So, in that regard, we don’t really know more about the Cubs’ offseason plans today than we did last night.
But, the nice thing about landing a pitcher like Darvish? It can signal your team is “going for it” in 2012, or it can signal your team is committed to building for the long-term. At just 25, Darvish is barely older than the average AA/AAA prospect. Landing him would not have shown what direction the Cubs were going to take, but it would have given me confidence that either path was getting off to a great start.
I am not interested in seeing the Cubs make moves just to make moves. But I am interested in seeing the organization move toward one direction or the other: either sell off valuable pieces to build for the future, or add legitimate, impact pieces to try and compete in the near-term.
So far this Winter, the Cubs have done neither. The 2012 team looks appreciably worse than the 2011 team (which was, itself, no prize pig), and the Cubs have not made a single move designed to build toward the future. I still have “trust,” “patience,” and all that. But the time has come to make a decision. Darvish represented the crossroads. The Cubs missed out, and now it’s time for tough decisions.
We all need to be realistic about where the Cubs, as currently constructed, stand in the next couple of years. Without a number of significant additions this offseason – and I mean Prince Fielder PLUS another big bat somewhere PLUS a good starting pitcher (better than Paul Maholm) – I cannot see how this roster can compete for the playoffs in 2012, short of a Disney-style miracle. Adding those pieces remains possible. But, given what we’ve seen in the aftermath of the 2007 spending splurge, is it really the path we want the Cubs to take?
Keep in mind why we were so excited to get Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer in the first place: we believed they knew how to build a roster and an organization from the ground up. With every big name that goes off the board to a team not called the Cubs, it seems more and more likely that building from the ground up is exactly what Epstein and Hoyer plan to do.
That said, it’s time to get to it. And that means aggressively shopping the few valuable pieces on the roster who may not be around to contribute to a winner in 2013/2014 and beyond.
I’ve already discussed my belief that the Cubs should be shopping closer Carlos Marmol and catcher Geovany Soto regardless of their plan for 2012. That should continue, unabated.
Now it’s time to talk more seriously about finding a home for Matt Garza and Sean Marshall.
The viability of trading Matt Garza has been discussed around here – and elsewhere – at length. With Darvish off the market and headed to Texas, the picture for Garza changes a bit. The Rangers, for all intents and purposes, are out, which is a shame, because they may have been his hottest pursuer. Everyone expects the Blue Jays – who’ve now whiffed on both Darvish and Mat Latos – to step up their pursuit of Garza. As a 28-year-old, excellent starting pitcher under control for two more years, Garza is attractive to every team looking for a starter. But he may be even more attractive to teams like the Blue Jays, Yankees, and Red Sox, who’ve seen him up close and personal in the AL East, where he was successful.
Ken Rosenthal agrees that the Blue Jays, among others will be in on Garza, and adds that teams are very interested in lefty reliever Sean Marshall.
Theo Epstein recently called Marshall the best left-handed reliever in baseball, which I can only assume was designed to remind those teams who come to the Cubs asking about Marshall to come hard, or don’t come at all. And, you know, Marshall may indeed by the best left-handed reliever in baseball.
Marshall, 29, is coming off back-to-back dominant seasons as a full-time reliever (160 ERA+ in 2010, 173 in 2011). He’ll make just $3.1 million in 2012, his last before free agency. When the San Diego Padres dealt similarly successful, but older, more expensive, and less left-handed reliever Mike Adams at the deadline last year, they netted two top pitching prospects, Robbie Erlin and Joe Weiland (both of whom would have been in the Cubs’ top ten prospect lists last year). Keep in mind on Marshall: under the new CBA, players must have been on a team’s roster the entire season to qualify for draft pick compensation if they leave via free agency. That means if the Cubs waited until mid-season to deal Marshall, the return would be dramatically reduced.
Marshall will soon be a free agent. Garza will soon be very expensive, and then a free agent. Both are likely to be 30 by the time the Cubs are competitive again … and they’ll cost the Cubs a much larger chunk of the budget at that time.
I understand that the idea of shipping off the best pitchers on the team for prospects is an unappealing and foreign concept for many of us – and is particularly foreign in recent years in Chicago. But, if Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer plan to build a foundation for sustained success in the long-term, dealing valuable pieces like Garza and Marshall may be the first step.