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I've got one more column to write about the Cubs and then I am moving on, in terms of column-writing, for awhile.
Let's start with a simple question: Do any real baseball fans out there think any of the prospects the Cubs received for the veterans they traded away en masse at the trade deadline will be better than Lucas Giolito? Giolito emerged as an ace last year when he was in the running for the Cy Young Award in the American League. Yes, the season was only two months long and, yes, Giolito has been more up and down this year, but he is an upper echelon starting pitcher in the American League. Period.
The answer to this simple question is, of course, no.
When White Sox general manager Rick Hahn made the three trades that defined his team's gloriously successful rebuild, he received real prospects in return. His Cubs counterpart, Jed Hoyer, did not. The White Sox had good/great players that they had developed or picked up in trades to trade away and they had planned well enough to be trading those players when the time was right in terms of their service time. Hoyer did not.
The problem isn't that Hoyer dismantled this team. The problem is the dismantling was almost certainly a failure. Hoyer didn't get a Giolito, who was the prime asset moved to the White Sox when they traded Adam Eaton to the Nationals. Hoyer didn't get a Yoan Moncada, or a Michael Kopech for that matter. Hahn, of course, got those guys from the Red Sox for Chris Sale.
And worst of all, Hoyer didn't get an Eloy Jimenez, or a Dylan Cease for gosh sakes. We baseball fans know you have to take chances when you make trades and some trades work out and some don't. But as I watched Jimenez hit his fourth home run in two days on Monday, I felt an intense urge to track down Theo Epstein to ask him what the fuck was he thinking when he traded two glorious prospects, ones the Cubs had actually signed/drafted and developed themselves, for the ultimate picture of pitching mediocrity, the White Sox's own Jose Quintana.
Cease has also had an up and down season this year, but he showed against the Cubs over the weekend that he is way, way better than any young starting pitcher they have and way, way better than any young pitcher they are trying to develop in the minors.
The old adage is that it is better to trade a player too early than too late. Hoyer traded Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and all the rest way, way too late. He and Theo were so late with Albert Almora and Kyle Schwarber they just had to release them. And the Cubs have nothing special going on in their organization to replace any of them any time soon.
When Hoyer gave Yu Darvish to the Padres to save Tom Ricketts some money and to undermine his own team to make it far more likely they would suck enough for him to execute the purge at the trade deadline with minimal pushback, he didn't even get a pitching prospect back. He got four non-descript, low-A, rookie-ball position players. None of them have received any attention at all from anyone who rates prospects for a living.
The management screw-ups with this team have just gone on and on and on. When you look back at it, even Theo and Jed's seeming victories in terms of building this team don't look so good anymore. They had four straight picks in the top 10 in the first rounds early last decade thanks to the team being down when they got here and then because they decided to tank the 2012, '13 and '14 seasons. And all of those guys looked like potential stars at times.
It now appears they went one for four. Kris Bryant won an MVP award, end of story. But Almora and Schwarber went crashing down. And as Ian Happ's slump heads toward season-long status, he has potential bust written all over him.
Hoyer assures Cubs fans the team will be competitive in 2022. He says this won't be like the '12 and '13 seasons. That's good to hear. Perhaps he has figured out that whether they eventually won a World Series or not, it was pathetic that a high-revenue team like the Cubs tanked three seasons for any reason. But unless Hoyer and Ricketts go on an unprecedented spending spree, the team's prospects, in both senses of the word, are weak. And they will remain so for a long time.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
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