Prepare For The Cubs To Clean House

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The Cubs’ recent decisions indicate that Theo Epstein isn’t going to sit on his hands and wait until June or July before cleaning out the house of anyone and everyone for whom he can get value and/or salary relief.

With the sudden trade of Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox, Epstein wasn’t doing his former club any favors. He got rid of Byrd for Michael Bowden and a player to be named later with the Cubs paying Byrd’s salary. To make room for Bowden on the 40-man roster, the Cubs have designated veteran swingman Rodrigo Lopez for assignment.

This is just the beginning.

In the off-season, the Cubs made a series of low-cost signings for veteran competence. Their biggest and most expensive imports were Epstein, new GM Jed Hoyer and his assistant Jason McLeod.

The Cubs paid the Marlins to take Carlos Zambrano to get him out of their sight. This and the Byrd trade echoed a similar strategy. Presumably they could’ve gotten more salary relief had they been willing to take marginal prospects in return for Zambrano and Byrd, but they chose to pay them off and get Bowden from the Red Sox and Chris Volstad from the Marlins. That Epstein was able to get anything for Byrd at all—with or without paying him—is a testimony to the Red Sox’ desperation to do something. Byrd had managed 3 singles in 47 plate appearances for the Cubs.

Epstein’s not stupid. He knew when he took the job that the Cubs were going to require an extensive makeover. The biggest advantage he has isn’t the history of success he had with the Red Sox and the status of being the GM when the Red Sox not only broke their curse in 2004, but won another title in 2007. The biggest advantage he has is the Cubs’ fans’ blind loyalty to their team. In the past, the attendance—good team, bad team, whatever team—has been a dual-edged sword. They didn’t have to be good to attract fans. In the past 10 years, the Cubs have never finished lower than fifth in National League attendance and it made no difference whether they won 97 games or 66 games. The fans will be patient and support the uniforms regardless of the players wearing them.

They took a wait-and-see approach this past winter and signed the likes of David DeJesus to a reasonable and cheap contract; they acquired a veteran third baseman Ian Stewart; and made the aforementioned deal to get rid of Zambrano.

They’ve gotten off to a 5-12 start and got rid of Byrd.

Expect Ryan Dempster to be on the market. They’ll dangle Matt Garza at mid-season safe in the knowledge that he’s not a free agent until after 2013 and they have the multiple options of signing him long-term, trading him in July or sometime within the next year-and-a-half. They might swallow Alfonso Soriano’s contract ($18 million annually through 2014) completely and release him if he doesn’t start doing the only thing he still can do—hit a few homers. Carlos Marmol needs a change of scenery and will be available very, very soon.

The Cubs’ new regime gave them a chance to show they were a possible fringe contender.

They’ve lost 12 of their first 17 games and have looked lackluster and boring while doing it.

There’s no reason to continue the charade with players who won’t be Cubs when and if they’re ready to contend for a championship. Epstein’s got players to trade and he’s going to trade them sooner rather than later.

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This Is Probably Not A Youkilis Deal

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As part of the agreement to let Billy Beane got to Boston after the 2002 season, the Red Sox were sending a minor league infielder to the Athletics and their new GM Paul DePodesta as compensation for Beane being freed from his A’s contract.

That player was Kevin Youkilis.

Beane’s ridiculous and obnoxiously arrogant justification for this was that they (the Red Sox) would find plenty of “Youkilises”.

Yeah.

They’re all over the place.

This is just another reason the Beane tenure in Boston would’ve been a disaster of Michael Bay proportions.

Because teams are now so cognizant of a player’s potential and know what they bring to the table both statistically and physically, it’s hard to imagine the Padres are getting a top tier prospect for letting GM Jed Hoyer and assistant Jason McLeod join Cubs new team president Theo Epstein in Chicago.

The Padres don’t seem all that bothered about Hoyer’s abrupt departure mid-contract.

They have a qualified candidate taking over in Josh Byrnes. Byrnes is a good GM; in fact, I wanted the Mets to hired Byrnes instead of Sandy Alderson in part because he’d been a GM more recently; in part because hadn’t engendered the vitriol with his blunt talk and over-the-top credit-seeking behaviors. Byrnes was one of the two finalists for the Mets job that went to Alderson.

It still strikes me as odd that the Padres would be so willing to let their GM go to a team in the same league—a team that they could potentially compete with for a playoff spot or actually in the playoffs.

Compare this with the Marlins decision not to allow their executives to talk to other clubs about potential job openings even if the job is ostensibly a promotion from their current status.

As dysfunctional as the Marlins appear, they’ve kept their baseball operations team largely in place during Jeffrey Loria’s entire tenure as owner. Larry Beinfest, Michael Hill and Dan Jennings have all attracted interest from other clubs and been refused the right to interview. This was the idea when the Marlins signed them to long term deals. The executives exchanged the right to leave for security—much like a player does when he signs a contract.

The Padres are getting something for their decision, but don’t think the player is going to be substantial; he’s probably not going to turn into an MVP candidate like Youkilis did if he makes the majors at all.

I wondered about this in a posting a week ago and I still haven’t seen a viable explanation.

Epstein knows Hoyer and trusts him, but if this were another team asking to interview him and the Padres said, “yeah, go ahead” without concern as to whether he stays or goes, I’d take it as a red flag.

As for Hoyer, he took the job two years ago; why does he want to leave so quickly? And more importantly, why are the Padres so borderline enthusiastic to see him go?

On an entirely different note, in keeping with the Michael Bay mention, here’s “Pearl Harbor Sucked” from Team America: World Police.

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