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If the offseason were the season, the Chicago Cubs might have made the playoffs.

That’s because, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the Cubs had the second best offseason in the NL Central (behind, obviously, the Brewers).

Well, the Cubs got better. We’ll give them that. But how much better? That depends.

Depends on whether Garza can be No-Hit Matt instead of Give Up 19 Runs in Three Starts in September Matt. Depends on whether Pena hits .280 instead of .180. Depends on whether Wood makes 60 trips to the mound or spends 60 days on the DL.

But assuming Garza gets the bounce pitchers normally get when they escape the AL East for the NL Central, he was well worth trading for, with three years left before he hits free agency. And while $10 million was a little hefty for a guy who didn’t cross the Mendoza Line, Pena was a decent one-year investment. And for $1.5 million, Wood might be the best buy any team made all winter.

Oh, and let’s not forget the managerial change. The Cubs won 24 of their 37 games with Quade as the interim manager last year — after winning 24 of their final 66 games under Piniella. So despite all the sexier managerial names the Cubs could have chased, Quade earned this gig.

Setting aside the suggestion that a 37-game, late-season, interim stretch, presiding over a team that was long out of contention could prove that a manager had “earned” much of anything, Stark’s comments are spot on. This offseason was quite good for the ML Cubs team, and they are better poised to contend now than they were on September 30, 2010.

Howeva.

Talk of offseason moves on the big club ignores the damage that was done to the Cubs’ farm system. We can debate whether the damage was worth it (i.e., whether adding Garza makes the Cubs a legitimate contender), but we can’t debate that the harm was, in fact, done.

And let’s not forget that the addition of Garza is really more of a replacement – he replaces Ted Lilly, whom the Cubs did not technically lose in the offseason, but who was an integral part of the Cubs for three and a half years. In fact, because Garza could be viewed as a mere replacement for Lilly, and Pena a replacement for Lee, the only real addition the Cubs made is Kerry Wood. That’s a valuable addition, but does it really make the 2011 Cubs that much better than the 2010 iteration?

  • wax_eagle

    My guess is that the only thing that will truly make the Cubs competitive this year is for Ramirez to hit. If he can be his old self (or even 3/4 of his old self) this team isn’t that much different than the team that went to the playoffs a couple of years ago. Pena will need to be close to as good as Lee and Garza will have to be close to as good as Lilly.

    The biggest problem I see is that the Central is quite a bit better than it was in 07 or 08. The Brewers have improved their starting pitching and still have a scary lineup. The Reds if they stay healthy are contenders and the Cards can never be counted out with their rotation and line up.

    I think it was probably a bit foolish to deal for Garza this off season, although the extended team control should fit with the long term plan. None of the other moves the Cubs have made seem to be huge mistakes. Woody is a bargain and Pena fills a need for a single year, if he performs you can let him walk, if he doesn’t then you aren’t committed.

  • Philoe Beddoe

    I think its a great point that Ace makes in regards to looking at Garza and Pena as replacements and not additions….so the real question is are they upgrades?…you gain about 7 years of youth and about 6 million a year on Garza for Lilly..but you did lose a LEFTY..so I would say slight upgrade…Pena and Lee is a wash at best…you gain some years and gain a lefty bat, but lose huge in avg.

    then you look at what we got for Lilly as opposed to what we gave up for Garza…ahhh not so good….so as much as I admire Jayson Stark(whose book the Stark Truth is great)..I would have to say the offseason was just O.K….a C+ at best….

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