One of the franchises I truly admire and been a fan of for my whole entire life is the Chicago Cubs. As we all know, the Cubs haven't won a world series since 1908 (105 years). But it hasn't been without trying. The Cubs have just been filled with bad luck and bad atmospheres. If you don't recall, the black cat running on the field, the Billy goat being brought to the game and the Steve Bartman incident. It's not like the Cubs have had bad players through the 105 years,the Cubs have actually a lot of good players, here's to name a few ... Ron Santo (RIP), Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Shawon Dunston, Andre Dawson, Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux. So, as you can see, the Cubs have had greats in their franchise. Even though the Cubs haven't won in forever, you still can't go wrong with them. I will never change from being a Cubs fan ever. Just NO! When the Chicago White Sox won the world series in 2005, I didn't even have the thought of changing over teams. Manly because I'm a die heart Cubs fan and I can't stand the White Sox. I know many people did switch over in the bandwagon and I was never ever going to be a trader.
Well with the Cubs trying to find a new foundation, their strategy has completely changed. The Jim Hendry era finally ended almost 2 years ago and the Tom Ricketts era started a little bit before then.
Before then, the Cubs were owned by the Chicago Tribune Company. At that time, the Cubs were trying to win by spending, spending and spending and trading away all prospects. That let to back-to-back sweeps in the 1st round of the playoffs. So, that didn't work out and a change was in need. Tom Ricketts decided to fire Jim Hendry in August of 2011 and revamp the whole front office. Mr. Ricketts "traded" for Theo Epstein of the Boston Red Sox and was signed to a 5-year contract worth around 18 million. Epstein's title with the Cubs is President of Baseball Operations. The Cubs sent relief pitcher Chris Carpenter and a low-tier prospect back to Boston. Crane Kenney, of whom was the original President of Baseball Operations stayed in the organization and switched over to President of Business Operations. Kenney is not a baseball guy and the move to the business side was much needed. When Epstein came over, he stole buddies Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod from the San Diego Padres. All of them were in Boston together. Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod were the big names brought over. However, Epstein brought in a dynasty front office when he came over. Epstein's plan was to build up scouting and build from within. And so the team can be a dynasty for years to come with all young players on the team. Epstein's only job is not just about the players its self, but he fires/hires the coaches and front office. Epstein is the final decision maker in most cases, but Hoyer is the General Manager and he more deals with the personnel on the field. Also, if money is involved - player contracts or if the Cubs have to eat money on a contract - Chairman Tom Ricketts will usually have the final word on that matter since it's his money in play.
Since Theo and Co. has taken over the Cubs, the team has not looked great. In the 1st year under the new management, the Cubs lost 101 games. So far this year (2013), the Cubs have won of the worse records in baseball and aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Yes, the Cubs have to put players on the field and want to win because losing is not fun. However, that's not Epstein's main focus and his main focus is to build a foundation below. It's the Cubs time to go through the rebuilding phase and there will be hard times for a few more years, maybe more. Every team has to go through a rebuilding phase. Going through the rebuilding process is always a gamble as you can't always count on prospects - players in the minors. Players in the minors could have the best stats, get the call to the majors and completely leave a goose egg. Meaning the player was not the players the team though out to be. As he will be labeled a failed prospect. So, yes rebuilding is always a gamble, but if your plan works out, you will have a good team for a while.
Now to look at the current state of the Cubs and what moves could be ahead of them. The Cubs are reportedly already open for business and ready to make deals (trades). The trade deadline is a month away (July 31st), so moves are on the way soon. If I was the General Manager of the Cubs, here are moves I would make or at least try to make:
The Cubs do have trade chips and there will be trades made. Trade candidates consist of SP Matt Garza, SP Scott Feldman, SP/RP Carlos Villanueva, 3B Luis Valbuena, INF Cody Ransom, OF Nate Schierholtz, OF Scott Hairston, OF Alfonso Soriano, OF David DeJesus, RP Kevin Gregg and RP James Russell. Here's a more in-depth look at each player and there trade possibility:
SP Matt Garza: A Matt Garza trade is overdue and a trade would have been made last year if he didn't injured his throwing arm. Garza was later shut down for the rest of the season and just returned about a month ago. As of late, Garza has been pitching great baseball and looks to be dealt soon. From reports, Garza will be the 1st big player traded this year. At first, I thought signing Garza to a team-friendly contract is the way to go. However, I don't think the same anymore. Garza pitched on Thursday and looked great in front of many scouts. At least 5 teams were in attendance at Garza's start. The Cubs will likely trade Garza as they will get a good offer for him, the Texas Rangers are the favorites. It's all a matter of time when Garza will be in fact traded.
SP Scott Feldman: Feldman was a signee in the off-season in preparation if he pitches great, he will be dealt in-season. Feldman has looked good all season and one of the surprises of the season. The Cubs signed Feldman to a 1-year contract in the off-season. Feldman will be traded, it's just a matter of when. In Feldman's last start, there was 12 teams scouting his start. There is a lot of interest in Feldman and why it's a guarantee he'll be traded.
SP/RP Carlos Villanueva: Villanueva would have been traded for sure if he was still starting. Since he's not starting anymore, he most likely won't be traded. Since his value dropped from the transition to the bullpen. When both or just one of Garza or Feldman is traded, Villanueva is most likely going back to the starting rotation. I see the Cubs keeping him until next year's trade deadline when he'll stay in the rotation the whole time.
3B Luis Valbuena: Valbuena is not your typical starting 3B, but he's come into his own. He has a good OBP and a good glove. He's not even hitting too bad this year either. Valbuena is a good stopgap 3B until a young prospect is ready. Manly you keep him because he's cheap and cost controllable. I'll be shocked if Valbuena is gone by the end of the season.
OF Nate Schierholtz: I'm 50/50 sold on if Schierholtz will be traded. He's a cheap body who has performed well. Plus he's a great defender and can play RF at Wrigley. There will be interest in Schierholtz at the deadline. If the Cubs can get value for Schierholtz, he will be traded, but if not, he will stay. If he does stay with the Cubs throughout the season, he's a possible re-signing in the off-season.
OF Scott Hairston: I'll be very shocked if Hairston is moved. He hasn't looked good all season and value is down. Plus, Hairston still has a year left on his contract. If the Cubs do move Hairston, they will get no significant return. Also, there are not many teams interested in him if any at all.
OF Alfonso Soriano: It seems like this is a yearly discussion ... will Soriano be traded or will he not? Soriano still has a year left on his contract after this year. He's owed 18 million next year and around 12 million this year. The Cubs will eat most of Soriano's contract if the Cubs can get value back for him. Soriano hasn't looked bad this season and was great last season. There will be interest in Soriano, it just depends on how much the other team is willing to offer for his service.
OF David DeJesus: I would have said DeJesus would have been traded a month ago. Since he's having a good season, he's a good defender, smart baseball guy and is a great clubhouse guy. But since DeJesus is out with a bummed shoulder , he won't go anywhere before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. However, he could be traded at the waiver deadline if a team puts in a claim for him and isn't blocked.
RP Kevin Gregg: The Cubs signed Gregg to a minor-league deal right after this season began. He has been very sharp, better in his 2nd stint with the Cubs over his 1st stint. Gregg will be traded and most likely right around the deadline. Teams have expressed interest in Gregg (ex. Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies) and why he will be traded, teams are always looking for bullpen help.
RP James Russell: I think there's a very slim chance Russell will be traded, but teams will call on Russell. The Cubs need relief pitching badly, so why trade a valuable young relief pitcher? That makes no sense and why he won't be traded. Especially since he's a RP and teams don't offer big value for a RP.
Players the Cubs will not trade at any point of this season are Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo.
Trading is one way the Cubs build a foundation below in the minors. Other ways the Cubs are doing so is by the player draft and International free agency.
Since the Cubs have not been great in the recent years, they have had top picks in the draft. 3 years ago, the Cubs had a top 10 pick and went with high school shortstop Javier Baez. He's now playing for High-A Daytona Cubs and is the Cubs number 1 prospect. Baez started the season off very slow, but has picked it up as of late. Baez actually hit 4 home runs this year in a game for Daytona Cubs. The 4 home runs did come in High-A; however, it's still an accomplishment of its own. As of right now, the Cubs have a future shortstop in Starlin Castro and if/when Baez does make the majors, someone will have to be moved. There has been talk that Baez will move to 3B or Castro will move to 2nd. But that's all speculation right now and the move will be made when the time comes. In last year's draft, the Cubs selected another high school player and that was OF Albert Almora. Almora miss the beginning of this season with a broken hand. Almora is back in action and started off very well, hitting everything in his path. Since the fast start, Almora has slowed down a lot and is in a slump. He's currently playing for Low-A Kane County Cougars. Almora is currently the Cubs number 3 prospect. By season's end, Baez will be moved up to Double-A Tennessee Smokies and Almora will be moved up to High-A Daytona Cubs. The MLB just had this year's player draft on June 6th and the Cubs had the number 2 overall pick. The Cubs need pitching in the minors more than anything and many believed that's the way they would have gone. However, the Cubs went with 3B Kris Bryant. Bryant could have gone number 1 overall and is highly rated. He's listed as a 3B, but many people think he'll move to the outfield. The Cubs have yet to signed Bryant and reports just came out they both sides aren't close to a deal. But don't worry, the Cubs will sign Bryant and will most likely be a deadline deal. The Cubs wouldn't draft Bryant, if there was a chance he wasn't going to sign. When the Cubs do sign Bryant, he'll be in the Cubs top 5 prospect list. A matter of fact, the Cubs signed 9 of their top 10 prospects - the only player to not sign is Bryant in the top 10 picks. Drafting is a big part of the Cubs way now and is taken very serious.
Another way the Cubs are making noise is from International free agency and overseas. The Cubs are in every country, trying to find the best prospect that could turn heads. The Cubs are known to be in Cuba and are well-respected. The Cubs signed Jorge Soler to a 9-year deal worth 30 million last summer and he's said to be a 5-tool prospect. He has a lot of pop, good defender and knows how to play the game. Many teams were interested in Soler, but he eventually picked the Cubs. He's currently playing for High-A Daytona Cubs, but it looks like he's done for the season with a stress fracture. He's currently the Cubs number 3 prospect, but looks like he will be the real deal. Cub fans can't wait until we see him at Wrigley. The Cubs have signed other Cuban Defectors, but Soler was the big name and some others have not worked out (Conception). The Cubs also seem to be on every player as well, if they sign the player or not. The Cubs were in on Yu Darvish (finish in top 3), but the Texas Rangers won the big by a long shot. The Cubs have been finishing in the top 3 of a lot of the big time players coming over to the USA (Puig, Cespedes). Tom Ricketts is willing to give Epstein all the money he wants to go after all the top International players. Soler has been the only big one the Cubs have signed, but there will be more on the way. Starlin Castro signed with the Cubs overseas when he was a teenager (16) and looked how that has worked out so far. There have also been smaller names that are opening eyes in the minors as well.
If you are a big Cub fan, you would know the Cubs lack pitching in the minors. And why most of the players the Cubs focus in the draft is pitching. The Cubs may have a good pitcher in the making and that is Pierce Johnson, but he's still far away from the majors. When the Cubs do compete, they will most likely have to acquire a big-time pitcher as there are no top free agents out there. The pitcher will likely be the ace to go along with Samardzija, Jackson, Wood and possibly Johnson depending on timeframe. The Cubs will likely have to trade prospects for one and with the Cubs having a lot of top bats in the minors, they may be able to pull off a trade. David Price of the Tampa By Rays will be available and the Cubs are already linked to him. Price is just entering his prime and a player Epstein would be willing to add. Since he's a top pitcher in the league and has won the CY, he will cost and it all depends on if the Cubs would be willing to do so. I would only trade 1 of the top 3 prospects for Price and I would go with Baez. The other 2 seem to have a better chance to succeed (Almora, Soler). It would be more than Baez of course, but he will be the main piece going back to Tampa. That seems to be the plan of how the Cubs will land a top flight starter. However, that's still to be determine and if that Cubs will in fact pull off a trade like that.
When the Cubs do sign Bryant, the Cubs are expected to finally have a top farm system. One analyst has the Cubs number 2 behind only the Minnesota Twins. If it's not number 2, they are in the top 5 of pretty much all of the other analysts ranking. That's a huge accomplishment for Theo and Co. because when the new front office came over, the Cubs were in the bottom of the pack of the minors. Now if it all pans out and the Cubs top prospects do perform well, watch out and the Cubs will be on to their 1st world series champion since 1908. Let the riot in Chicago begin. That will be my happiest day of my life and I'll for sure be downtown right away!
I know the assignment said, if you were GM what moves would you make. However, that's too difficult to predict as you don't know his value, market, how the prospects are rated on scouting reports and what players are available and not available. I've been writing Cub articles since I was 16 on a blog and I have done that before, but was too hard to predict. So, that's why I went this direction and what moves could be ahead of them and the chance from the Jim Hendry era to the Theo Epstein era.
Prediction: The Cubs will be competitive and have a chance to win the world series in 2015 and see a huge improvement in 2014!