One of the most feared concepts under former general manager Jim Hendry’s regime was the concept of rebuilding. For whatever reason the front office under Hendry’s watch for the past eight seasons never was fully committed to the idea of rebuilding the major league team from the ground up. Hendry would field teams that consisted of over-acheiving veteran players, or teams filled with disappointing production from veteran players. Never once did Hendry fully commit to a youth movement, one that would see veteran after veteran being replaced on the roster in favor of a prospect from the Cubs’ farm system.
The idea of rebuilding is no longer feared, especially with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer in place as the team’s leading voices in the front office. In fact, more fans are embracing the idea of the Cubs rebuilding from the ground up. Such a strategy would hopefully result in the Cubs becoming an eventual perennial post-season contender. Both Epstein and Hoyer have mentioned on numerous occasions that key to building a successful organization is through the farm system. Developing that stream of talent between the minor league system and major league team is vital for any team. The Cubs are lacking that stream of talent. While the Cubs have turned out successful drafts in recent seasons, there is only so much that drafted prospects can provide. At some point the Cubs are going to have to take a step back in order to take a step forward.
That concept appears to be what Epstein and Hoyer may be implementing this winter. Multiple sources are confirming that the Cubs are telling other teams that they are willing to listen on everyone in the effort of making the team competitive for the future. Both Epstein and Hoyer have stopped short of saying that 2012 will be rebuilding year, though, that appears to be the direction the team is headed in. While it is not impossible to think that the Cubs can contend in 2012, it certainly is not a likely scenario. The issue is that the Cubs may have too many wholes to fill this winter, and with little internal options available to them, Epstein and Hoyer may be willing to trade some of the team’s top players if it meant advancing the progress of the farm system.
The name that immediately comes to mind as a possible trading chip is starting pitcher Matt Garza. Garza is a year removed from being traded by the Tampa Bay Rays to the Cubs, in a deal that saw the Cubs give up top prospects in pitcher Chris Archer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, catcher Robinson Chirinos, and super-hero Sam Fuld. If the Cubs are going to trade value, they are at least going to want the same value in return that they gave up for him last winter. Given the lack of quality starting pitchers on the free-agent market, teams will likely turn to the trade market to fill their starting pitching needs. The Cubs are one of those teams that are in need of starting pitching. This would be why the idea of trading Garza may seem counter-productive. Garza is under team control through the 2013 season, at which point he will be 30 years old. Garza is just now entering the prime of his career, and may bring more value to a team that is built to win now, rather than a team that is going to be built to win in 3 years. Going off that knowledge, the Cubs should at least put it out there that they are listening on Garza, and see if a team is willing to blow them away with an offer. If there is a team that makes such an offer, then Epstein and Hoyer should not be afraid to make the deal. If there isn’t, then Garza will be a valuable asset to have for when the Cubs are ready to compete.
The Cubs also have two pieces in their bullpen that can be considered as valuable trade assets. Closer Carlos Marmol and relief pitcher Sean Marshall are two players that other teams will likely take an interest in. Teams were begging the Cubs to place Marshall on the trade market prior to last season’s trade deadline, but the Cubs never considered trading the left handed reliever at any point during the season. Marshall has progressed into one of the most effective left-handed relievers in all of baseball. That alone is enough to make Marshall worth trading, and should put the Cubs in a position to receive a quality package of prospects for his services. As for Marmol, even if the Cubs were not in a rebuilding phase, it would still make sense for the team to trade their closer. Marmol has shown signs that he is not the dependable closer that the organization once thought he could be, and with the Philadelphia Phillies setting a steep price on closers by giving Jonathan Papelbon a four year, $50 million contract, teams are likely going to inquire on Marmol’s availability at some point this winter. If Marmol is traded, Andrew Cashner would seem to be an ideal replacement as the team’s next closer.
While his name will certainly come up in rumors, the Chicago Cubs are not going to entertain the idea of trading shortstop Starlin Castro. Though, the same can not be said for second baseman Darwin Barney, who may have outplayed his own shoes last season.
In any event, news of the Cubs putting a “for sale” sign up in regards to their major league roster should definitely make for a wild-ride this winter.