Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Theo Instituting the "Cubs Way"

We're Cubs fans. We're used to hotshots stepping into the offices at Clark and Addison and promising the world to Cubs fans. Yet, here we are, in Year 104 of the Cubs' rebuilding project, witnessing a new leader promise the world to us. But something is different here. Changes are actually coming. Theo Epstein, the newest hotshot kid on the block, announced with a firm resolve that he was instituting a new culture in Chicago, dubbing it the "Cubs Way." This was more than just words. In the few months since Theo took over, the representative symbols of the old Cubs are on their way out, with a new foundation for success taking its place. While all these moves signal the Cubs already giving up on the 2012 season, really, who cares? Did we expect them to be good anyways? Let's build for the future, something that the moves of Theo and GM Jed Hoyer seem to be doing.

Theo and Hoyer have made some signings, bringing in random young utility players who fit his statistical mold, like David DeJesus and Ian Stewart. Those kind of moves only pique the interest of fans who waste all their time like me. No - the big moves made by Theo thus far indicate a desire to improve the ball club and refuse to tolerate childish nonsense that was the name of the game throughout the past.

Refreshing Change of Leadership
First and foremost, this was the trade of resident hothead Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins. It meant eating $15 million of his $18 million salary, but who cares? Even if he goes to Miami and wins a Cy Young (which is considerably unlikely considering he'll probably have some blow outs next year), it's a trade that was worth making. And don't we all appreciate and love the blunt honesty offered by Theo in his assessment and explanation of the Big Z move? Theo said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that he thought Big Z was an uncontrollable idiot before he got here, he met with him and said as much and that they're going to try and trade him, and then got confirmation from the leaders of the team that he is a hotheaded moron and was able to actually trade him. Good riddance. I'm sick of the overpaid, underperforming, and ungrateful players setting up shop at Wrigley every year. Good bye Zambrano, good bye Aramis Ramirez, and hopefully good bye Alfonso Soriano. It's time for a new Cubs era.

Theo and Co. are proving themselves in other ways as well. Recognizing that he needs to add a centerpiece hitter to pair with Starlin Castro going forward, Epstein and Hoyer flipped top prospect Andrew Cashner (who has a history of arm problems) to the Padres for top prospect Anthony Rizzo. This is a big trade for many different reasons, including the fact that Rizzo has a chance to be the middle of the order left handed slugger the Cubs have needed for years. In AAA ball last year, Rizzo batted .331 with 26 home runs, 34 doubles, 101 RBI, and a 1.056 OPS in only 93 games. The kid has all the tools, and provides a young foundation at short and first with Castro and Rizzo that could be huge in the years to come.

More importantly, however, is the indication that the trade for Rizzo gives for the free agent pursuit of Prince Fielder. Fielder still sits awaiting a contract, and most felt that the Cubs were the natural destination for him. I absolutely love the fact that the Cubs did not make a move for him, which would have only meant saddling themselves another huge contract for one player. Forget that - Fielder won't lead to any more victories than Carlos Pena would have brought the Cubs this year. The point isn't to win this year, it's to win every year. Making the trade for Rizzo, dealing Sean Marshall for young pitcher Travis Wood, signing value over notoriety, etc. - all these moves speak volumes as to the new leadership that is at work over at Clark and Addison. And if they can deal Soriano for anything, even a bag of baseballs, they'll do it because they know that it helps the team. Owner Tom Ricketts has given Epstein & Co. all the tools they need to be successful, and Theo is rewarding that confidence by laying the groundwork for a consistently successful Cubs team in the future. Yes, I'm a Cubs fan, and that makes me inherently pessimistic and doubtful that it's going to happen. But maybe, just maybe, this "Cubs Way" will work, and a century of Cubs fans will be rewarded for their eternal patience.


Nick D said...

I totally agree with you on the Rizzo/Cashner deal and its effects on the Fielder chase. Cashner does have value when he is healthy, but he has never shown consistency in that important area. Theo also clearly thinks Rizzo is the absolute shit, having drafted him while with Boston and now bringing him over.

I wouldn't call DeJesus young (he's 32) but I think the pickup was a straight value play in terms of production. The classic "you get what you pay for" defensive specialist who is average at the plate (assuming he stays healthy and maintains his production with minimal attrition.) He's essentially a better, younger, way cheaper Kosuke Fukudome - there's definitely room on any team for that kind of player.

Also, pursuing Fielder would have been a colossal mistake because, as you wrote, he really wouldn't produce many more wins than Carlos Pena and that doesn't help the Cubs short or long term. It would be dumping tons of money into another Sorianoesque contract that wouldn't bring the Cubs closer to competing every year. Adding expensive free agent pieces should come after you've already built the core of the team and you need a little extra to get over the top.