The 2001 Chicago Cubs missed the postseason despite finishing the year with an 88-74 record. Heading into 2002, they seemed primed to continue a positive trend. The team was also set up heading into that year’s draft, losing a trio of players, which earned them three compensatory first-round selections.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer changed the plane of how the Cubs came around to draft players. It would not be the case for a long time, and Jim Hendry had just taken over heading into the 2002 season.
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In hindsight, the 2002 MLB Draft was not overly exciting. The Cubs selected a right-hander out of Rutgers, who never did amount to much. In the second round, however, the division rival Cincinnati Reds picked a kid from Canada, and it changed the course of history on the Northside.
Chicago Cubs: Third time was not the charm for Joey Votto
The Cubs gained their three compensatory picks after losing Rondell White, Todd Van Poppel and LaTroy Hawkins. Three choices, three chances at Votto. The Reds landed Votto for a cool $600,000 and, if you read his scouting report from 2003, he ranked as the Reds’ number 14 overall prospect.
It is incredible how the Cubs, and other teams, missed out on Votto. Cubs fans are well aware of the Hendry era, and maybe it played into the decision-making. However, Votto has been a top talent in baseball for a long time.
Changing the course of Cubs’ history may be a bit exaggerated. However, it would have played more into who the Cubs became in the Theo era if you connect some dots. Votto made his debut in 2007 with a monster season.
Aramis Ramirez was dominant at the hot corner at the time, and it would be years before Kris Bryant carved his spot. However, by 2012 Votto was an established All-Star. The Reds also never had plans for Votto at third base.
What would have happened had Hendry used one of those picks on Votto in the compensatory round? Likely, assuming Votto had still become who he is today, he would have signed for a more significant bonus, and maybe the Cubs would have passed on Bryant.
Or, they would have ultimately selected Bryant in 2013 and would not have had reason to acquire Anthony Rizzo. A Cubs team without the captain is not something I want to imagine.
Baseball is full of mysticism. It has unique energy unquestioned to any other professional sport. It has worked out brilliantly for the Cubs and Reds, and Votto has enjoyed a strong career in Cincy. But, for that split second, there is intrigue in looking back and thinking, “what if?”