The Chicago Cubs are already at a disadvantage when it comes to deadline deals; Between the countless no trade clauses attached to bloated contracts, and general manager Jim Hendry’s unwillingness to trade any player that can have a possible impact on the 2012 team, a silent deadline is likely in order for the Cubs. Until now, the two players that had the greatest chance of being traded before Sunday’s deadline was center fielder Marlon Byrd and first baseman Carlos Pena. However, that may no longer be the case.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported that the Cubs are informing teams that they are not going to trade Pena before the deadline. We have heard countless times this month that the Pittsburgh Pirates have been coveting Pena, and have had scouts watching the veteran first baseman as recently as this week. But, for whatever reason, Pena in all likelihood will remain with the Cubs for the rest of the season.
The case can be made for the Cubs retaining Pena and not trading him. Reason being the Cubs have no first baseman of the future in their farm system, and are facing a glaring hole at the first base position in 2012. The Cubs are expected to make a run at both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder when they hit the free agency market this winter, with Fielder being the likelier of the two. But if the Cubs were to lose out on both of the premier first basemen on the market, the next best option would be Pena himself. The dream scenario for the Cubs would be to sign Fielder this off-season, and then receive a high draft pick when Pena signs with a different team after being offered arbitration. Though, considering the Cubs do not want risk to trading Pena, that may signal that the Cubs intend to extend Pena after the season.
Having said that, Hendry is making a grave mistake by not shopping Pena. With the Pittsburgh Pirates desperate to acquire an impact bat before the deadline, chances are they would have given in to the Cubs “high” asking price as the deadline drew closer. But, now the Pirates will never have a chance at Pena, since he is no longer available. Hendry has said all along that his goal for the trade deadline was to improve his team for the future, Pena was one of the few players on the Cubs roster that gave the Cubs’ general manager that opportunity.
In addition to Pena, it appears as if centerfielder Marlon Byrd has also been taken off the trade market. Jayson Stark of ESPN reported that Atlanta Braves made a run at acquiring Byrd after they lost out on Beltran and Pence, but were told that the Cubs are not going to trade their starting center fielder. This is more of a head scratcher than not trading Pena. Unlike Pena, Byrd does not appear to be a long-term fit into the Cubs plans. Tyler Colvin has already been installed as the team’s starting right fielder, and top prospect Brett Jackson does not appear to be too far from being major league ready. Jackson is a center fielder at heart, and the Cubs plan to play their 2009 first round draft pick in center field when he is ready. Meaning Byrd will be out of a position sooner rather than later. With 2012 presumably being his last season with the Cubs and Jackson likely to be ready at the start of next season, it would make sense for the Cubs to trade Byrd now to a needy-team like the Braves for what would likely be a considerable return.
I’m beginning to think that my fear of Hendry at this deadline is growing true. Even though I was willing to give Hendry the benefit of the doubt, it is beginning to look like Hendry is more concerned with his job security instead of the Cubs’ interest. It is nice to think that the Cubs can bounce back into contention in 2012, but unless they sign Fielder or Pujols, that probably will not happen. Despite that fact, Hendry is holding onto all the players that he feels can have impact on the Cubs in 2012. Note that Hendry’s contract runs through the 2012 season. Meaning he is keeping the veteran players like Jeff Baker, Ryan Dempster, Aramis Ramirez, and Marlon Byrd with hopes of fielding a respectable team instead of a team filled with prospects from their farm system. The truth is that strategy may be setting the Cubs back another year.
The same team that lost to the Cardinals today 13 to 5, will likely be the same team that you see after the deadline for the Cubs.