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SportsMonday: Can The Clearance Sale

Let's be clear on something: the Cubs brass has a year (this year) to make major progress on the big fix (and I propose "The Big Fix" as the official name for the great Cubs rebuilding project of 2012 - we're certainly going with it around here until further notice).

I was listening to sports radio silliness yesterday during which time it was posited that it doesn't matter who the starting pitchers are for the Cubs next year because The Big Fix can't just take one year, it must take several.

Puh-lease, although the Ricketts family would love for Cubs fans to buy into that notion. That way they can continue to slash the payroll and pile up the cheap prospects while raking in huge revenues during the next year plus.

The whole idea that the Cubs need to absolutely clear the decks for some sort of historically good young player class of 2014 or '15 is ridiculous. Baseball teams win with combinations of parts. They win with veterans and young players. And no one ever really knows what a successful combination will be because no one knows who is going to have a better-than-average season and who will be a bust or who will stay healthy and who will get hurt.

All a general manager can do is try to improve the odds. Perhaps the best way to do that is to increase depth. And that is actually what the Cubs are trying to do. They are trying to set it up so that when veteran major leaguers run out of gas for their team in the next year or two they have positioned a young player or two to step into the breach. And sometimes they have to employ stop-gap measures like David DeJesus to get them through the transition.

Now a general manager can also increase the odds that his team will stay healthy by employing a younger roster. But it better not be too young because of course just about every successful team needs the steadying hand of at least a few grizzled vets.
I would imagine the folks saying it doesn't matter who pitches for the Cubs in 2013 are also people who said before the season that the White Sox were definitely finishing in last in the AL Central. And the South Siders could clearly still fall well out of first place (especially if things like Gavin Floyd's injury keep happening). But they ain't falling all the way into last.

It turns out the White Sox had much better starting pitching depth than people thought. And they have ridden it - and a resurgent, mostly veteran lineup - to success so far.

This doesn't mean that the Cubs shouldn't trade Ryan Dempster. As I explained last week, they should. And I suppose if the deal is right a trade of Matt Garza makes sense too. Then again, my perception of the "deal being right" for a late-20s potential ace (getting multiple quality prospects in return) is seemingly different than that of the folks who want the Cubs to conduct an absolute clearance sale.

One final reason why just clearing the decks for 2014 or '15 doesn't make any sense: You can't have all of your best players on the same compensation schedule. Baseball teams on successful, multi-season runs always have some players making big, veteran dollars and some earning the minimum. Some teams have better ratios (the Tampa Bay Rays) than others (the Boston Red Sox).

Of course there are also some teams that just keep paying their way out of mistakes (the New York Yankees) and given how much the Cubs take in in revenues each year, you can argue they should be one of those teams most of the time. In fact, they can start in 2013.


Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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