edwin jackson cubs press conferenceIt isn’t debatable that the Chicago Cubs, as currently constructed, do not project to be among the elite teams in the National League. Indeed, it’s only marginally debatable that the Chicago Cubs, as currently constructed, stand a small chance of shocking the world and contending in 2013. Indeed indeed, it’s debatable that the Chicago Cubs, as currently constructed, stand a chance of playing well enough for long enough to put .500 on the table come September.

But that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a good offseason.

We all know “The Plan” – focus on the long-term, focus on developing cost-controlled young players, turn short-term assets into long-term assets, generate a similarly-aged young core that all coalesces around the same time, supplement with free agents when the opportunity to win is there, etc. It’s easy to see how, even if the 2012 Cubs sucked on the field, the 2012 Cubs did not suck off the field. The moves they’ve made since the new front office took over have been clearly in service of “The Plan,” and, for the most part, have been universally praised.

With respect to the rotation, in particular, the Cubs’ efforts to add short-term pieces on reasonable deals, plus Edwin Jackson on a deal that makes him a viable option long-term, have looked pretty good to most folks. The rebuilt rotation is an improvement over the 2012 iteration, but putting it together didn’t do any harm to “The Plan.”

Grant Brisbee – seriously, always a good read – seems to agree, shredding the Kansas City Royals’ offseason pitching maneuvering by way of contrast to the Cubs. After analyzing each team’s moves, and noting the similarity in total value that each team added, Brisbee works the Royals over:

But there’s another column that makes all the difference: Wil Myerses given up. The Royals have it all over the Cubs in that category. They also take the “Jake Odorizzis given up” category, the “Mike Montgomerys given up” category, and the “Patrick Leonards given up” category.

The Cubs spent a fair amount, took some risks, and rebuilt the majority of their rotation.

The Royals spent a fair amount, took some risks, rebuilt the majority of their rotation, and decimated their farm system.

One of those is probably what a 90- or 100-loss team should try first. The other one seems like a ton of risk for a reward that isn’t as close as the GM might think.

It gets even worse with the benefit of hindsight. The Royals could have made a push for Kyle Lohse, considering their first-rounder is protected. They could have looked into Ted Lilly or Chris Capuano instead of hoping for a return to form from Santana. They could have pushed for Trevor Bauer, hoping the Diamondbacks would give him up to them for nickels on the dollar instead of pennies on the dollar. They could have done all of that, and then if they really, really needed to, they could have traded Wil Myers for another pitcher on top of all that.

Of course, the comparison isn’t entirely fair, as the Cubs probably had something of an “attractiveness” advantage over the Royals when luring free agents. But Grant’s point remains: the Royals remade their rotation at great long-term expense. The Cubs remade their rotation not only without hurting themselves long-term, they added some flippable assets that could help even further in the long-term.

The Cubs might not be particularly competitive in 2013, but they’ve been doing some good things. It could always be worse.*

*Flash forward to October 2013, when the Royals are on an improbable playoff run, and the Cubs have run out of hospital beds.

  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com DB Kyle

    That article is fantastic. I didn’t hate the idea of what the Royals did. It was a decent time for them to make a move. But they went about it in such a weird way.

    I’ve said this before, but watching this front office move when they decide they want to is like watching a grandmaster play chess. Brilliant, efficient and ruthless. You watch and feel like “well, that isn’t that hard, why can’t everyone do that?” and then try to emulate it and come off looking like the Royals.

    • Marc N.

      This sounds like a very fair analysis. Personally really like what the Royals did as well, but can’t deny that the Cubs did pretty much the same thing in a much without taking too much out of the long term.

      OTOH, the idea that keeping Myers improves the Royals by 4-5 wins is pretty ridiculous. This is a team that went from Bruce Chen/Luke Hochevar/Jeremy Guthrie leading their rotation to having those guys form the bottom of the rotation. I think that gets underrated in the analysis (which starts and stops at ZOMG Wil Myers).

  • brickhouse

    So the Cubs didn’t help themselves longterm besides Jackson in the hope they can flip a Baker or Feldman to get assets they may help them longterm.

    • terencem

      I think they did help themselves long-term because they allowed themselves to have money available for the future while having decent pitching at the back of the rotation now. Spending that little money in free agency on their 4-5 guys and getting pitchers who could be as good as any other team’s 4-5 guys and not committing to long-term deals is pretty sweet. This gives them a chance to give Vizcaino a little MLB time, if they want, without stepping on anybody’s toes or messing with some other prospect’s development path. I really think they made the most of a tough situation.

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com DB Kyle

      The Cubs went into more of a holding pattern long-term.

      You don’t want to overcommit to the long term and begin to waste resources. The Cubs have enough long-term assets in place that they didn’t need to go out of their way to commit more to that timeframe. They can just continue to draft, sign IFAs and let the farm system develop organically rather than forcing the issue.

      • MichCubFan

        So I’m a little fuzzy on this, are you the guy who used to be regular Kyle?

  • terencem

    I did hate what the Royals did and there are about 10 more paragraphs Brisbee could have spent on it but I’m glad he didn’t. They had holes in the rotation but there were tons of bargain pitchers available this off-season. They had a hole in right field and they still have a hole in right field. If you’re going to give up a star prospect, at least aim for a star player in the return.

  • cubchymyst

    Never figured out why the Royals traded Wil Meyers when they have Jeff Francoeur starting in RF again. Replacing Francoeur with Meyers would have improved the team by likely 4-5 wins.

  • Rcleven

    go to Cubs .com, scoreboard, then listen.

  • JR

    Yeah I completely hate what the Royals did. It’s good to see that they are going for it. But signing Lohse and maybe Edwin Jackson would have been much smarter. Plus, it’s not like Shields is cheap either, he makes almost as Jackson does the next couple of years. Head scratcher for sure..

  • Matty Ice

    We’re lowering ourselves to be excited about having a better offseason than the Royals? Seriously? The Plan must be working.

    • terencem

      I’d say being better than one team is the first step toward being better than 29 teams :)

    • JR

      I like what the Cubs did a LOT more than what the Dbacks did too. So we got 2 teams at least..

      • Morken

        The Cubs didn’t come close to acquiring the amount of young talent as Arizona has.

        • MichCubFan

          They didn’t come close to losing the amount of talent Arizona has, either.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            More importantly, the DBacks didn’t come close to acquiring the talent that they gave up!

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              Not by many, many miles.

            • Morken

              Arizona gave up Upton because he was a negative presence in the clubhouse.

              Arizona gave up Bauer because his mechanics are highly questionable, and he had an intolerable attitude.

              Chris Young continues to be injury prone, while underperforming to his talents.

              This offseason, Arizona acquired Brandon McCarthy, Heath Bell, Cody Ross, Didi Gregorious, Randall Delgado, Martin Prado, Cliff Pennington, Nick Amed and Eric Chavez.

              Delgado, Gregorious, Prado, Ross and McCarthy, are all players who will be a part of Arizona’s future. Bell, Pennington and Chavez, will serve as stop-gaps/veteran presences, for their duration with Arizona.

              Ahmed will be traded for another future piece.

              The Cubs, with the exception of Edwin Jackson, failed to add to the future of the team, this offseason. The “assets” they’ll be trading away at the deadline, are not guaranteed to bring back long-term players.

  • chrisfchi

    Do you really believe the cubs will be riddled with injury come late sept/oct? Only thing I don’t agree with is the lil * at the end of the article

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      No. I don’t.

    • brickhouse

      The may not be riddled with injuries but they could be short on starters if they trade a couple

      • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor (no relation)

        They have a lot of starters in AAA, Bowden (among others are) being stretched out to become starters, and Villanueva and TWood might be in the pen when the season starts, but can easily move to the rotation after trades. Hector Rondon, our Rule 5 pick is a starter, he’s just being stored in our bullpen. I think we’re good. Big improvement depth-wise from last year.

  • Morken

    I’m a fan of both team’s offseasons.

  • Morken

    Personally, I love the Edwin Jackson signing, both for now and the long-term.

    People have greatly overreacted to the Royals trading of Will Myers. They’ve done so because of the recent success of young, talented, outfield prospects(Trout, Harper). Myers is not in the same category of those two. In fact, there’re many aspects of his game that need refining.

  • CubsFaninAZ

    Did some one just say you like what the Cubs did better than the D-Backs did? Out of your mind. The Cubs are trying to get where the D-Backs ARE! Flurry of young talented potential quality starters at every level, outfield depth , infield depth,bullpen depth,(they have 3 closers with the heath bell aq.) power, speed, and most importantly GAMERS with no ego! D-Backs would be the favorite in the west and most talked about except LA spent a ridiculous amount to try and compete!

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com DB Kyle

      Hopefully when the Cubs get to where Arizona is, they wont’ have a really dumb GM trying to sabotage them.

    • Cooper

      I like what the Cubs DID better than what the D-backs DID. That isn’t to say that the Cubs are in a better state as a major league team.

      The D-Backs traded a ton of talent for nickels on the dollar. I think they got pretty poor value in return for the players they gave up (losing Upton, Bauer, and even Young for not much return).

      Yes, it is my opinion that the Cubs had a far better offseason than the Diamondbacks.

  • Edwin

    Not a bad article. He makes a decent point, but it seems like it’s more about the one bad trade than anything else. It also looks worse because Zips is the most down on Shields, and the highest on Jackson. I also think it would make more sense to factor in the expected WAR over the contracts, instead of just 2013. By using Cots contracts and Fangraphs it took me mabye half an hour to figure out, probably less.

    I don’t mind the Royals approach, I just think they did a bad job of it. I’m fine with the Cubs trading Baez or anyone else, as long as it brings in a decent player in return. It’s how Theo won in Boston, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he does things similar with the Cubs.

  • CubsFaninAZ

    Dumb? Kevin Towers is one of the best GM’s in the game. Once the cubs get to where the d-backs are thats the spot the 2 teams will differ, because the cubs can spend big money to land the pieces needed, dbacks will have to trade and re-tool with younger cost controlled players because their in a smaller market. No one argues what the a’s have to do to contend, no one will question towers and the dbacks as they continue to contend for years to come. If your basing your claim off the Upton trade, your crazy because most baseball knowledgeable people that are D-Backs fans are glad he’s gone. Everyone knows upton is a phenomenal talent, but his time with the d-backs was done. They both had to move on to get over the hump. Prado’s leadership will be like Derosa’s was in his short time with the cubs. Upton wasnt a leader nor did he want to be, thats why atlanta is perfect for him, he doesnt have to be. Or if you didnt like the bauer trade, that one was simple they have 3 other young pitchers with the same ceiling, out of those 4 bauer had the worst mechanics! SS was a glaring hole they had in the system. They filled it.

  • CubsFaninAZ

    Nah just looking at it from a TEAM concept and not jumpin to a conclusion that they’re crazy for trading “a potential MVP”. Until your an actual MVP, everyone in baseball is a “potential MVP” . Besides a headache is a headache, cubs traded michael barret instead of zambrano because zambrano was a “potential cy young candidate” year in and year out! Well the cubs never got that cy young pitcher, instead just a headache year in and out, and end up only getting volstad for him. Think what they coulda got if the cubs had traded Big Z at that time of the barret incident. Cubs would have been alot better off! Thats the dice you gotta roll, some players pan out some dont. I dont think upton will ever come closer than his 3rd place finish 2 seasons ago. So IMO ill trust towers and gibson when they wanted him out and, I think Prado will have the better season right away, besides i think Heyward becomes the MVP player year in and year out in part because of the uptons! I dont think justin will ever pass him up. Both teams won that trade TEAM wise!

    • Patrick W.

      Carlos Zambrano was MASSIVELY better for the Cubs after Michael Barrett was traded than Michael Barrett was for the few years remaining in his career.

    • TWC

      “…cubs traded michael barret instead of zambrano because zambrano was a “potential cy young candidate” year in and year out! Well the cubs never got that cy young pitcher, instead just a headache year in and out, and end up only getting volstad for him.”

      Lulz. Zambrano gave the Cubs 13.1 WAR from 2007 though 2011. That counts as “getting” something from him.

      (And at ±$5.5m/WAR, they got about $72m worth of value out of him, while paying him ±$84m over that time. That’s not an outstanding return, but it’s perfectly acceptable.)

      • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

        Last time I heard of Barrett, he was with the Padres.

        The Padres …

  • Die hard

    At least Cubs are not as bad off as Phillies who are betting on Howard Utley Young et al who are walking wounded and or past prime

    • Morken

      Yeah, thank goodness we aren’t the Phillies. All that winning must be exhausting!

  • Chef Brianl

    And Roy Holladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and a WS win and a perrenial playoff team…

  • the sandman

    Well, Phils , youd better pray Messrs Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Utley, Howard stay healthy and productive, because right now, you have zero depth in your farm system. Look what happened last year with Utley and Howard out. You STUNK in the 1st half, Former CY winner Lee didn’t even win his 1st game until AFTER the All-star break. Good luck winning the NL beast with Washington and Atl there.