At slower times in the Cubs news cycle such as this weekend, those who cover the team understandably have to reach a bit for an angle.
I’ve said it again and again. I appreciate the work Gordon Wittenmyer does in challenging what the Cubs are doing (pretty much on daily basis). However, I had to pause when he drew an unfavorable comparison with this rebuild to an expansion effort.
Was it that far off base?
On one had, we should be so lucky as to suffer the fate of recent expansion teams like the Diamondbacks or Marlins. Wittenmyer spoke to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and Jed Hoyer about the potential parallels. Rizzo himself was involved in both the Arizona upstart, and now the tear down job he did with the Expos/Nationals projects.
“When I came over here [to Washington], we had to do more to get ourselves to an expansion level than we did as an expansion team,” said the guy who used several key acquisitions and back-to-back No. 1 overall picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper to turn around the Nationals quicker than expected.
“There’s no other way to do it the right way,” Rizzo said of the farm-system overhaul designed to lead to a competitive homegrown core for sustained success. “It does take time to build a foundation through scouting and player development. When I came in we moved away from veteran players to young players.
This rebuild is going to take longer than expected is essentially what Wittenmyer is getting at. The Cubs are a big market team, and it has been widely expected at some point they will be able to infuse some free agents into the rebuild (something I suggested they explore next season) to speed things up.
The real challenge is every team seems to have figured out (in this somewhat post PED and amphetamine era) that youth rules. Hoyer and Theo Epstein have tried to downplay how bad of a situation they inherited, but they have also let you know how much harder the sledding will be with the new climate surrounding the game.
“It’s very hard to acquire players through free agency, and players are back to peaking early, and older player are not as good a demographic to go after,” Hoyer said. “So with that in mind, “we’re attempting to really build from the ground up and through young players, and that takes time. “But it’s not unique to Theo or me. I think everyone in baseball’s trying to do some form of that right now.
Would this front office have actually favored an expansion effort rather than the undertaking they had to endure? They were handed a barren system, long-term bad deals, player who didn’t fit their mold, no trade clauses, etc.
“Calling it an expansion effort minimizes the impact of a lot of people we inherited,” Hoyer said. “Expansion is truly starting from ground zero. And we inherited some good players and some good people.” “I think ‘expansion’ is an extreme way to talk about it. Saying that is saying that you’re asset-free, and we weren’t. So I don’t see it as that extreme.”
Hoyer speaks about assets they inherited, but lets face it, when the Cubs start to win again how many of the last regime’s pieces will still be around?
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