‘Tis the Season for the Cubs to Rebuild

For those that had any doubt what the Cubs’ plan is for the immediate future, Theo Epstein reiterated it Friday. “We value the season right in front of your face as important, but we’ve been pretty open about the fact if there’s a move that can’t serve our interests both now ad in the future, we’re probably going to err of the side of the future.” Epstein further explained, “We’re in the business right now of taking our short-term assets and turning them into long-term assets.”

As Bruce Miles reported, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer inherited a mess when they took over a couple of months ago and have few assets they can use to help build back a team that is coming off two fifth-place finishes.

The Sean Marshall trade is the first of what figures to be several moves over the coming weeks to turn short-term assets into long-term assets.

The Cubs are still looking to add more starting pitching depth at both the big league and minor league levels. Epstein said they are not “extraordinarily close to anything, but there are some things that are percolating that may or may not come to fruition.”

The Cubs have had “lots of conversations with lots of agents” in regards to adding starting pitching, relief pitching and position players … as well as talking to other teams about possible trades.

Here’s the update …

Matt Garza
According to Theo Epstein, “Matt Garza is the type of pitcher you want to build around. He’s a proven top-of-the-rotation guy, a proven performer in the playoffs. I think last year he had his best season, all things being equal. It’s hard to find top-of-the-rotation guys, so if you have them, and if there’s a way to keep them around, that’s always compelling for the club. With that said, we’ve been honest. We are in a mode where we have to listen on everybody. And if there’s a way to improve the long-term outlook for this club in a significant manner, we can’t look past opportunities.”

So are the Cubs looking to trade Garza … or sign him to a contract extension? The answer: Yes.

The Cubs have not decided how they would like to handle Matt Garza’s future with the team.

Epstein said, “In the case of Matt Garza, perhaps nothing happens, or perhaps we can turn him into a long-term asset by extending him on a deal that make sense for everybody. We’ll listen, because there’s always an active trade market for top-of-the-rotation guys with multiple years of control.”

According to a report from Bruce Levine, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have had conversations with numerous teams about Garza. Levine’s sources indicated the Rangers, Diamondbacks and Royals talked to the Cubs about Garza at the Winter Meetings and the Yankees and Blue Jays are interested in Garza after missing out on Yu Darvish.

The Blue Jays may end up being the best match if the Cubs decide to trade Garza. According to Bruce Levine, the Jays’ number one pick from 2010, right-hander Deck McGuire, would be the focal point of any negotiations between the Cubs and Jays. Baseball America ranked McGuire as the Jays’ third best prospect prior to last season.

The 22-year old right-hander made it to Double-A in his first full season of pro ball and some think he is near-Major League ready. McGuire posted a 9-5 mark in High-A and Double-A with a 3.02 combined ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. In 23 games, 21 starts, McGuire struck out 124 batters with only 45 walks in 125 1/3 innings (109 hits).

Levine also stated the Cubs would inquire about the availability of LHP Justin Nicolino and power-hitting outfielder Jake Marisnick.

Justin Nicolino (ranked 20 in BA’s 2011 Jays’ preseason prospect list) was the Jays’ second round pick in the 2010 draft and in two stops last season (Low and High-A) he posted a 6-2 record in 15 games, 12 starts with a 1.33 ERA and a 0.85 WHIP (73 strikeouts, 12 walks and 39 hits allowed in 61 innings).

Jake Marisnick (ranked 11 in BA’s 2011 Jays’ preseason prospect list) was selected in the third round of the 2009 draft. The 20-year old (March 30, 1991), 6-foot-4, 200 pound outfielder put together a solid season in Low-A ball in 2011. Marisnick hit .320/.392/.496/.888 with 27 doubles, six triples and 14 home runs in 118 games.

Deck McGuire’s Page on Baseball-Reference
Justin Nicolino’s Page on Baseball-Reference
Jake Marisnick’s Page on Baseball-Reference

The Cubs are also preparing to talk to Garza’s agent about a long-term deal because they do not like the way the trade talks are going according to Bruce Levine.

News, Notes and Rumors
Theo Epstein: “I do believe this is a move that fits our general direction.”

Theo Epstein: “There is no doubt our bullpen just got weaker by losing Marshall. You can’t get around that. But I think our starting rotation just got stronger, and our farm system just got stronger. If Wood bounces back and he pitches the way he did in 2010, you can argue that maybe we even got getter for 2012. I think certainly, the future just got a little bit brighter with this type of move.”

Travis Wood and Dave Sappelt made their big league debut at Wrigley against the Cubs. Travis Wood gave up two runs on two hits with three walks and four strikeouts in seven innings on July 1, 2010. Wood received a no decision in a 3-2 victory for the Reds in 10 innings. Dave Sappelt went 1-for-5 and a run scored in his big league debut on August 7, 2011 in a Reds 8-7 win over the Cubs.

According to Jon Heyman, the Cubs are still interested in Paul Maholm, Jeff Francis and Coco Crisp … also the Cubs are looking into signing utlitymen.

According to Bruce Levine, attempts to move Alfonso Soriano to an American League team have been futile so far. The Cubs may have to eat upwards of $40 million of the $54 million owed to Soriano to move him. The money the Cubs would have to include in any trade for Soriano has to be paid within 18 months.

James Russell, Scott Maine, John Gaub and Jeff Beliveau will have to step up and fill the void left by Sean Marshall in the Cubs’ pen. Of the names mentioned by Theo Epstein, Jeff Beliveau is the one, other than Russell, to keep an eye on.

The Reds and Cubs started talking about the Sean Marshall deal during the GM Meetings in November.

During an interview on MLB Radio Network/XM Radio, Sean Marshall said the trade surprised him. Marshall got wind of the possibility about a week ago after Epstein talked to Marshall’s agent. Marshall started hearing rumblings about the Cubs looking to rebuild but the first real sign was Aramis Ramirez leaving. Marshall can see the master plan Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have that will lead to sustained success for the Cubs down the road.

Well, there’s the update … and Happy Christmas!

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