So, What’s the Plan if the Chicago Cubs Fall Out of Contention, and How Safe is Jim Hendry’s Job?

No, this is not a doom and gloom post based on one frustrating series loss. It’s also not just off-day filler.

This weekend, a tipster indicated that the Chicago Cubs do indeed have a plan in place if the team falls far out of contention by mid-season. Other teams have already started sniffing the not-yet-dead carcass of the Cubs, but the organization is letting those other teams know that they will not consider selling pieces off until and unless they fall 10 or so games out of the race by mid-season. Among the names already being scouted: Marlon Byrd, Ryan Dempster, and Matt Garza.

As always, it’s worth mentioning the huge caveat: teams scout other players all the time. One of the teams allegedly sending scouts the Cubs’ way is the New York Yankees – a future opponent. They could have any number of reasons for scouting the Cubs. And, even if teams are scouting players for trade purposes, that doesn’t mean a trade is imminent, or will even ever be proposed.

That said, it seems very likely that, if the Cubs are far out of contention by mid-season, they will do their best to unload pieces they do not see returning next year, and will allow some youngsters to come up and play. Depending on your optimism for this season, I know some of you would be pretty excited by that possibility.

An interesting and related issue: Jim Hendry is signed on as GM through next season, but reports this weekend (that one is from Ken Rosenthal) indicated that, if the Cubs don’t show “progress” this year, Hendry will be guided to an early exit. No surprise there, but what makes it particularly interesting is the obvious internal conflict – Hendry’s goal is to win and to win now. To show “progress.” The organization’s goal is to do what’s best long-term, especially if winning now becomes unlikely. If the Cubs fall out of it, is Hendry the right guy to start unloading pieces? Would he pull the trigger on a move that cripples the team this season, but brings back a healthy haul of prospects, knowing he might be signing his own pink slip?

For what it’s worth, Rosenthal mentioned Dodgers’ GM Ned Colletti, Padres’ VP of Baseball Ops Josh Byrnes (yes, please), and White Sox Assistant GM Rick Hahn as possible replacement candidates.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

71 responses to “So, What’s the Plan if the Chicago Cubs Fall Out of Contention, and How Safe is Jim Hendry’s Job?”

  1. TWC

    What’s odd is that Rosenthal followed all that up (from yesterday) with a column today explaining that the Cubs would be fools to drop Hendry, based solely on the fact that the Cubs have a lot of young talent, and that Hendry should reap the rewards.

    Going unmentioned in the article is the long list of crap contracts that he dished out to fill positions long-term, effectively blocking most of that young talent in the minors…

  2. funkster

    I’m in a serious moral dilemma…of course I want the team to do well, but I’m fed up with Hendry. I don’t think he’s done a terrible job, but I am ready for a change. i do NOT want him back next year…and if a slight improvement this year is enough to keep him on I will not be happy. I wouldn’t mind if Hahn was his replacement. Kenney’s has to go as well. Bring in a real baseball exec please.

  3. Raymond Robert Koenig

    Thought provoking article. I believe the Cubs will be 10 games out by July 1st. I could see the Yankees being interested in Dempster or Garza. I could see Hendry not getting much for Garza. I disagree that Hendry’s goal is to win now. I believe he doesn’t even have a plan. He just reacts. As for a replacement (hopefully), if I were “Jiminy” Ricketts, I’d be looking at the Rays’ (great name, by the way), player personnel department.

  4. funkster

    Garza isn’t going anywhere no matter how many games the Cubs are out in July.

    1. Wickit

      Don’t count on that, because sometimes you have to make tough decisions for the good of the team.

      1. Hogie

        We already did… to get him.

        1. Wickit

          What if we can get a legit power bat? We aren’t in shortage of arms in the systems. But we also over paid for him.

          1. Dan0mite

            There is no way Garza gets traded. The Cubs have him for 3 years and he is relatively cheap. He is a pretty good pitcher that still has a long career ahead of him. Finally, there is no way the Cubs could justify trading away several top tier prospects to get him and then just trade him away in the middle of his first season there.

            1. Raymond Robert Koenig

              Hendry can’t justify trading for Garza in the first place. Starting pitching was not the biggest team need at that time. And when Hendry decided he was going to trade some of the system’s top prospects for a SP, he should have gotten more in return than a Matt Garza. The only reason Hendry wouldn’t trade him to the Yankees, or any other team, is that it would make himself look even more incompetent. If that’s possible.

            2. pfk

              Exactly! Garza should be 3-1 or 4-1 now except for Marmol’s 2 blown saves and totally inept situational hitting. He’s damn good, proven and young.

            3. Wickit

              One name would justify trading Garza. Jesus Montero and just move him to 1B.

          2. pfk

            Are kidding? We have a huge shortage of arms in the system – at least for the next 2-3 years.

            1. Wickit

              Yes our up and coming are young but they are coming. McNutt maybe in Chicago by 2012, Whitenack has been impressive and Greathouse also looks good. Also He could also get a pretty good Pitching prospect for Garza.

  5. KB

    Colletti? WTF?

    Unlike funkster, I have no moral dilemma; I would be all for the Cubs pulling a Cleveland Spiders act, and losing every game for the rest of the season, as long as it got rid of the King of .500 ball.

    1. veryzer

      Put me down for this. Hovering around .500 all year does the team no good. Lose every game from here on out and gut this team from top to bottom.

      1. funkster

        I was being PC. I agree with you KB and Veryzer. And NO I do not want Ned Colleti either.

      2. Hogie

        gut this team from top to bottom?

        Grabow, Fukudome, Pena and Ramirez will be gone next year (more than likely), Soriano is untradeable. Other than Byrd and the starting pitching, and we will need our vets there for another year at the very least, the gutting will naturally take place at the end of the year. The rest of this team is very young.

  6. pfk

    I can’t believe all the talk of the Cubs being in “contention.” Contention for what? The organization has to look at itself compared to the elite teams: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Phillies, Colorado, Cardinals and even the Marlins (2 Series rings and whose payroll is almost $100M less than the Cubs and they are competing). This Cubs team (or organization) is nowhere near close to being spoken of in the same breath as those organizations. 10 games out? What the hell is that? Stop thinking of competing this year and get busy with the task at hand. A good organization will ask the question, “Are we really good enough to compete with those teams?” And, once they surely answer, “No,” the next question is, “What do we have to do to consistently compete with them – year in and year out? And, do we have the personnel in place to get there with the proper resources?” I actually do think they have the proper ownership with the right philosophy of dramatically improving the infrastructure: Wrigley Field, Spring Training facilities, Scouts around the world, new sources of revenue etc. I have a sense they have a real plan on all of those. Next is a front office with cutting edge thinking geared for the realities of today’s dynamics. I do not believe Hendry is the man to be leading the way from the GM’s seat. Nor is Crane Kenney from the team president seat. As a Suffering Cub Fan of over 60 years, if i saw them going in that direction, I’d be incredibly excited about going to Wrigley to watch the kids and all. I’m not going to see them “contend” as that is a fallacy and those who are looking for that are mired in the past with no eye on the real true future of a good organization that is hell bent on winning and playing with the big boys – on every level of the organization. I’d go to the ballpark to cheer on the whole organization, knowing we are finally, after all these years, going to have an elite organization. The Blackhawks are a prime example of ownership and front office turnaround to come into the 21st Century.

    1. veryzer

      I like this as well. Rebuild next year or go for it all, but quit the middle of the road/band-aid approach.

  7. Coal

    I have an opportuntity to go (as a guest) to a luncheon with Jim Hendry at Wrigley later this week. I’m looking for the perfect question that is polite enough so that I don’t get my friend (who’s not a Cubs fan but can bring a guest) in trouble, but pointed enough to actually learn something from the answer or (dream big) do my part to bring about Hendry’s demise.

    I’m taking suggestions!!!

    1. TWC

      “Hey, Hendry, are those real or are they implants?”

      1. pfk


    2. Caleb

      “Hey Jim. The Cardinals are widely-regarded as a very well run organization from top to bottom. While the Cubs certainly have strengths throughout their organization, what are some ways you think this could be improved?”

    3. ME1963

      Jim, Are you happy with the job you have done as GM of the Cubs or do you feel you have failed?

  8. TSB

    Play the rookies and younger players. The worst they can do is lose, which is what the Cubs are doing now with their high-salaried veterans. Sure they may get despondent, but would it be any better if they were palying their hearts out in AAA, and still not getting a shot because Joe Blow is in the way? Keep most of the pitching staff, they aren’t that bad actually…

  9. Bric

    Unfortunately the problem with Hendry is he’s lost his balls. He got too comfy with a couple of early career steals (Lee, Ramirez, Clement, Nomar, etc) that he started thinking he was smarter than everybody else and started looking for the perfect deal. But like a smart pitcher, the other execs started to figure him out.

    Because the ownership at the time allowed him to start dolling out these now ridiculous looking contracts it’s like knowing you had one to many at the bar the night before work. Instead of listening to that little voice saying stop now, you’re like- I’m hammered already, I may as well do it right, enjoy it now and hope for the best tomorrow.

    Too bad we (the fans) got no enjoyment out of it and now it’s tomorrow. I don’t see the Cubs being 10 out by July. I see them being about 7 out. So this madness will go on and on…. And where’s Ricketss? I thought he said JH’s job was only secure until he found a new coach… You gotta love an owner trusting the guy who just ran off the road to get the bus back on track.

    1. TWC

      Nomar was a “career steal”? Didn’t we pay him like $8 mil or something to get hurt and otherwise suck?

      1. Bric

        John Grabow got re-signed for almost that same amount and you’re bitching about Nomar making 8 mil? That’s the point I’m trying to make: at least he was a name that people knew and got them (and the players) excited and kept both interested past Bears training camp.
        Since then he’s arranged major, mid, and minor disasters (Bradley, Grabow, Pena, etc.) and has nothing to show positive other than Jeff Baker and Kerry Wood (thanks to a trust established when he still knew what he was doing).
        He keeps telling us and charging us like these guys are the Red Sox. They’re not. And it’s his fault. Nuff said.

        1. TWC

          Oh jeeeeeez, don’t get me started about Grabow. Absolute garbage. I wonder if he started looking around for the Candid Camera when his agent called him and told him what Hendry’s offer was.

          I understand what you’re saying. I remember reading about the Garciaparra signing and getting really excited about it (“wow, the Cubs signed a top-name free agent!”)… until, like April 12 of that season (or whenever it was) and he got hurt.

        2. Joe

          how can you mention disasters and not bring up Pierre? Seriously…

          1. Jeff

            The idea of Pierre was a good one, it’s not all Jim Hendry’s fault he sucked so bad when he got here and became a semi-competent leadoff hitter after he left.

            1. Coal

              I completely disagree with the idea that Pierre was a good signing. It was a knee jerk reaction to getting beat by the Marlins/Bartman. There was just this sort of paranoid rush to “get fast” or “get a true leadoff” hitter, etc. The same thing happened when the Cubs got spanked by the Dodgers in the playoffs. Oh, we’re “too right handed.” So we got a lefty/switch hitting psychopath that was a chemistry killer for a team that won 97 games. Same with overpaying for Fukudome in the rush for “a Japanese phenom” just because the Yankees and Red Sox had gone out to get them. Ditto with Soriano. Anyway, I think the focus by ownership for the past 5 years has been “win now to pump up the value of the team before I sell it” and that has been as much a part of the problem as Hendry. But he’s been at least half the problem. Too much knee jerk. When you are smitten, or are on record as saying things like “we’re too slow” or “too right handed” you just don’t end up in a very good bargaining position. In any field.

              1. Bric

                Exactly. That’s what i think too. Hendry’s still sratching his head why the F we haven’t won a single playoff game since 2003. Since then he’s been in a “Keep up with the Jones” mode. He keeps trying to sew up a ripped old t-shirt instead of buying a new one. The Ynkees and Mariners got a japanese phenom- we need one, too. The Marlins beat us with speed, we’ll get that speed from them. The Dodgers showed us we need a lefty power hitter- I’ll get one. The Brewers traded for Greinke- I’ll get Garza.
                Don’t bother having a thought of your own Jim, just keep replicating everyone else at twice the cost in prospects and dollars. Great plan.

                1. Raymond Robert Koenig

                  Well put. Hendry reacts. He doesn’t act.

            2. Joe

              Actually, Pierre gave us pretty much exactly what we should have expected — and THATS the problem…

              The Pierre deal is possibly the single worst trade-notch on his belt. It made zero sense, provided the crappy results we should have expected and we vastly overpaid for him just so we had a “prototypical lead-off hitter” on the absolute worst team in baseball.

              - okay, fine, the single worst move Hendry ever made was actually NOT trading for Roberts prior to the 08 season when it would have only cost us some 3-man combo out of Pie, Gallagher, Ceda, Cedeno and Veal. The Cubs would go on to be (arguably) the best team in baseball, but one that actually did desperately need a leadoff hitter and Second-Baseman which would have allowed DeRosa to become the best bench man in the game spelling everyone around the horn. All of it accumulates into THAT being Hendry’s truly darkest hour, by far, imo.

              Then of course we have the countless contract issues which have plagued the club over almost his entire tenure. Oh, and all the relievers — which, seriously, has there ever been a worse judge of Bullpen arms in the entire history of the game then the MacPhail/Hendry tandem-from-hell??? Oh, and then we get to things like Neifi and Burnitz and, well, I dont really want to think about all those brilliant ideas again… But anyway, as far as trades he really did make, the Pierre one is right up there near, if not at, the top.

  10. Caleb

    Two factors are holding the Cubs back from being several games over .500. 1) starting pitching took a serious blow. 2) clutch hitting. The first factor has been handled (poorly) and we find ourselves in a hole, but not as deep a hole as we could have been. The clutch hitting is probably mental. These are professional, seasoned, talented hitters who are just not hitting when they need to. I don’t know the answer to that problem, but swapping everyone out for AAA’rs is rash, unfair, and counter-productive.

    We’re already seeing a lot of young guys get a chance anyway, so there’s no need to just trot out an all-minor team and “see what happens.” That approach does nothing to help an organization. “Screw it, fire everybody” is as irresponsible of a decision as many of the decisions Hendry makes.

    Instead, I think Bleacher Nation needs to start featuring TWO chicks for the Cubs and only 1 for our opponent.

    Try it, Ace.

  11. jh

    Even the most pro Hendry person can only say he has been average. He has made some good moves and made some catastrophic moves. Alot of GMs can be described the same way. What Hendry lacks is the ability to create a long-term plan of success and consistency. I am sure some will attribute it to the pressure of Chicago but the “one piece away” mentality is a joke. My question is where are we going to get with Hendry that we haven’t been in the 9 years with him? He has shown a pattern of bad decisions sprinkled with gems and has been given a legitimate opportunity to make his time here a success. He has a loyal fan base, a town no player would turn down coming to and a massive payroll. No argument can be made saying that he needs more time to complete his masterpiece. Thanks Jim for what you have done but this team needs a cleanse and it should start with GM.

    1. Cardfan

      Outside looking in…

      Hendry would be “average” if he had 80% of the payroll he has been entrusted with. At 100% he is a failure. I hope you continue to tolerate him. That kind of money in the hands of a capable GM and you would have some very frustrated Cardfans out there.

      I fully support the “Two Chicks” approach, as well

      1. Raymond Robert Koenig

        Exactly! The Cubs have more revenue than any other team in their division, they make a larger profit than any other team in their division and Hendry spends more on his players than any other GM in his division. For that, the Cubs should be dominating their division every year and have one of the best farm systems in baseball. Hendry has failed on both counts.

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  13. Michigan Goat

    Here is my fear, Hendry signs Fielder (Poohole will stay a card) makes a couple of trades that get us some acceptable prospects, we show signs at the end of the year (just like last year) that we can compete and BAM Hendry gets to finish his contract. 2012 we are back to complaining about a lack of vision.

    Mr Ricketts please get rid of “The Jimbo and Q Show” before the off season. Make this your team, start the process now so that after the trade deadline you can make your move. There is too much money for Jimbo to spend this off season… DO NOT LET HIM!

  14. Raymond Robert Koenig

    At best. And I do believe a lot of scouts and GMs know that. There weren’t a lot of teams beating down Tampa’s door trying to trade for Matt Garza. If teams like Minnesota and Tampa didn’t want him, that should tell you something. They actually have good talent evaluators and player development systems. Garza will be long gone before the Cubs ever come close to sniffing a World Series. Hendry should be too. Fact.

    1. Hogie

      The Rays were dealing from a position of depth, fact, and yes other teams were inquiring on Garza as soon as he was made known. Are you really passing judgement on a young, proven pitcher after 7 starts in a Cubs uniform? I realize it is easy to not want to like the Garza trade, but a few weeks people were spazzing because Sam Fuld was off to a good start, complaining about why he was never given a chance and he shouldn’t have been thrown into the deal. Has anyone taken a look at his performance since? Garza has done it consistently against really good hitting for years. How many top prospects have we held onto only to watch them amount to 4th outfielders and AAAA guys? While there are many horrible moves that Hendry has made, Garza was not one of them.

      1. Raymond Robert Koenig

        SP was not a need then, but I’ll give Hendry the benefit of the doubt there. Once he decided he was going to trade 4 of his (arguably) best prospects for a SP, and once he decided the trade was going to be with the Rays, he should have gotten more than Garza. Garza +? Price? Hellickson +? He overpaid. Hopefully he pays the price with the loss of his job.

        1. Hogie

          HA HA HA Garza + Price for that package…HA HA HA…oh man, thanks for that

          P.S.- starting pitching for the next three years is a huge need

          1. Raymond Robert Koenig

            I didn’t write Garza + Price. You need to learn how to read. I wrote Garza +. Or Price. Hendry got fleeced.

            1. Hogie

              I stand corrected.

              1. Raymond Robert Koenig

                No problem.

  15. Cheryl

    If the predictions for the major league draft first round are correct there may be a major bat in the offing = Bubba. Otherwise, they seem to be emphasizing pitching again with little thought to first and third base. It seems like there will be a lot of players gone next year and Hendry and Quade may booth be gone. Quade seems to have an inability to play anyone but veterans and his mastery of the pitching staff isn’t there. With the mention of trading Garza, I don’t see it. But Dempster seems more likely to command interest. The other “Vets” don’t seem to have much in the way of a market.

  16. Jeff

    I think the only way Bubba Starling falls to the Cubs is if too many teams are scared off because of his contract demands. I’m also not sure that Ricketts will approve a large signing bonus for a draft pick. I have been hearing they are at least considering a couple of college pitchers at 9.

  17. Cheryl

    If Bubba falls their way, I hope they don’t muff it. But you may be right Jeff. I just saw it in one of the draft predictions.