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The Cubs Season Will Be Relevant Soon


May 19, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster (46) delivers a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE

The Chicago Cubs enter play against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night with a record of 15 and 29. In addition the Cubs are riding a losing streak of nine consecutive games, and the team is currently the worst in all of Major League baseball. The seats at Wrigley Field are emptying by the minute. Those that are in attendance have the opportunity to witness history. As the 2012 Cubs are on pace to be the worst team in the entire history of the Cubs.

But don’t worry, the Cubs are going to be relevant this season. This relevancy may be coming fairly soon.

As the schedule turns to the month of June, many teams will begin to formulate their strategies for the second half of the season. This process includes classifying whether you are a buyer or seller, re-assessing the minor league system, and examining what your areas of need are in regards to making trades during the second half of the season.

This should not be a long process for Cubs’ president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. The Cubs are obvious sellers this season, their minor league system lacks depth, and the team could stand to improve their pitching depth in any trade that the team makes leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.

The Cubs have been among baseball’s quieter teams around the July 31 trade deadline since 2009. In both 2009, former general manager Jim Hendry did not have the resources available to make a trade to improve the Cubs’ status as buyers. In both 2010 and 2011 respectively, Hendry was unwilling to commit to the idea of rebuilding.

Epstein and Hoyer, however, have committed to a rebuilding project. Not only for the Major League team but for the entire organization. This philosophy was on display the Cubs opted to trade Carlos Zambrano, Sean Marshall, Tyler Colvin, Andrew Cashner, and DJ LeMahieu this past off-season. As Gordon Wittenmyer wrote in the Chicago Sun Times today, those players were all a part of a list of players that Epstein and Hoyer are going to trade during this rebuilding process. According to Wittenmyer, this list also includes starting pitcher Ryan Dempster, reliever Carlos Marmol, catcher Geovany Soto, starting pitcher Matt Garza, pitcher Randy Wells, left fielder Alfonso Soriano, and infielders Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt. Wittenmyer believes that Dempster, Marmol, and Soto in that order are the most likely to be traded.

Given how the new CBA rules increase the difficulty for the Cubs to receive compensation for Dempster if he signs with a new team this off-season, it seems likely that the Cubs will try to trade the 35 year old starting pitcher at some point this season. Not only has Dempster been the best starting pitcher on the Cubs, he has been one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball. Dempster is 0 and 2 on the season to go along with an ERA of 2.28 and a WHIP of 1.06. If Dempster continues this pace, the Cubs could stand receive a healthy package of prospects for the starting pitcher. With Matt Garza appearing the be a long-term building block for Epstein and the Cubs, trading Dempster may be too good of an opportunity for the Cubs to pass up. Especially when one considers the fact that Epstein does not value some of the current Cubs prospects the same way the previous regime did.

Carlos Marmol does not have a future with the organization. It is as simple as that. The issue is that Marmol is scheduled to make $9.8 million during the 2013 season. Marmol’s performance over the past two seasons certainly does not warrant his inflated contract. Closers are always over-valued around the trade deadline. Assuming the Cubs take on majority of Marmol’s contract, there should be a team that takes a chance on the 29 year old closer.

It was a poor time for Geovany Soto to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery. The catcher was hitting .161/.250/.301/.551 with 6 RBIs prior to his surgery this past weekend. Soto is scheduled to miss the next three to four weeks. During that time, Steve Clevenger is expected to receive a bulk of the playing time. Welington Castillo also figures to receive some starts as well. If either Clevenger or Castillo succeed while Soto is on the disabled list, the 29 year old catcher may not be a starter once he returns from the disabled list. There have been catching injuries in Washington so there may be interest there. The Tampa Bay Rays have also been linked to Soto since Spring Training. In any event, Soto is going to have prove he is healthy before a team trades for him.

While the Cubs record has made the team irrelevant in the standings, the 2012 season will prove to be a relevant season for the Cubs and their long-term future.