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If you’re even remotely interested things like the hot stove, the Winter Meetings, the trade deadline, the waiver trade deadline, the draft, GM moves, managerial hires (yeah, I could go for another three lines, but won’t), etc., then I’d hazard a guess that you’re familiar with MLB news and rumor monolith, MLB Trade Rumors. Started by Tim Dierkes in November 2005, MLBTR has become the preeminent clearinghouse for all things baseball, and a drool-inducing model of success for humble Mom ‘n Pop bloggers such as yours truly.

So, when I had the opportunity to interview Dierkes – a lifelong Cubs fan – I jumped. The guy knows MLB rumors as well as anyone, and his thoughts on the Chicago Cubs’ offseason plans, chances in 2012, and long-term future are as interesting and relevant as anyone’s. From the sound of things, Dierkes sees the Cubs having an active Winter, and remains as hopeful as any of us for 2012.

Concrete Cubs-related rumors (assuming that isn’t an oxymoron) have been relatively hard to come by so far this Winter, with the exception of yesterday’s relative rumor bonanza. Do you attribute it to a new front office still in information-gathering mode, a particularly tight-lipped front office, a lack of Chicago media connections to/sources with the new front office, or a genuine lack of activity on the part of the Cubs?

Dierkes: I view it as a combination of the second and third factors you mentioned. We can only guess how well-connected the Chicago media is in the new Cubs’ front office, but it has been my impression for a while now that the Chicago media does not necessarily treat scoops for the Cubs and Sox as their top priority (and that’s not a bad thing). I also do believe the front office is tight-lipped. Theo Epstein in particular has a reputation for not disclosing much information, so I imagine privately he’s the same way. I also think the holdovers from Jim Hendry’s regime are paranoid about having an information leak traced to them.

Loose lips sink ships, and all that. So, do you think the Cubs will seriously entertain offers for Matt Garza this Winter (beyond a mere “we’ll listen on anybody”)?

Dierkes: Yes, I think they will seriously entertain offers. I view this as similar to Jed Hoyer’s situation when he traded Adrian Gonzalez. He was realistic about his team’s immediate chances of contention, and even coming off a near-playoff run he received an offer he couldn’t turn down on his best player and pulled the trigger even though it made the team worse in 2011.

Does that mean trading Garza will necessarily make the Cubs worse in 2012? Is it even the right move?

Dierkes: Most Garza trade scenarios make the team worse in 2012, unless the Cubs are really clever. Not to cop out, but I can’t say whether trading him now is the right move until I see the offers.

Speaking of those offers, what kind of return can Cubs fans hope for if Garza is dealt?

Dierkes: I’d want a top 30 type of pitching prospect, another good young player or two, and perhaps someone I could plug into the rotation too.

Setting aside whether trading Garza makes the Cubs worse in 2012, which, as you said, is unknowable without first seeing what the return is, does trading Garza signal a white flag on the 2012 season for the Cubs?

Dierkes: I don’t think moving him signals a white flag necessarily. Completely punting the 2012 season seems highly unlikely, just because it’s the Cubs and they still have strong attendance relative to other teams. If you look at Hoyer after the Adrian trade, he spent over $20MM on guys like Orlando Hudson, Aaron Harang, Brad Hawpe, Chad Qualls, and Jason Bartlett. He also traded for Cameron Maybin. While that approach didn’t create a contender in 2011, that was his goal. The Cubs could make short-term moves like that on a larger scale, and I think we saw that with their interest in Grady Sizemore.

If the Cubs, then, do go out and actively pursue some big-money free agents, whom do you see them pursuing? Pujols? Fielder? Wilson? Buehrle? Darvish? Cespedes?

Dierkes: Of those six, I think Cespedes is both the most likely and the best fit. As for the others, I don’t mind a pursuit of them, but I think you have to make their 2012 seasons count and that could mean going all-in on free agency and getting two of them, kind of like Hendry in 2006-07. There’s a school of thought that Cubs have the need and money for Pujols, Fielder, or Darvish, and if they think one of them is special enough they might have to make a move for that reason.

Would locking down Cespedes be a good move for the Cubs?

Dierkes: With teams unable to go over slot in the draft or spend big in Latin America like before, Cespedes represents the rare somewhat young player in this new landscape who can be had just be flexing financial muscle. If the Cubs believe he’s really 26, and they think he’s a 20 home run center fielder or a 30 home run corner outfielder with decent defense within one year, $40-50MM over six to eight years is good value. With the 2012 team not looking great, the Cubs wouldn’t feel pressure to get Cespedes in the Majors right away, which would be good for his development.

I have to back up and ask about Pujols. The multiply-sourced rumors that the Cubs are pursuing Pujols and have reached out to his agent: genuine interest, or a controlled leak by the Cubs or Pujols’ agent, designed to up the money he’ll get from the Cardinals?

Dierkes: It seems possible that even if the Cubs don’t truly want to sign Pujols, they share a common goal with Dan Lozano in wanting to drive Pujols’ price as high as possible. That said, it’s not as if the Cardinals didn’t think the Cubs could ever get involved. I think at this stage the Cubs are doing their due diligence on Pujols.

One of the primary reasons Cubs fans were exuberant in response to Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod coming on board was the belief that these guys know how to build an organization the right way. The “right way,” in this instance, being through wise and extensive draft spending, as well as international spending (something the Cubs had already been building out in recent years). With the new CBA drastically limiting those avenues, are the Cubs screwed? Is the only alternative shifting those dollars to the Major League payroll?

Dierkes: I wouldn’t say they’re screwed. The new CBA does take away the advantage teams were getting by putting extra money into the draft and Latin America, and the Cubs probably would have done that, so it will clearly be more difficult. Still, the Cubs can make better draft choices than their predecessors, and they can move Garza, Soto, and Marshall for cheaper, younger players. The Cubs will have to be more creative given the new CBA, but I’m sure the new front office has ideas to meet the challenge.

Any thoughts on a few surprise free agency or trade candidates for the Cubs? Perhaps lesser-tier players who’ve not yet been publicly connected to the Cubs? I saw that you guessed in the MLBTR free agent prediction contest that the Cubs might sign outfielder David DeJesus and pitcher Joel Pineiro. Sticking by those predictions? How about some other names.

Dierkes: DeJesus and Pineiro were less players I specifically expect the Cubs to get and more an idea of the type of players I think they will pursue. Short-term commitments and guys who will do one or two-years deals. If the Cubs sign five of these players and somehow four hit, maybe they’re a trade deadline acquisition away from contention. They have to at least give themselves that opportunity. Erik Bedard is another pitcher who could work. There aren’t a ton of these upside plays out there though.

As a Cubs fan, what’s your preference: tear down and rebuild (sell off all valuable pieces for prospects, save money, strike in 2013 and/or beyond), keep the valuable pieces and add via trade and free agency for a run in 2012, or a hybrid approach (as advocated (at least publicly) by the Cubs’ front office)?

Dierkes: I prefer a run in 2012. I don’t have the patience for a non-contending or middling Cubs team. The Red Sox, Yankees, and Phillies would never have a consolidation year, even if their big league teams were questionable heading into the offseason. If there are prospects the Cubs feel are redundant, move them for Major League talent. Throw around big free agent bucks if you truly feel good about the players’ futures. The Cubs have a lot of holes but also a lot of money, and I don’t expect the new front office to make a Soriano-like error even if they spend big.

When you put it that way, it’s hard to argue. Thanks again, Tim – both for the interview, and for the work that you do.

Dierkes: Thank you!

 

  • Kansas Cubs Fan

    Has there been anymore interest in Marmol or Soto that could have been drowned out by all that Fielder and Poophole mumbo jumbo?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I haven’t heard anything new, except some unreportable generic chatter that more teams are interested in Marmol than we might think.

  • montellew

    Awesome interview!

  • Boog

    So, at what point do you tell Tim about your friend, Barry Larkin’s cousin?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. :)

  • CubFan Paul

    you should do this type of thing (interviews) more often & in-season, but especially now because of the Hot Stove errr Luke Warm

  • oswego chris

    Dejesus has signed

  • Go Cubs Go
    • Jeff

      Here’s a copy and paste job from my new favorite Cubs WAG.
      (@KimDeJesus12) I was born a cubs fan, and now im married to one!!!!!! :) COULDNT BE MORE EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOOOOO CUBBIES!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jeff

    Speaking of rumors, I need some clarification here Brett. Should I be getting excited about this Will Carroll tweet?
    ” @injuryexpert Looks like Cubs have firm grasp on a Soriano deal.”

    • Stinky Pete

      I read that as speculation.  Action one happened, SO this means action two will probably happen.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Poking around on that one. It would make a great deal of sense that the DeJesus signing suggests Cubs have a deal close-to-in-place for Soriano. Will might just be guessing that.

  • Bill

    Great interview!! Is Dierkes as cool as he seems?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It was an email interview, so I haven’t met him in person, but I got a strong sense through the process that, yes, he’s a very cool guy.

  • Spencer

    Awesome interview! how did you get the opportunity to do that?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Reached out to him, and he was receptive to the idea. Figure I should try and do some, like, reporting type stuff from time to time.

      • Spencer

        very cool.

  • Fishin Phil

    Great job Brett!

  • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

    Nice piece.

    I think he’s right on the money when he comments the Cubs could look to move redundant prospects. One of the under appreciated aspects of the Garza trade was that every player the Cubs dealt was redundant, except Archer, who one could argue was being replaced by Garza.

    The Cubs easily have the depth to pull off another Garza sized trade this winter, and arguably need to thin out some positions just to avoid logjams that inhibit players getting innings and at bats. The entire infield in the lower minors is getting very crowded right now, as is center field in the mid levels. Catchers are pretty numerous deep in the system as well.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Great point.

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  • http://rooftop-view.com Jack Nugent

    Awesome job Brett, really enjoyed this.

    FWIW– I’m gonna go ahead and say Marmol gets traded at the Winter Meetings. Just a hunch.

  • http://google louslew

    As difficult as it is to find a real outstanding closer I don,t understand why everyone here is so anxious to get rid of Marmol. Yes I understand he had a very difficult year in 2011, but just maybe with a different coaching staff this year he can rebound. He has nasty stuff and seems to have the personality of a closer. I, for one am for giving him this year to get back to his old self. Real closer’s are hard to come by. And by the way we have plenty people to trade who have some value. I have the feeling that we will rue the day, if we trade him!!

    • BetterNews

      Stand up man!!! Get rid of him or keep him?

      • http://google louslew

        I say keep him!! What is your position?

        • BetterNews

          Keep him, umless a big trade is in the works.

    • Jon B.

      Carlos Marmol has nasty, nasty, nasty (nasty nasty) stuff — but I think part of the problem is that even he does not know where any given pitch is going. He reminds me a lot of a younger Carlos Zambrano, which terrifies me a little bit about his prospects of long-term success.

      I’m not entirely sure I would call Marmol an outstanding closer though. I’ve read that the average closer has a save percentage around 70%. Marmol is clearly above this; he’s at 81% for his career, with a peak of 88% in his amazing 2010 and a very consistent 77-79% in other years. It’s hard to get a real feel for him since he basically only has two full seasons of save opportunities, one of which was spectacular and one of which was good-not-great. That’s solid but unspectacular.

      With as many holes as the Cubs have, and with a number of flamethrowers in the minors who might be able to take over closing in a couple years, I think you have to pull the trigger on any good Marmol deal. Kerry Wood could step in as the closer for a year or two without a huge performance drop-off. Plus, if you are not comfortable with Wood closing (or just want to fill Marmol’s roster spot with a solid reliever) this offseason is replete with relievers. The new CBA makes it harder to build a team through the draft, so the ability to turn Marmol into good prospects and replace him for just money is too good to pass up. I don’t do the deal just for the sake of doing the deal, but if I can get a nice piece or two I pull the trigger.

  • ferrets_bueller

    I was in complete agreement until the very end. I have to say, I would much rather the Cubs did burn a year rebuilding than shelling out money on the current free agent class trying to contend right now. Its an EXTREMELY over-valued market. I’d rather they kept with the 1 to 2 year, minor deals right now than making a huge splash or two. I also would love to see marmol dealt, and to a lesser degree, Garza. Hopefully Marmol is dealt now for a piece, and garza at the trade deadline for a bonanza.

  • http://www.thewarbringer.com Benjamin

    The Cubs management is much improved, but when you mention having confidence they wouldn’t make a Soriano mistake is perhaps having a bit too much faith. For as good as Theo Epstein is, he signed JD Drew, Diatsuke, Lackey, Crawford (although I would not close the book on him) and a litany of injury prone players. Last year, the Red Sox lineups’ propensity for injuries is the main cause for their collapse in the final month.
    What does this mean for the Cubs? Well, even when a move seems perfect, long term contracts will be rewarded and they often come with unforeseen results.
    So, Albert Pujols could be in for a swift decline as I assume he isn’t taking steroids and at his age will and has seen falling production. Will Prince’s weight issues prevent him from reaching his sky high potential? Will Darvish be another Nomo and dazzle, or end up like Dice-K (average, and stubborn player who has trouble staying healthy)?

    If I were at the helm, I’d trade Soriano post-haste. Perhaps the Blue Jays or Athletics who need some pop in their lineups might bite if you pick up most of the tab? An outfield of Byrd, Colvin and DeJesus would be great on defense. 1stbase and 3rdbase are big holes, but something tells me Ramirez and Pena won’t be back. Ramirez was an excellent player for the Cubs, but he’s trending downward and the Cubs would be wise not to sign him to a long term deal he’s sure to receive. Pena had a fine enough year, playing great defense and showing power and patience, but his asking price is sure to be silly for what he brings. Better to sign Russel Branyan on the cheap if you want an all or nothing 1stbasemen. Trading your best and most consistent pitcher (which the Cubs traded some nice parts of their farm system for) does appear throwing in the towel for the year. Without Garza to anchor the rotation, the Cubs are left with inconsistent pitching and that is a recipe for mediocrity at best. (It very much reminds me of the silly move by the D’backs who traded Haren for Saunders (a decent lefty) and some other lesser players to rebuild. If they’d held on to their ace they could be rolling out a rotation of Haren, Kennedy, Hudson, Collmenter and Enright giving them two aces instead of one. This could have given them a chance to go deeper into the playoffs.) Often aces are hard to replace and cost a lot of money. If the Cubs want to contend now sign Darvish and Oswalt, plug in money savers Branyan at first and DeRosa at third and trade Soriano.

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