I have watched more Cubs baseball this week than I have all season. I totally understand this brands me as a sick, twisted individual who apparently has no life and no appreciation for quality. The first of two reasons why I have watched the Cubs this week is because I figured they would win these games, because the past three years the Pirates have acted like a pack of choking dogs the last two months of the season, and because I have never seen a team as untalented as the Astros.
I've seen worse teams: the 1981 Cubs were one. The Tigers team a few years back that lost the 119 games were another. The '81 team was full of has-beens (Bill Buckner, Ken Reitz, Bobby Bonds for chrissakes - one quick note - they only used 15 different pitchers that year?). The Tigers team was full of young guys like Carlos Pena, Cody Ross, Omar Infante, and a painfully young starting staff that averaged 23 years of age and 15 losses apiece.
But, wow. The 2012 Houston Astros? I cannot say there is anyone on that team who strikes me as having impact talent, either now or future. Not once did Len or Bob perk up and say "such and such is gonna be a good one" on the Astros. They have the worst record in baseball, and are most assuredly will receive the #1 draft pick next year, along with the most draft pool money that comes along with it. Whereas we have mostly cleared the deck of our over-30 players, we have kept around David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano. I think we'd
all most of us have liked to see Sori take his massive contract elsewhere, but the money and his trade protection rights have kept that from happening. Therefore, we have a leadoff hitter who gets on base 35% of the time, and a cleanup hitter who is going to have a 30/100 year, which permits us to outslug the occassional team while still "enjoying" an evaluatory season such as the one the Astros are "enjoying".
The guys over at the Den watched and wondered the same thing I did; namely, out of two utterly rebuilding teams, there is still two different methods. The Astros are said to be building "depth"; meaning, they traded their old talent for as many young guys as possible, thus replenishing their system and pushing guys down a level so that they can enjoy greater statistical success. Also, by sinking straight to the bottom, they get the opportunity to draft the #1 prospect. In the end, assumably, the Astros will have a couple of gems from the draft, along with lots of organizational depth from which to mine some role players, and for making trades for guys to fill in gaps.
Whereas our organization is also building some depth, but is more concerned with trading for prospects that may have future impact on our own club. Our draft position will be below Houston's, but will still be high enough to draft other players that should actually impact the Cubs someday. There is somewhat less emphasis on building a stockpile, as well as drafting future superstars, instead emphasizing the development of solid MLB-level contributors.
The vast majority of guys we have seen since the first of August should really be working on their resumes, because times are tough, and insurance companies just don't give agencies to former ballplayers anymore without some semblance of business background. Count on Joe Mather, Josh Vitters, or Alex Hinshaw giving you the discount double-check real soon. Steve Clevenger might want to plow his 2012 earnings into a nice gas station/bait shop he can while his days away in. And your next bowl of all-you-can-slurp pasta at Olive Garden might be brought to your table by Justin Germano. Don't ask him for an autograph - it will only embarrass him, and get him yelled at by his manager.
But let's talk about who is making progress. Castro, Jackson, and Rizzo fit the mold perfectly. The ceiling for all of them is lower than the ceiling for whomever is going to be the Astro's top draft pick next year. I can see Castro becoming Miguel Tejada in his prime - good, but not ARod. Jackson might become Aaron Rowand in his prime. Maybe a poor man's Jim Edmonds. But not Mickey Mantle. Rizzo? I can see his ceiling as Mark Texiera lite. The guy the Astros draft might end up as the next Albert Pujols. One is a Hall of Famer. The other is a Hall of Good Enough.
Apparently the Cubs plan is to have the facsimilies of Tejada, Edmonds and Texiera alongside pre-anabolics Sammy Sosa (Soler), Larry Walker (Almora), Nomar Garciaparra (Baez), a bunch of very good but not legendary position players, and pair them alongside Samardzija and the pitching prospects Theo has lusted after this year (Arodys Vizcaino, Dillon Maples, Pierce Johnson) and those he most likely plans to get with the ubitiquous Garza trade and his high draft picks next year. The only two guys on his 2004 curse-busting Sawx team that were Hall-of-Fame talents were Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, both of whom were in place when Theo took over. Everyone he put in place were of second-and-third categories, guys that were outstanding and guys that were merely good. He didn't go after the highest priced talent.
So, Castro, Rizzo, Baez, Soler, Almora, Jackson. Probably Welington Castillo. The Shark, Travis Wood, Vizcaino, Maples, Johnson. Probably Jaye Chapman closing. Whatever we get for Garza, or do you keep Garza? He will still be pitching three years from now. Will this be enough to be a pennant contender in 2015 onward? I think we're going to need a true Staff Ace, because I don't think Samardzija really fills the role. Used to be you could sign one of these guys in free agency, but teams are locking up the potential Aces now before they make it out on the market.
So don't count on a big splashy signing someday that is going to "put us over the top". So, based on what you've seen so far since the Trade Deadline, is this going to be enough? Apparently Theo thinks so.
Do you think so?