Late yesterday, writers were buzzing with quotes from Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry, emerging from a couple days’ worth of organizational meetings, about the team’s immediate future. The Cubs aren’t conducting a fire sale, the stories said. The Cubs won’t be trading core players, the stories said. Hendry still has hope, the stories said.

I think those stories missed the story.

Let’s take a closer look at precisely what Hendry said:

“I read some things that people assume. They use the word ‘fire sale.’ That’s not going to happen. We’re not interested in trading people at all that will be valuable to us moving forward. People like to float names of your better players, which makes no sense to trade. If we make moves, it will be designed to make us better for the future, and we still want see how we play the next month or so. Everybody thinks you have to be a buyer or a seller or it’s fire sale time. Well, we’ve got a lot of young people out there pitching and playing or some people who will be very productive for us a year from now that when you get ready to put together a team in the off-season, you certainly don’t want to start out without them anyhow …. We’re certainly going to hold on to the people, no matter what, we feel will be major contributors down the road.”

Addressing the obvious first: Hendry all but conceded that he’s going to try and trade guys who are free agents at the end of the year. So, guys like Carlos Pena, Kosuke Fukudome, Reed Johnson, John Grabow – perhaps even Aramis Ramirez and Kerry Wood – are clearly available.

But what about the more intriguing players? The players for whom other teams might really be willing to pony up? The Ryan Dempsters, the Geovany Sotos, the Sean Marshalls, the Carlos Marmols or the Matt Garzas? I think they’re available, as they should be for the right offer.

The Cubs’ brass met this week to discuss a plan of attack for the trade season. They brought in most of their scouts organization-wide, which – despite what Hendry has said about “business as usual” – is an atypical move. And the sense bleeding out of those meetings, so says a scout with another organization, is that no player is completely untouchable except Starlin Castro.

Nothing in Hendry’s statement tells me that sense is mistaken.

But, Hendry said they aren’t having a fire sale! He said they want to keep young, productive players! But he said they want to hold onto guys who will be major contributors down the road!

First of all, Hendry has become a master at using many words, but saying nothing at all. “Fire sale” is an ambiguous term, and Hendry knows it. To him, not having a “fire sale” means the Cubs aren’t trading every single valuable player on the team. Ok. Huge news there. Also ambiguous? Holding onto future “major contributors” (if a guy gets traded, well, he wasn’t expected to be a “major contributor”).

Second, Hendry admits that the Cubs will make moves “designed to make [the Cubs] better in the future.” Of course the Cubs aren’t going to trade all of guys like Dempster/Soto/Marshall/Marmol/Garza. Hell, they might not trade any of them. But if the Cubs trade a handful of players, and get back in return players who “make [the Cubs] better in the future,” then Hendry has lived up to his statement. Newsflash: that’s virtually every sell trade in the history of sell trades.

Further, everyone seems to ignore the gamesmanship aspect of the statements. If Hendry doesn’t express a desire to keep guys who are under contract for 2012 (and beyond), then he loses leverage in trade negotiations involving those players. Good management makes statements like this *all the time* in public while simultaneously conducting negotiations in private. Hendry is sending a message: he’s not saying guys like Dempster or Soto or Marshall or Marmol or even Garza are totally unavailable; he’s saying that, if you want one of these guys, you better be prepared to wow me. And you better make sure the deal is something I can show helps the Cubs in 2012.

That was the only meaningful qualifier in anything Hendry said.

To be clear, I think it’s most likely that the Cubs trade a few free-agents-to-be, and call it a trade season. But, if it plays out that way, it won’t be because the more valuable players were totally unavailable (though you might be sold that bill of goods after the fact). It will be because the offers weren’t sufficiently defensible.

  • TSB

    Hendry looks like he’s been meeting in front of the refrigerator too many times.

  • Cheryl

    Ace, I think you’re right on. The terms Hendry used were vague enough to justify any move he makes. There are some players that are inconsistent but marketable – I put Marmol in this category. The right offer should bear some fruit for almost all of the players. Even Barney, whom I like, could be traded if there is a good offer that will upgrade pitching. There are players behind Barney that could step into his shoes and thus make this trade possible. Hendry is using gamesmanship now. It’ll be interesting to see the results.

    • hardtop

      thats a couple times marmols been mentioned: i guess my question is where do we get someone to replace him? given last night he was bad marmol, but when he’s good marmol, and he is more often than not, he’s dominate. i know we dont have a stud in the minors with nasty stuff just waiting to come up and be a big league closer, and it seems true closers in marmols “leaugue” rarely come along. Im not saying we shouldnt let him go, i really just want to know who replaces him? do we go out and get another closer via free agency or trade? and do we think he’ll be better than marmol?

      • TWC

        He’s always kinda-bad Marmol. It’s rare that he has a 1-2-3 inning. His WHiP is way too high for a closer, he’s got an astronomical BB/9, and this year especially his H/9 rate is way up.

        I’m not sure that Marshall can do it, but he’s below Marmol on all of those categories. The only thing that Marmol has on his is Marmol’s K/9 rate, which is spectacular. He also starts costing a lot of money next year and in 2013.

        • Michigan Goat

          Problem with Marmol is he lives and dies with that wicked slider. He doesn’t get to break for a strike he’s in trouble, hitters know it can’t be hit so they let him get to 3-0, 3-1 counts and either take a walk or wait for the fastball. But when he has complete control of his slider there is no one better. I wonder if he misses Rothchild or if it’s just a pitch he can’t seem to control this year. As for closers, a great long lasting one is very rare and is something every team desire. I say trade him, and we will find someone… Maybe Cashner, he was a closer when we drafted him.

          • TWC

            When that slider’s on, it’s amazing. It’s great fun to watch right handed batters flinch out of the way of the incoming pitch only to see it end up halfway across the left-hander’s batter’s box.

            • EQ

              Isn’t Heath Bell a FA next year?

  • die hard

    hendry should trade hendry first…he has no credibility around league anymore….no more bona fides….no more how you say advantage of not being taken advantage of….if you let him
    go and bring in minor league player of personnel (whats his name?) and make him GM with 5 yr contract…then word around league is that new guy has owners confidence which is like possession being 9/10 of the law…you got my meaning?

  • die hard

    p.s. hendry nice guy but no more political capital to spend….out with old and in with new

  • Jeff

    Ace, you are full of flowers and puppies when it comes to Hendry and Ricketts as usual. I think our demeanor’s must be different, because all I took out of all that b.s. that he was spewing is that he’s planning on being around after this season, and he legitimately thinks the Cubs are better than their record indicates. I really hope I’m wrong and you are right about this, but I honestly think we are looking at pretty much the same team again next year, minus some role players and maybe Fukudome(who I think Hendry wants to re-sign if he can)

    • Ace

      Dude, I know you did not just call me full of flowers and puppies with respect to Hendry. That was in no way defending Hendry – it was explaining the things he *wasn’t* saying, and noting what I’ve heard from a scout. Your hatred is blinding you.

      • Jeff

        Since I got the honor of a double reply, I’ll have to return the favor.

        It’s not my hate that’s binding me, it’s my hope. You should know this as well as any Cub’s fan, our hope is all we have sometimes. Seeing and hearing Hendry these last couple of years has led me to disassociate the man from hope. He is the opposite of hope, so I think he needs to be removed from equation.

        • http://BleacherNation Bric

          Hendry’s number is already up, and apparently everyone knows it but him. When Ricketts sees his initial investment drop another 100 mil in value (and it’s probably dropping about 1 to 2 mil a game due to the economy, team production, projections for future business, and current and future costs) he’ll put a cap in Hendry’s fat behind and do whatever it takes to return to a decent profit margin. Business is business.
          Most fans and readers know this already. I doubt many fans are still looking for a 12 game winning streak to right the ship when the coach has already said winning even 3 in a row is over rated. Unless Ricketts and Hendry are total idiots they know this, too. they’re just trying to fill a few more seats and sell a few more jerseys while they figure out how to get the f out of this mess before July 31.
          But flling in the blanks for some cleverly crafted speech written by his PR department is playing right into their hands. The only stake I have in this game is I love the Cubs and hate Hendry. Yep, I said it. I hate the man. Right now most Cubs fans do. And unfortunately anybody trying to “translate” for him is going to look like they’re defending him.

    • Ace

      And, in case it wasn’t clear, the main reason I’m SEMI-full of flowers and puppies with respect to Ricketts is tied to the Josh Byrnes rumor from earlier this week. If Ricketts is indeed thinking along the lines described in that post (not just Byrnes, specifically), I like where his head’s at. I just couldn’t share the info until this week.

      • Jeff

        No, I got you, it was said in jest. You seem like a pretty intelligent guy, I have no doubts that you are looking at things without the blinders. Like I said, I really hope you are right and they are doing their due diligence and Hendry is just being a stand up guy and taking all the heat while he’s a lame duck. I just have a nagging feeling in my gut that things are going to keep going as they are. Maybe it’s because I’ve never seen the Cubs truly rebuild, they always seem to cover holes the cheapest and/or easiest way possible, and it’s hard to actually believe in a guy who hasn’t done or said anything so far to make me think he’s really going to pull the trigger on all of this.

        • Toosh

          I hope Ace is right, Jeff, but I feel like you do. I think Ricketts will keep the status quo. Kenney and Hendry and Quade will stay into 2012 and beyond.

          • Ace

            Once bitten, twice shy.

        • Ace

          Hendry staying on next year is always a possibility. A bad one, to be sure, but a possibility (he is, after all, still under contract). But I think at this point it’s far from the most likely possibility.

  • Caleb

    Who ISN’T available if the offer is sweet enough?

    This is pretty much no-news. Every GM is going to say the same things. If you want something of ours, give us something we want. What else is there to say without knowing the specifics of any negotiations? You’re right in that some are more likely to be shopped around than others, but I don’t think we’ll see much movement before the deadline.

    Hendry’s reasoning is that the team is stronger than the record suggests. Since our record is awful, it’s hard to disagree. If he gets rid of too many players, then he’s essentially admitting that it’s the team, and not the circumstances (read: injuries), that have held the team down. If he only pulls a few moves, shores up for 2012 and unloads some salary, then he shows faith in the team that he professes faith for.

    And I don’t see Garza going anywhere, unless it’s to St. Louis or Milwaukee for some added power at first base. He traded too much in the way of future players to acquire him.

    Still… trading season is always kind of exciting. Especially when baseball season is kind of not.

    • Ace

      “Who ISN’T available if the offer is sweet enough? This is pretty much no-news.”

      That’s largely my point. If you read about Hendry’s comments anywhere else, they were – almost uniformly – followed by statements suggesting that Hendry was saying guys like Marmol, Marshall, Garza, etc. were absolutely not going to be traded.

      As I said, I don’t think that’s accurate. They probably won’t be traded. But the Cubs will listen to offers – which is how it usually is.

      • Caleb

        Right- meant that as a “as Ace says, this is no-news” rather than “I disagree with Ace, this is no-news.” So, agree to agree?

        Also, I’d like to mention yet again that I vote my strongest vote for keeping Reed Johnson. Love that guy. Plus, he’s one of the best fill-in, bench guys you could ever want. And we pay him, what- 900k? No reason at all to get rid of him just to give Fielder or Pujols 27 rather than 26 million a year. If Hendry gets rid of Reed for dumb reasons before the deadline, I will officially join the anti-Hendry club. Yup, laying it on the line.

        • Ace

          I can only assume that Reed has naked pictures of you.

  • Caleb

    Kerry Wood’s wife, Sarah, is on the radio broadcast today. So I googled her…. way to go, Kerry. Way to go.