View From The Bleachers

June 20, 2012

Chet’s Corner: How Do We Rebuild?

Filed under: Featured,General — Chet West @ 4:00 pm

“When you make a mistake in the draft, you just keep drafting. You keep finding another player to develop. When you make a mistake in free agency, you’re stuck with it for the duration of the deal and it can be a real impediment.” ~ Theo Epstein in a recent interview with Boston Globe

I recently stumbled across a piece from Jon Greenberg,  journalist for ESPN Chicago, that not only confused me but left me somewhat irritated.  The column basically states that waiting for prospects to pan out, or building the core of a team from within, is not a realistic way to run a major market ball club.  He then goes on to make note of the recent disastrous high dollar free agent signings made by Theo’s former team, the Boston Red Sox, while Theo was still at the helm.  What left me irked was his blatant pandering to the casual fan with the win now mentality.  He almost encourages the exact same mess we witnessed from the last twelve years.  He also sends a message that high priced free agents can be a risk, after all look what happened to Lackey and Crawford!

I guess I can’t figure out which way he wants the Cubs to go, or maybe he is warning us that Theo has a penchant for making poor decisions on the free agent market.  Whatever it is, the column sounds as desperate as some fans.   I had the pleasure of watching the Cubs play the Tigers last week at Wrigley and also had the pleasure of sitting next to a few terribly ignorant Cub fans.   They spent a chunk of the game bitching about Soriano and his large contract and the rest lamenting the fact that the Cubs didn’t sign Fielder or Pujols.  Some of us aren’t really learning from the past are we?

So here are a few questions for the readers of VFTB…..

1) While every team technically  has a chance to be competitive year in and year out (I mean, why bother playing the games right?), what year do you mark as the Cubs first realistic chance at competing for the post season?

I am going with 2015.  Realistically this team needs a lot of pieces.  It could happen before then, but I don’t see it.

2) Would you support a large, long term free agent signing before the start of the 2013 season at a position of need, or would you rather see the Cubs hold on to the money and attempt to build that position from within throughout the next season or two?

Call me gun shy from Soriano, Bradley, or Fukudome but I would hold the money until we get closer to competing for the division.  Keeping this seasons coming trades in mind and the current youth we have in the system,  I would hate to see a player get blocked by another big contract before we even get out of the gate.

3) This trade deadline should be a busy one for the Cubs, what potential move or moves will mark it as successful in your mind?

I am keeping mine simple, I would like to see us acquire a top 15 overall prospect and try to find a suitor for Soriano.

That’s about it, what are your thoughts on the rebuild process? Can you wait it out or do we need to start competing for the post season soon?

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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

  • Buddy

    Call me insane, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Cubs actually contend for a playoff spot next year. Baseball is in an era of extreme parity. It’s never been easier to go from worst to first. Who would have guessed in 2010 that the dreadful Arizona Diamondbacks would make the playoffs in 2011?  Or how about the 2010 Padres winning 92 games after winning 75 the year before? Or the 2008 White Sox winning the AL Central after an awful 2007? You get the idea. Anyway, would I bet money on the Cubs contending next season? Of course not. But I wouldn’t be shocked if it happens.

  • chet

    This is the catch with baseball, the length of a season and the parity in the game keeps everybody alive for the following season.  If your team stinks one season and they start working early enough in that season they can be revamped for the following season.  

  • Pbread20

    It all depends on how the pitching prospects develop. I would rather not see Theo signing Lincecum or Hamels (is he still a possible free agent?) to long term contracts. I thought that when Hendry signed Z to that 5 year deal it was the right thing to do.  He was still relatively young and, I think, most Cub fans would’ve been unforgiving for letting him hit free agency. I guess hindsight really is 20/20. My guess is 2016. As for the deadline deals, I’m still on the fence when it comes to trading Garza. I think he might be a great clubhouse guy (how would I know if he is or not), when he isn’t pitching he is on the top step cheering on his teammates, and stuck up for Sori, and not to mention he’s a pretty good pitcher.  He’s probably the guy that we’ll get the most for, but I just don’t know what would be best for the club. Dempster is definately gone, Sori has to be gone to an AL team. I don’t know why a team wouldn’t want his bat for, basically, free (except for the prospects coming back). I don’t know what to think about Lahair. Is he peaking now? He’s 28ish, but look at other players that peaked late, most notably Jose Bautista. Having a left handed bat with power along with Rizzo would be a nice thing to have.

  • Noah_I

    1) 2014.  If this were the NL East I would push it back until at least 2015, but I think enough of the Cardinals key contributors are aging and the Brewers are going to be in contract hell.  If things go right, I could see the Cubs being competitive in what is still likely to be a pretty weak division next season.

    2) It depends on who the free agent is.  If the Cubs end up giving $60 million over 4 years to Hunter Pence, I’d be annoyed.  But I’m all for the Cubs making a big play for Hamels, Greinke and/or Anibal Sanchez (not getting all three, but being in on all of them and getting one, maybe two if Sanchez is able to be had to a relative bargain).  High performing pitchers under age 30 don’t hit the free agent market very often.  The last one was Sabathia in 2008, and I just don’t think you can wait until your window opens up and presume a guy of that caliber will be available.

    3) Any move that provides surplus value to the Cubs.  However, I think the only way the Cubs get a Top 15 prospect in all of baseball is if they traded Castro, so I don’t think that’s likely.  Garza won’t net one, and he’s probably the highest value Cub available. 

  • Cubs Future

    First of all for the writing, they usually go to extremes to get people to read it and talk about it.  How many times have we seen professional players get irate at reporters for the questions.  I think I have had 2015 stuck in my head from all of the media, but to more seriously contend at that point, but obviously can be decent before that and slip in especially with extra spot.

    I see management more going to temporary people to hold spots unless can find a young player with high upside and relatively cheap.  Not likely, so back to the original.  Once they get more competitive, maybe but think will try to avoid very lengthy contracts.  Going with low risk high reward comes cheap and provides some surprises and trade opportunities.  Stewart wasn’t expected to do much, but if he did could be quite valuable, but was intended to hold down the fort.  I can’t quite get a feel of the minor leaguers, but seem decent not great yet.  I mean the possibility of Rizzo, Castro, Lake and Baez on the infield in of itself sounds absolutely wonderful.  not to mention Almora, Jackson and Soler in the outfield.  And hoping these pitchers start to impress.  Obviously a long way to go and may not even come close to this, but it is a dream.

    I think most anything will be successful, but I am looking for the home run like the draft.  Just want to see some good prospects coming in.

  • Norm Bothwell

    I agree Buddy….no matter how bad a team looks on paper, there is still a minute chance to compete.

    1) I would think 2015 would be the first year that the Cubs go into the season as playoff favorites though.
    2) Most likely, no. I like Greinke and Hamels, but I think we’re about a year or two too early to sign them.
    3) a Top 15 overall prospect is pretty unlikely. I’ll be happy if the only move the Cubs make is to trade Dempster.

  • wisconsinjpc

    I think 2015 is a good year to set our expectations, knowing that any competitiveness we see before then is gravy, and if we still aren’t competitive after then, we’ll run out of patience with Theo pretty quickly.

    With that in mind, I would oppose a major free-agent signing. Either we’re going to give small-ball, home-grown, young and cheap talent a chance, or we aren’t. Of course, gun to my head, with a competitive team gearing up for a playoff run, and with injuries, I might not say no to trading. But no big blockbuster deals, please!

    To me, the more warm bodies we bring into our farm system for current roster guys, the better. Any deal to get rid of Soriano would be a home run. Barring that, I would want to see at least one or two players enter our system that can reasonably be considered future starters at the MLB level.

  • mike_thoms

    I think it was Greenberg who was on ESPN with Waddle and Silvie earlier in the week. I assume he was talking about this column you linked here. He seemed to clarify his comments a little bit more, basically saying that there are going to be free agents out there who might not be the top guys but who are still valuable. Maybe they’re a little older and willing to take less years/money but can still contribute and help the Cubs be competitive. He didn’t say help the Cubs win a World Series in 2014, just be competitive. That’s what it’s going to take, being competitive. I’m really not sure what Team Theo thought fielding this team. Maybe some guys don’t know how to just field a “competitive” team. Maybe Theo knows how to field a team with a combination of homegrown superstars and big money free agents? Maybe doing something in the middle is harder to do?

  • Chuck

    #1: If by “competing for the postseason” simply is making a run at this crappy division, I think 2014 is very doable.  If you mean “be a legitimate World Series contender” then 2015 is the earliest for that.  The Cubs have the money to get a couple of aging player to make a run soon, bu it is not a long-term solution.
    #2: It would really depend on the player.  I would say no to any pitcher.  The chances of a pitcher being healthy and good by the time the Cubs are good (2015 or so) is slim.  Any position would have to be younger than 27 or 28 in 2013 for me to consider it.  You don’t want to sign a guy on the wrong sie of 30 to a long-term contract.
    #3: Getting rid of Soriano for anything remotely valuable is a win.  Ditto for Geo if he can’t turn it around.  If we can get a grade B prospect for Dempster, I would be happy.  Trading Castro for anything short of 2 or 3 grade A prospects and a couple of grade B ones is a fail.  To give you an idea of how valuable Castro is to me, if the Nationals offered Strausberg fro Castro straight up I would turn them down based on Strausberg’s injury history.I can support trading Garza for some good prospects if the prospects were near MLB ready.  My stance on trading is that nobody should be untouchable but if you are going to trade a guy like Castro or Garza, you had better get a godfather offer for him.

  • Seymour Butts

    Sooner rather than later would not surprise me, but mostly due to a weak division. I keep looking at the Rays as a team that built thru the draft, but the Cubs have money to hold those who excel.

  • cap’n Obvious

    Dear Buddy,

    You are insane.

    Yours truly
    Cap’n Obvious

  • cap’n Obvious

    what people fail to realize is that teams like the Rays drafted well for 3-4 straight years to get competitive.  Based on that fact that THIS years draft looks pretty crappy to me, we’re still 3-4 years away, and that’s if they magically begin drafting well NEXT year.

  • Gymjok

    Timing is huge.
    Also supply and demand.
    Looks like a lot more buyers this year than sellers.
    That drives the prices up.
    As one of the few sellers the Cubs should trade
    Soriano(maybe the Indians- Hafner is hurt-again)
    and anyone else that is not in the longer term plans
     (I don’t see LaHair in their long term plans-they’ll want more speed in the outfield)


    1. 2015. I think we need 3 years to develop talent and get the contracts off the books
    2. It depends on the player, can’t say yes or no
    3. Soriano, Soto, Dempster, and Marmol all gone

  • Jamie Giffin

    1. I’ll be shocked if we make the playoffs before 2015. And if they do make 2015, I think it’ll be just barely. Granted once, you’re in, anything can happen but I believe 2016 is earliest for predicting a World Series possibility from the preseason.

    2. Definitely no major deals until we are already contenders. Let our homegrown players develop and improve, and once they prove they can hang, add talent to (theoretically) put them over the edge. In the meantime players/contracts like those given to DeJesus and Maholm are great. So, by #1’s logic, the offseason prior to the ’16 season could see some big money deals (if the right players are there).

    3. Fire sale! Hopefully they trade most if not ALL of the following: Dempster, Garza, Soriano, Marmol, Soto, LaHair, and Johnson. And if there is a team willing to part with good prospects , then I’d have no problems adding guys like Barney, Valbuena, Dolis, Russel, Camp, and Campana to a package deal. If high level prospects in AA or AAA can be obtained at either the pitcher position or lef-side infield, I say pull the trigger.

  • Buddy

     I get that a lot.

  • LVCubFan

    We are in the NL Central, probably the worst division in baseball.  Based on that, and an additional Wild Card, I’d like to see us within 5.5 games of a playoff spot by the All Star Break 2013.  So going into 2014 we should be thinking playoffs (“PLAYOFFS?!?!”) from the start.  I don’t think Theo took this job to intentionally suck for 3+ years. 

    I love seeing free agent signings, but they have to be the right ones (i.e. pitchers).  In today’s National League, with PEDs mostly out of the game, you need a competent front office and excellent starting pitching.  We have 1…now we need the other (Hamels or bust).

  • Jarred B.

    When they bring Rizzo Up, who do they sent down?


    Whoever is playing sucktastic baseball

  • Seymour Butts

    Nope, Baker will stay.

  • Puppydada2

    Let’s see, we have no one we can count on in the bullpen.  We will lose 2 to 3 of our starting pitchers at or before the end of the season.  LaHair is the only guy in the present line-up that we might keep with any power (would trade Soriano for a used Yugo).  So far, getting no offense at all from third base.  We have (unreasonably?) high expectations for Rizzo and the kids in the minors because we don’t want to face reality.  Management doesn’t want to put a guy that had 200 hits (Castro) in the lead-off spot where he could get the most at bats because the rest of the lineup is so weak. Did I leave out the defense?  With Soriano, Castro, and LaHair in right field sounds like the old Cub teams that had all these first basemen trying to play the outfield.   A good free agent might come to this mess for a boat load of money, but not if they want to play on a competitive team.  Funny how the National, the Pirates, and even the Astros, look so much better.  2015 is very optimistic!  Other than the ballpark, there really aren’t many reasons to watch this team for a while.    

  • MJP

    Theo may have a PENCHANT for poor free agent signings, but I’m pretty sure his PENSION (if he has one) is comprised of dollars…

  • Doc Raker

    Baker is untouchable.

  • Eddie Von White

    I can’t believe that Chet would ever be “somewhat irritated.”

  • RichBeckman

    The Cubs will break the routine in 2015.

    No to (pricey) free agents until the team is pretty much assembled and the holes that need filled are clear.

    I do not consider a trade of Soriano to be necessary for this summer’s trading to be successful. The key for success is not who they trade away, it is who they trade for.

  • Chet

    I go through life somewhat irritated… helps me keep my edge

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