Monday, January 7, 2013

What exactly are the Cubs doing?

After trading away a vast amount of talent last season, the Chicago Cubs have done little to replace it. What exactly does their front office have in mind in this 2013 baseball season?

by: Parker Perry @ParkerPerry_

If you are a young, up and coming prospect that is a part of a franchise that is looking to address a missing piece to compete for a 2013 postseason birth, you very well could be a Cub in the near future.

The Chicago Cubs have taken a special approach that only a franchise like the Cubs can. Chicago has waved the white flag this season. They are not fielding a competitive team, despite what some say about their hardly average rotation. The Cubs are going nowhere in 2013.

But they are growing the organization from the ground up. Chicago is signing veteran players cheaply in anticipation of getting them at bats so a few of them can capture their old selves. Then they will trade those old versions for talented, newer versions whom organization is trying to clinch the playoffs. You have to have a large, die hard fan bases that accept losing to pull this off.

Building from the ground up. It is a brilliant strategy however slow working it is. The Cubs are likely not going to be legitimate contenders for another four or five years. Nevertheless, assuming that the Cubs scouting department is up to the standard that allows them to execute the proper trades, when the Cubs are contenders they will be a deep franchise attempting to break the longest curse known to man.

It is a curse that many have attempted, and failed, to crack.

At some point an organization needs to realize that it has hit rock bottom. When the old regime refuses to acknowledge that their way is not working, is when it starts packing up its belongings from the offices and the brown boxes are seen leaving the facilities. And incomes a new leader that sparks encouragement from fans, and perhaps even strikes a modest amount of fear into the franchises closes rivals.

In came Theo Epstein, now in his second year as the leader of the Chicago Cubs. I have to admit that I was nervous when it was announced that he was taking over. And he has done nothing to ease my concerns. It appears the Reds will have their hands full in the coming years.

“... what we’re trying to accomplish, which is not just win the World Series in 2012 but build something bigger and more sustainable for the long-term,,," Epstein said after pulling the trigger on the Sean Marshall deal

It all started last season. Epstein inherited a franchise that was long on talent but short on wins. Curt on competitiveness and having extensive needs. He opened the franchise to poachers. The Cubs had plenty of puzzle pieces, but no corner piece to really get the club going. They traded white sky pieces in hopes of landing a corner that would lead to other pieces and success.

The Reds got in on the action. They picked up the stud reliever Marshall for Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes. Neither of the players the Reds gave up did anything spectacular in the majors last season, but that does not rule out the possibility that those players could contribute in the near future.

While they did get an early start, closer to the trade deadline was when the plan became clear. The Cubs traded Geovany Soto, Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson and Ryan Dempster. It is one thing for a non-contender to trade a player for young talent near the trade deadline. It is a whole other thing for the front office to trade most of its roster.

And they clearly plan on doing it again. This time however, rather mischievously.

I don’t think it's often that a player is signed in complete hope of trading him at a later date. But how else can you explain the Cubs signing a player like Nate Schierholtz’s to a one year deal? Chances are high that Schierholtz will see a lot of playing time with Chicago this season. And if he is able to return to his late 2000’s form, he will likely be traded for prospects. His one year, 2.5 million dollar contract is full proof. If he is a success, any team can take on his contract. If he fails, there is hardly any repercussion.

The same can be said for players like Edwin Jackson and Dontrelle Willis, who were signed just this month. No way does Chicago sign Willis if they expect to be a world series contending team. However they do sign him if they have future plans if he works out--most likely in the bullpen.

The Chicago Cubs have a plan. And though it is going to take some time for it to work, it does not mean that it is a bad one. It will likely land Chicago in last place now that the Astros have left the division, but in the near future I would not be surprised if the Cubs are playing meaningful baseball in September and October.

Information from Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter and's Carrie Muskat was used in this article.

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