After years of false hope, and overvalued prospects who never made it big., the Chicago Cubs are finally taking the concept of rebuilding serious. Less than two years on the job as president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, executive VP and general manager Jed Hoyer and senior VP of scouting and player development Jason Mcleod have placed their stamp on the Cubs’ organization. But with rebuilding comes losing and losing in sports can sometimes change the perspective and challenge the direction.
When Epstein and Co. took over to run the team it was hard for anyone in or outside of baseball circles to see any positives in the organization. Most people take on roles in the Cubs organization because the idea of being on THE cubs winner is so appealing and historic the opportunity becomes hard to pass up, but before the glitz and glamour if there are any, the job at hand is arguably the most difficult in sports.
Epstein understood for the Cubs to contend every year, things needed to change and they needed to change from the bottom on up. Since his arrival, things in the organization has shifted, plans are now in placed, players with legitimate upside are no honing their skills in the minors and the team has shown it isn’t afraid to commit to players they value. But a major league roster is 25 deep and two core players will not typically bring consistent winners so there is still tons of work to be done.
Luckily for the Cubs, although not so lucky based on last seasons record, they have the number 2 pick in this years amateur draft. The last time the team drafted this high the player taken, Mark Prior, was pitching in the big leagues less than a year later. And the following year because of Prior and his best season, the team was playing in October. This year, the top two pitching prospects Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray offer the same possibility and upside as Prior did in 2001, a possible ace in the starting rotation.
The Cubs should unquestionably win big in this years’ draft, but with the additional prospects and those currently in the system playing well. It may be time for team Theo to augment the plan ever so slightly. In the coming months, two of baseballs best will hit the rumor will hard and the Cubs should be in prime position to acquire at least one. Although both are on the disable list at the moment, David Price of the Rays and Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins should be the top two players that have rival GM’s ringing their hands and running up cell phone minutes. Both have the ability to turn the right team into instant contenders. A healthy Price slots into the top spot on most teams rotations, and Stanton can hit in the middle of the order for any team in the league. And although the time missed should lessen the blow for what teams have to give up, the talent and impact is undeniable so the cost will still be steep.
The Cubs in the near future should be on the short list of teams who have enough prospects to pull off one these deals. And making a trade of this caliber will not deplete the system. Both players are young, in their prime, and they’re under team control. The Cubs have the finances to accommodate top talent and along with this seasons draft crop, international signees, and prospects received from mid-season trades, the organization should be in good shape.
People around baseball like comparisons and most recently, the Cubs have been compared to the Washington Nationals organization who drafted high, brought those players along, made a free agent splash and should have success for years to come. This is the model the team has finally adopted but instead of the big free agent splash, the leap into the trade market should turn their rebuilding around faster than anyone thought, and Price or Stanton are two who could do it.