Imagine you just sat down at your local poker game and were informed that the rules have changed.  Tonight you are not allowed to fold.  Each player must play out his hand, bluffing or playing coy to the very end.  Get a pair of aces off the draw, no problem.  Get a pair of tens…problem.  

Theo Epstein just sat down at this table and he is the guy with the tens.

With little to no farm system and so many holes in the roster it makes Swiss cheese jealous, Theo is limited in what he can truly do.  From the start of the Theo Epstein regime I wondered what direction this team would go in order to improve.  I wondered if they actually had the cojones to intentionally suck for a while, yet build for the future.  It is this writers preference, but many can’t stomach the thought of yet another lost season.  I say, what’s another year?

The previous regime concentrated on putting the best possible product money could buy on the field for the coming year.  Notice, I did not say the best possible product, I said the best possible product money could buy at the that time for the coming year.  Hence, we never got the best product, we as Cubs fans got whatever the free agent market provided the off season before. 

With the recent trade of Sean Marshall I see brilliance at work.  We all loved Sean and his remarkable reliability.  Plus we sort of grew with him, he became a staple out of the pen.  We also loved him because he was relatively cheap.  Let’s be honest, if we paid a lot for Marshall year in and year out we would have wanted more.  However, this is exactly where Sean is headed. 

Marshall is approaching thirty, which in baseball years is the beginning of the end.  My friends and I used to say thirty is the new twenty, but in baseball it is slowly becoming the new forty.   He has a year left on his contract and then he will most likely do what many lefty relievers do, get a free agent deal that makes him titanically over paid. 

*a side note…..I always said if I had boys I would tie their right hand behind their back at birth and make them operate solely with their left.  If you can hump a baseball up to the plate at 77 miles an hour and throw lefty, you will always have a job in the majors and get paid very well.

Theo traded Marshall for a young starter with upside and two minor leaguers.  Bingo, slowly but surely we are a rebuilding team.  Yup, I said rebuilding.   

My expectations would leave me to believe that we will see Soto, Marmol, and maybe even Byrd (if anybody needs him)leave the building.  I wouldn’t draw the line there either.  The remainder of the roster is expendable at this point.  The talk about Garza staying on board is just that….talk.  I think they would trade him in a second if we were getting anything back that was major league ready with prospects sprinkled in. 

Now, I know what you are thinking, Theo said he wants to build around a player like Garza.  He did NOT say build around Garza, he said a player LIKE Garza. 

All that being said, if Garza doesn’t move by the start of spring (and I will be shocked if he doesn’t) then even better.  His trade value to a contender needing a starter will be higher at the all-star break!  That may be the same for Marlon Byrd.  We may actually see more action at the break then before spring if you can imagine that.  One thing is sure, we will be selling until we have a good base below us.   A base that gives us a future. 

Why, might you ask, do I know this will all work out?  

I have no factual basis for my answer other then to say he has done it before, as has Jed Hoyer.  They have done nothing but improve teams.  They leave them in better shape for the future.  This, and of course the fact that the bar has not been set very high.  Would it really be difficult to improve on previous northside regimes?  

Yes, it is funny, but I am typically not one to go the route of blind faith.  For some odd reason, I have this faith in Epstein and company.   The immediate future may hurt a little.  We may lose 100 games in 2012.  We may have to wait for Theo’s magic to set in.  I have this feeling that someday, when his time is done on the northside, we will be in better shape than when he arrived.   It’s the waiting that will be the tough part.

In the immortal words of Wooderson (from the movie Dazed and Confused), “Patience darlin’, patience.”



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Chet West is an IT professional living in Minneapolis, MN with his wife and two daughters. He has a pug named Banks and loves photography. Follow him on Twitter @chetwest19