Cubs GM: A Tough Job


Dear Applicant,

Thank you for applying to the position of General Manager for the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are are proud franchise with a long and storied history of success and frustration, backed by a passionate fan base. In preparation for the interview process, I have prepared a short summary of the Chicago Cubs, the assets you will have to work with, and some of the decisions you will have to make.

Thank you again for applying, and best of luck.

The new general manager of the Chicago Cubs will take charge of an organization that has a lot going for it.

A Franchise Player
Starlin Castro looks like he will be the face the Cubs for the foreseeable future. His defense can be rough at times, but it is steadily improving. His bat his solid and will only get better as he develops more strength. Castro is a guy you can build around, and that you can build a marketing campaign around. With the empty seats in Wrigley, that is an important point.

A Solid Farm System
The Cubs farm system could provide all of the bench players for the next several seasons, a large portion of the bullpen, and a few regular players. Well over half the roster could be cheaply filled out with quality parts from the minor leagues. While there is not much star potential down on the farm right now, players like Brett Jackson, Matthew Szczur, Trey McNutt, D.J. LeMahieu, Josh Vitters, and Welington Castillo could become valuable major league regulars in a year or two. There is a lot of much higher profile talent very deep in the system, so the longer term future looks brighter still. In the short run the major league roster will need some help from the free agent market.

A Flexible Payroll
Fortunately, the new GM will have between $30million and $50 million dollars to play with. That money could be used to go out and buy Prince Fielder… or it could stashed for use when the rest of the Cubs roster is ready for one or two final pieces to be added to already good team. Unfortunately, outside of first base, there is not much talent on the free agent market this winter.

A Good Front Office
Tim Wilken, if he can be convinced to stay… and he should!… can build a fantastic farm system. The Cubs owners are willing to give him the check book, and he spent $12 million this season alone on a very deep and talented draft. Two more drafts like this one, and Wilken’s will hand the Cubs a farm system that will be the envy of the league. The Cubs also have Greg Maddux, one of the smartest guys in baseball who has been very involved with the Cubs farm system, and Oneri Fleita, who has led a player development effort that continues to produce one or two quality major players a season. Any new GM could do far worse than to keep this crew intact.

But there are some decisions as well.

Mike Quade
To put this one simply, how fast does a new GM want to anger the fans? Fire Quade, be a hero. Keep Quade, be a villain. It really is just that simple. There are without doubt better managers the Cubs could hire, but if the new GM decides to blow up the team and completely rebuild, why bring in a new manager to preside over a 100+ loss team in 2012? Quade is under contract, and he really can’t get any worse. Convince him to develop the talent coming out of the minors, and he might do alright next year. He’d be a lame duck, though, and that might not be good on a team that is reported to have clubhouse issues.

Aramis Ramirez
Pay $16 million for one more year of Ramirez, let him walk and try to resign him for a more affordable deal, or just let him go? The new GM has to pick one. Ramirez, when healthy, is one of the more consistent RBI bats on the Cubs, and the Cubs do not have a sure-thing replacement ready for him. However, they do have Blake DeWitt who could keep the spot warm if he doesn’t take it outright, and Ryan Flaherty who could fill in at third at least on a platoon basis, and D.J. LeMahieu who projects as a .300 hitter in the majors and could platoon with Flaherty or DeWitt, and Josh Vitters who may be half a year or so away but still looks like a good, everyday third baseman… if he can clean up his defense. If the Cubs aren’t going to be in contention next season, why not let the young guys fight it out all season? Then again, an extra veteran in a young lineup could add some needed stability.

First Base
Carlos Pena, Jeff Baker, and Josh Vitters can all make a case to be the Opening Day first baseman in 2012. Bryan LaHair probably deserves a look as well, and could platoon with Baker or Vitters. But Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are lurking on the horizon, waiting for a deal that will be worth about $25 million a season, minimum. The Cubs can afford it. Should they? That’s a different issue. Maybe it would be better to let Vitter, Baker, and Lehair share the position until one of the first base prospects is ready to go. Or maybe the Cubs could trade for a first baseman.

And that is just to get our GM candidates started. They will also have input on the future of the Cubs relationship with the Boise Hawks, international scouting, the future of Wrigley Field, future relationships with Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace, and more.

It will be a tough job, but I think the Cubs will have plenty of applicants.