Hello again! It's been a month. Chances are, nobody ever checks this site anymore, so unless you are one of my FB friends or this is really really good and the webmaster decides to feature this, you'll never see it.
Too bad. However, that's never stopped me before. So let's have at it.
The story of this year's team, of course, is what's going down off the field, rather than on it. Because, out there, on the grass? Ain't nothin. Worst team of my lifetime. If part of the Great Theo Plan was to "Suck For Luck" in 2012 for a top draft choice next year, well, check that one right off the list, along with "Singing a Cuban Refugee To A Nine Year Contract" and "Draft A Kid With His Own Batting Cage At Home".
Speaking of Cubans and self-important Floridians, I know very little about the relative virtues of either Jorge Soler or Albert Almora. Both seem to have impact hitting potential, but neither really hit me as sure things. They may be future stars for us, but there is just as much chance that they won't. Nature of the beast. But I am simply happy that when Theo and His Band of Lesser GMs took control, doing both of these things were stated objectives of their Plan, and they have accomplished what they set out to do. Good. Takes the sting out of having to watch a bunch of over-30 rejects lose two-thirds of their games.
Today's topic concerns another of the Stated Objectives - Trading For Prospects. Over at the Den, they suggest that even our current fan favorites should be considered trade fodder, which is correct. Hopefully I don't have to explain the theory of relative value to you, learned reader. But as in the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man is King, on this version of the Cubs, players that do one thing well (LaHair, Campana) or even nothing well, but several things acceptably (Barney) will stand out against the rest of the diaspora wearing blue pinstripes. I don't begrudge you showing them a little love, but please don't be confused in thinking that these guys are building blocks.
LaHair took the NL by surprise in April and May, but it got smart in June, and he has yet to re-adjust. Besides, he's gotta hit lefties if he wants to play first every day in the majors. Barney would be a solid utility infielder on a good team. He just isn't quick enough to be a speedster, and not powerful enough to be an everyday guy. Campana? It's frustrating that a guy so fast would be such a bad CF. I am convinced he can get on base often enough to be a leadoff hitter in the league.
Maybe the Cubs should be p0sing Campy as a trade-for-a-DH candidate, instead of Soriano?
So, now that I've drawn mustaches on all the current Cubbie darlings, and called the rest of the team crap, is there ANYONE on this club that could possibly be part of a contending Cubs club of 2014 or 2015?
Once again, perhaps Barney could be a utility guy on the Winning Cubs of the Future, as long as management realizes (and I think they do) that he is no league staring 2B. James Russell has shown himself to be dependable enough as a lefty reliever. I can see him sticking around. Nobody else in the current pen has the combination of relative youth (hi, Shawn Camp) and dependability (oh, what ARE we gonna do with you, Marmol?). Anyway, both Barney and Russell fill minor roles, and don't really matter to anyone other than their moms, wives, and perhaps Dale Sveum.
In terms of major role guys, I only see four members of the roster who even have a slim chance of contributing to the team two-three years down the road. None of them, though, scream "untouchable", to me. However, all foundations have a cornerstone, and although you may (logically) consider Anthony Rizzo or Jorge Soler to be that cornerstone, I think it vital that at least one of these four other guys be in place now. Someone needs to be the elder statesman, the leader of the future team, somebody that can remind everyone else of the humble beginnings of Theo Epstein's regime, way back in 2012, when we really sucked.
Here are the candidates, as I see them, in increasing order of possibility:
- Jeff Samardzija - last month, after several strong outings, he was described as the single "untouchable" in several reports. Now, after a few stinkers, I notice nobody is using the 'u' word around his name anymore. He has worked hard this past offseason, and as long as he appeared to be giving total concentration, he was successful. Me? I liken him in certain respects to Marmol, in that apparently many of his problems stem from a lack of focus. But, unlike Marmol, Shark does not rely on a gimmick pitch for success. It is entirely possible that my focus may wane too if my team sucked as bad as the Cubs do now.
- Matt Garza - answer this question for me, those of you in the "long-term extension" camp? The Cubs have had four losing streaks of four games or more this season. Those streaks were broken by starters named Dempster, Maholm, and Wood, Travis Wood. Don't see a Garza there. Shouldn't Matt Garza be our "Stopper" if he is so deserving of a huge contract? An 8-figure guy stops losing streaks. His track record of personal spazziness is documented - he is too immature, even now at 29, to ever provide leadership. He'd be a fine 3rd starter, a fun guy to have on a good team with an established Ace. The Yankees and Dodgers are great places for him to go. But for us? For the money he wants, he is going to have to be the Ace, and that ain't happening. Hendry got him, figuring Dempster would be around to guide him. And Dempster won't be around long. Maybe not even tomorrow.
- Wellington Castillo - I may be wrong, but I'm tired of Geo Soto's underachievements, and I suspect so is management. Castillo has hit in previous trials with the Cubs, the last couple of years in Iowa, and who can forget Mesa 2011? Steve Clevenger looks like a decent backup, but nobody has ever considered him worthy of a starting role, and so far, Castillo has shown at least adequate skills in all aspects of catching. He has possibly been mismanaged so far in 2012, and then he got injured. I sure wish he would take over the position, and claim it as his own for the next several years.
- Starlin Castro - I am trying very hard to not become alarmed about his recent hitting performance. I am 99.44% sure he got Rudy Jaramillo fired, with his inability to be patient. The first night with the new hitting coach, Castro looked at 25 pitches. That's the good news. The bad news is that he never got on base. Well, he has played over 300 big league games, and has gone through at least two iterations of league adjustment and readjustment, so it is likely he will rise up from whatever funk he is stuck in right now. I imagine the uncertainity of the team, along with the fact that Jorge Soler just got a 30 million dollar contract before he even steps foot in America, while Castro hits .300 over 300 ML games and makes the minimum juuust might be a bit distracting. But this is exactly my point with him. I think of guys like Derek Jeter, who (and yes it is hard to believe) in his third full year had a ROY, a third place finish in MVP voting, and two World Series titles on his resume, was still making club tender money, and did not say a word or let his performance suffer. Nor did Jeter ever forget how many outs there were in an inning, or forgot where he was running to, or get caught by Bobby Valentine staring out into space, or make as many poor decisions in the field and on the basepaths as Castro does. Starlin is stealing bases this year, but 16 steals in 22 attempts is barely break-even in terms of value. Yes, he is still young, and if I had to choose, I would still choose Castro as my cornerstone. But he is no Derek Jeter, will never be, so if the Management feels they can get value in return for trading him, you will NOT catch me out here crying foul. At this point he reminds me of nothing more than a better-hitting Ronny Cedeno. I hope he grows up, quickly and substantially.
As always, I say have as much fun as you can with this. Have a "who's head will roll next" pool with your friends. I got five on Jeff Baker.
Who do you think is the cornerstone of this team? Comments, plz.