As you know by now, the non-waiver trade deadline passed yesterday, and the Chicago Cubs – to use the euphemism that everyone appears to be fond of using – “stood pat.”
The expression “standing pat” finds its origin in the game of poker. When a player is dealt a good hand, one that he believes can win, he takes no more cards and is said to “stand pat.” This is frequently the definition you’ll find if you look up “standing pat,” and it doesn’t much sound like it applies to a team 22 games under .500 on August 1.
There is, of course, a second definition of “standing pat”: “to oppose or resist change.”
Ah. So maybe the Cubs are, indeed, “standing pat.”
The team’s GM, Jim Hendry, yesterday took to the media to explain the lack of movement, and he used all of the predictable lines.
“I wasn’t expecting,” Hendry said, “a high percentage or likelihood of something significant being done. So you do the best you can.”
The “best,” apparently, was synonymous with “nothing.”
“Obviously, what we needed to do for sure was to trade [Fukudome],” Hendry said. “That was important because you have somebody behind him that we needed to play in Colvin.”
In the four games since Fukudome was traded, Colvin has started just twice. And he batted 8th both times.
Hendry also said that he tried to make some moves that didn’t work out, but the Cubs could get back what they wanted.
I have no doubt that, with respect to some players, the offers received were inadequate. I cannot, however, buy that for every player. I look at the returns yielded by the Michael Bourn and Mike Adams deals, for example, and I can’t help but wonder what Marlon Byrd and Carlos Marmol might have returned. And, as I mentioned during the Trade Deadline Blogathon, the return on Marmol was rumored to be as good as – if not better – than what the Padres got for Adams.
Hendry tried to remain optimistic about the possibility of August trades, before selling us a bill of goods about the guys who go untraded being the ones the Cubs want to keep for 2012.
“A lot of things can still happen. Last year, I think we made two trades in August, [Mike] Fontenot and Derrek Lee, one the 11th, one was the 18th and got some certainly respectable prospects back. I think the days are gone where it has to be done by the deadline or everybody gets [upset]. If you didn’t do something by 3 o’clock, this is a disaster or that’s a disaster. I don’t put much stock in that. The guys we kept are for the most part guys that still have a chance to be involved next year.”
Does Hendry legitimately believe that this collection of players – this team that is 22 games under .500, the second-worst in all of baseball – is somehow going to improve by 20 or 30 games next year simply by aging? He can’t possibly believe that. In the parlance of poker, he can’t possibly believe the Cubs can win with this hand.
So, once again, I’m left only to conclude that there is “something” else going on. Now that I’ve slept, I’d like to submit that there are two possible “somethings.”
One possibility, which I’ve pushed rather heavily over the last few days, is that everyone in the Cubs’ organization understands that Jim Hendry is a lame duck. He’s not coming back next year. And, for that reason, Tom Ricketts (and/or whatever secret brain trust he uses) has decided that it would not be prudent to allow Jim Hendry to trade away players whom the next GM might want to keep. Because the next GM and/or President is probably currently employed, the Cubs can’t make a front office move until after the season. So, we’re stuck with a move-less deadline. Such is the problem with a lame duck.
Another possibility, explaining the lack of moves, is that Jim Hendry is playing a game of chicken. He didn’t like the offers he received, and he’s gambling that his most tradable players will either clear waivers or will be claimed only by the team with which the Cubs probably would have been dealing anyway. And he’s gambling that, as the month goes on, said team will become more desperate for its Cubs player of interest. And he’s gambling that, with respect to Carlos Pena, if he can’t find a deal to his liking, he’ll get a draft pick if and when Pena leaves in the offseason.
Altogether, it’s a risky strategy, and not one I’d endorse. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and all that. But, I suppose it could be Hendry’s last ditch effort to save his job. A Hail Mary. If he somehow manages to unload and get a good return for Pena, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, etc., then maybe he knows what he’s doing after all. At least, that’s what he’d argue.
Whatever the explanation, here’s what we know: today, the Chicago Cubs are essentially the same team that has underachieved, disappointed, and embarrassed since Opening Day. If that wasn’t going to change at the trade deadline, when exactly is it going to change?