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.
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?