he had. That is why it's so important to see what these young players can do once you are out of the race. I think the new way of thinking is what turns the Cubs into perennial contenders as opposed to the quick fix one and dones.

  • In reply to Cubfin:

    Agreed. Could say the same about Colvin.

  • In reply to Cubfin:

    Good point... I always thought the same thing... DJ was a little bit rushed up to the majors... He was brought up from AA, skipping AAA just to take the bench... Then he was sent down to AAA... I don't see how that was good for his development or value as a prospect.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I think I'd feel pretty good with a LeMahieu/Valbuena platoon at 3B -- especially if it means also keeping Colvin. Even if Colvin still wouldn't be a perfect fit or in the Cubs future plans, you have to at least say his trade value has gone up since he joined Colorado.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Definitely, yeah... Even if you don't see more than 15 hr's from them combined, the overall production, plus defense could end up being productive... I also have noticed the fact that DJ has improved on his plate discipline, something that was questioned when he was a Cub prospect, he did improve in the Colo org... Kind of makes you think about what Keith Law said, about Cubs prospects not learning plate discipline in the minors.

    At least things are changing and we've seen several prospects improving on that area (Wel Castillo, Jae Hoon Ha, Matt Szczur, Gioskar Amaya... just to name a few).

    And about Colvin... I always wondered if his bad 2011 season was related to the collapsed lung, that kept him from working out at all during the offseason... He certainly would've raised his trade value and would've been a more viable replacement after Marlon Byrd was traded last season... But it's easy to say this now after the fact, so I'm not complaining.

  • In reply to Cubfin:

    Well, if you want to know why Quade doesn't have a major league job, what you said explains it well.

  • I stand by my earlier prediction that the Cubs are at best a 75 win team in 2013, as I expect that they will continue to struggle scoring runs.

    I think they will improve from the 613 runs scored (yuck) in 2012, but they are still too many question marks with this team as it is currently configured.

    Question in my mind is, when will the white flag be uncovered for 2013?

  • In reply to JK1969:

    I think that's probably about right. If I had to put money on it, I'd say 75 wins was a pretty good bet. It's always possible a lot of things go right and they do much better than that, but that is admittedly against the odds.

    As for when the white flag goes up, that will happen when the Cubs feel this team isn't going to contend. We'll have to wait and see.

  • It seems there aren't really any free agents worth giving up a pick for next year anyway other than Cano, and I don't see NY letting him walk. Maybe Granderson or Ellsbury, but do the Cubs really want to pay those guys big bucks with their age or durability issues?

  • In reply to Justin:

    That could definitely be a stumbling block -- and I definitely don't see the Cubs signing a guy just to sign him. He has to fit the plan somehow.

  • In reply to Justin:

    Granderson and Ellsbury are both OF. Cubs long term plan is loaded with OF. Only a mid 20s pitcher with #1 or #2 potential, or maybe a 3b like what Ramirez was in 2003 would likely fit.

  • There is a saying that holds true here. Something like "those who go down the middle of the road get run over".

  • Not many top tier free agents that will receive a qualifying offer seem to fit the Cubs profile.
    Wainwright(but he is going to be 33, and yuck anyway), Lincecum(I kind of like him, but does he seem like a Chicago kind of player?), and of course Cano, who is going to try and break the bank.
    The Cubs are going to be drastically more competitive this season. The bullpen and rotation are better than average. We get some break out years and good health, I can see a .500 ballclub.

  • Wainwright has had 2 TJ surgeries, pitchers might recover from one, 2 of them are dicey. Lincecum will be a relief pitcher if not by mid-season this year, within the next 2 years, hes too small to have long-term success as a starter. Cano dropped off drastically last year in the last 6 weeks-and hes reaching the age where youd be paying for past performance.

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    My thought on this is going the other way. IF (and that is a huge if) we are say with in 5 games of a WC spot in July and have an offer to trade a Lake, Watkins or a McNutt or any of the fringe top 20 guys that are going to be in AAA. Would we be happy to do it on a rental? I don't know. I would like to say I trust our FO to get value for any addition like this but we have not seen it yet. We saw them get toasted in trades when they were in Boston when they were ready to make an impact. I just am not ready to be a believer on that yet.

    That being said I do not see them trading any of our top 5 prospects unless they come across something that they do not like seeing in the player early this year . So if you start hearing Baez rumors or any of the other names (other than Vogleburg who they might move early before his flaws start becoming public knowledge) then there is something about them that has created a question.

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    I think 5 games out of the WC they stand pat. Not good enough to sacrifice any long term pieces for a rental, in my opinion.

    I think even if they're leading the Central the most they'll do is pick up a role player or two. Only way they make a major acquisition is if the player is a long term fit.

  • Vogelbach and his flaws is what people are talking about now. They say he is too heavy and unathaletic to play anything other than DH. I think he is a high ceiling, low floor prospect. I don't want to trade early on any high ceiling prospect and let him flourish some where else.

  • I am tired of hearing about LeMahieu and Colvin. Sure, the FO didn't get enough return on them, but Colvin definitely needed a change of scenery and I'm not a fan of DJ...not enough power to play a corner IF/OF position and not enough defense/range to play 2B. The guy will be a fill-in, sub type his whole career, unless he learns to drive the ball.

  • In reply to RayA:

    I think they're role players and losing them won't crush the Cubs, but I still wouldn't mind having them. If nothing else, their trade value is higher now.

  • ESPN came out with their Baseball Future Ratings -- I'm not a subscriber, but I saw that the Cubs are No. 6, surrounded by a bunch of teams who are contenders, like the Cardinals at No. 1.

    That sounds about right, though. Because when you consider what teams are going to be the best in the future, you have to look at prospects in the system, where the Cubs have come a long way. You also have to consider the aptitude of the front office. Again, Epstein and Hoyer inspire confidence in terms of their vision. Finally, you have to have a franchise with the deep pockets to acquire elite free agents, and the Cubs have that, as well, and that will grow as the team renegotiates its television package and gets more money out of Wrigley Field following renovations.

    The Billy Goat / Bartman curse notwithstanding, the Cubs are a blue chip stock, with all the conditions necessary for winning it all. If I was a baseball bandwagon jumper, this would be the ideal time to get on board.

  • In reply to Taft:

    See the post that's now up for more about this.

  • In reply to Taft:

    Just posted on that in the preview. There's also a cut and paste in the comments section on the article.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Must be true what they say about great minds...

  • The player I see Theo being interested in next off season is CF Carlos Gomez.

    Current Age: 27

    BA .260, 19 HRs, 51 RBIs, 37 SB

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    In reply to SouthsideB:

    only if BJAX is not shown any improvement by July or so. But you never know what guys will shake loose by the trading deadline.

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