My wife asked me how much the 2012 Chicago Cubs will differ from previous models. She asked the question because she has heard so much about the new “Cubby Way” of thinking since Epstein and Co. came to town.
My answer lay somewhere between “we aren’t sure yet” and “hopefully a lot.”
The real answer probably lays beneath the apocolyptic quagmire of the last three seasons. Imagine it this way, the bombing raid of Milton Bradley, bad contracts, Jim Hendry, Mike Quade, and finally Carlos Zambrano over the last three years have left craters in the Cub landscape. In many ways it is kind of like Beirut, once a nice vacation spot, now a pile of rubble.
Theo and company were brought in to clean up the shelled town and restock it, from the ground up, with talent and promise. This is what they do. This is what they are good at.
With a minor league system depleted and a major league team full of holes, one can expect the equivalent of a lost season in 2012, but in the famous words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend! It won’t be the record of the Major league team next year that I will watch, but the changes made for the future. You have to lay an infrastructure before you can rebuild the village.
I see five things that could be done to create some change in the right direction.
1) Trade Carlos Marmol asap.
The market for closers could not be better….if you are a seller. With the high price closers currently on the market the Cubs could actually get something in the way of prospects for Carlos at this point. His career arc is trending downward and I fear one more year will totally expose him for the very average closer he truly is. Plus, I really want to see what Andrew Cashner would bring to this roll.
2) Release Zambrano
On one hand, you have a pitcher who probably possesses the most talent in our sickly rotation. On the other, you have a petulant child who can’t seem to put the team before himself. Nobody will harness this guy and to be honest, he is best left unchained. I think he loses effectiveness when his emotions are controlled. Not too mention, his Venezuelan league stint is going a little rough. Has he lost it? Eat the money Mr. Ricketts, this is addition by subtraction.
3) Eat Soriano
Don’t release him, but eat most of this meal in a trade. An AL team will take a flier on him as a DH, which is where he belongs. Grab a prospect in the deal but more importantly, OPEN AN OUTFIELD SPOT! We have a few young guys who need regular time and plopping an oft injured, $17 million fielding liabilty that hits slightly above average, down in left field is not productive. Once again, cut bait and try again.
4) Don’t go international!
The latest international pitching craze goes by the name Yu Darvish. Don’t know him? Google him. The Cubs are seen as possible front runners. Tom Ricketts loves the international exposure these guys bring. However, they should all come with a disclaimer that reads, “Caution: Japan is not the Majors. Pitcher may break down or become extremely hittable within months.” For some reason, the juice is never worth the squeeze. When Matt Murton is setting marks for hitters in Japan, you begin to wonder about the quality of pitching. I would rather not sink $40 million before contract into this unproven commodity.
5) Find Brett Jackson.
No, he did not go missing, but I think we need to see what this guy can do at the Major League level. If we don’t trade him for proven talent, then we need to see if he is all that. So far the Cubs track record with outfield prospects has gone the way of Corey Patterson. The jury is still out on Colvin but if I had to bet for or against his success, I would bet against. Who’s next in line?
These are just a few things. I think Cubs fans will see some household names involved in trades. Names that the old regime touted as the next great thing. It will be a deprogramming of sorts. The Geovany Soto’s and Carlos Marmol’s of yesterday could be in a new uniform before the season starts. We also may see some guys we never heard of take the field on opening day. Or maybe, as it takes time to rebuild a franchise, we may see very little change at the top, while there is a world of commotion going on underneath.