Thoughts on Cubs Offseason Moves
Some my own, some inspired by others...something to distract from the Jay Cutler bashing.
Matt Garza - I don't think anyone is particularly upset about the Cubs getting Garza, it's more a question of is he worth the 5 players they gave up. There seems to be the camp of why make this move now? Matt Garza doesn't make you a contender and he or someone similar will be available during the season. To that I say, the Cubs have to sell tickets in April. And also what's your definition of a contender? While the idea of needing a marketable product may be appalling to those that feel sports teams are owned by the city they live in, the Cubs would have been doing a bigger disservice to their fans with their only improvement being a .196 hitting first basement looking for a second chance. Without the Garza trade, the Cubs are a mere afterthought when discussing the NL Central and I can't say that I'd make them the favorites now, but they deserve an invitation to the conversation at least. And that chance is what all fans are looking for come March and April, just a chance that the Cubs can contend and I think it's there now.
As for the prospects, fans like to value their teams' prospects much higher than the rest of the league does, so I try not to get too wrapped up in the original outcry. My overall feeling of the system is that while vastly improved of recent, there's not a lot of superstars in there(cross your fingers on Josh Vitters) and I don't think the Cubs traded any away. Diamond Futures had a take on the trade that I happen to agree with...to the selective excerpting:
Yes, maybe Chris Archer or Hak-Ju Lee was the best prospect in the Cubs' system. But given the current lack of elite talent in the respective systems that is exactly why now is the time to trade them. The reason that a team like the Rangers--with a much stronger group of top tier prospects--wasn't able to reach a deal with the Rays, can likely be found in the fact that when the Rays wanted the better prospects from Texas' system the Rangers found the price too high because they would be dealing better players. A similar ask by the Rays might have been Jurickson Profar, Engle Beltre, Robbie Erlin and Max Ramirez. So, instead of questioning Jim Hendry and Doug Melvin, Cubs’ and Brewers’ fans should be praising them for some brilliant acquisitions that should make baseball a lot more interesting around Lake Michigan this summer.
If you personally think Archer or Lee are nearly guaranteed to be All-Stars one day, you'll have a very different take on the trade. It also depends on how much you think Garza will improve getting out of the AL East. I think for three years of Matt Garza and presuming mid-3 ERA's and 200+ innings, the Cubs aren't going to miss any of those prospects. They may perform well for the Rays, but will they perform any better then the players the Cubs will be employing in their positions? My crystal ball never worked too well, but I don't see Chirinos being better then Soto or that much better than W. Castillo when considering the expected little playing time of a back-up catcher. I don't see Brandon Guyer or Sam Fuld doing much over say Reed Johnson or even Fernando Perez. Lee's probably my favorite prospect of the group, but the Cubs could draft a college shortstop with the #9 pick this year and he could be ready by the same time Lee would be to play in the majors. Archer's the real wildcard I guess and I certainly could see him being a real good pitcher in the majors by 2012, but I expect Garza to be a real good pitcher in 2011, 2012 and 2013 for the Cubs.
Carlos Pena - The Cubs didn't want to pay the sticker price on Adam Dunn and I certainly understand the hesitation. 4/$56M is a tough pitch to sell for a guy that no one but Adam Dunn thinks can play a capable first base. With money coming off the books next year and another year flush with first basemen on the open market, I think it was the wise move to go for the one year stop gap here. Whether Pena is the right choice (and apparently Berkman was the Cubs first choice) remains to be seen and this deal could go down in a blaze of failure not seen since Milton Bradley graced the Friendly Confines. That being said, there's things to like, Pena's skillset isn't all that different than Dunn's, both have power, patience and lots of strikeouts. Pena plays better defense, better "clubhouse" guy and cheaper, Dunn is considerably more consistent. Assuming unlimited budgets aren't a reality for the Cubs, it seemed to be the best choice out of the options available.
Kerry Wood - He signed for $1.5M, what's not to like?
Tom Gorzelanny - I would have preferred to keep him over say Carlos Silva if the Cubs just wanted to limit the decisions Mike Quade and Mark Riggins had to make about the rotation. But dealing Silva's weighty contract wouldn't have netted anything for the Cubs in terms of players and the haul they got for the Nationals, while not spectacular, certainly has some potential. Burgess immediately replaces Guyer in the system as the guy that can play all 3 outfield positions with some power. It's not meant to be a 1-to-1 comparison, but rather that they slide into the same projected roles to the big league club down the line. Morris seems to have a good arm and a lot of work needed to make it useful, let's call him Ninja Jr. from here on out. Graham Hicks sounds like a stock character name for a BBC show, but can't have enough strikeout throwing lefties in your system. Presuming the Cubs had to make a trade to alleviate payroll issues, I think it was a decent haul for a non-descript starter that couldn't crack the Pirates bullet proof rotation just two seasons ago.
Other then Jeff Samardzija and Koyie Hill still being in the organization, I'd say the offseason was pleasantly surprising. Don't mistake that for some grand proclamation that this is the Cubs year, but I think Hendry did the best considering the mess he helped create. And if there's one thing Hendry has shown over his tenure, it's that he's better at quick fixing after a disaster then fine tuning his own masterpieces. He did it in 2003 coming off a dismal 2002 season and he did it again in 2007 after 2006. Here's hoping the pattern repeats in 2011.