Simply put, what the Cubs have not too many teams want. It is buying and selling of assets. In many ways it is a lot like playing the stocks. The Florida Marlins have done it well. Buy low, sell high. That is the idea. Keep your minor leagues filled with assets. Bring them up and start winning with them. The final year under contract you ‘sell’ them to the highest bidder for more ‘prospects’. This keeps the Marlins in the championship hunt about every 5 years or so. The in-between can be rough but they eventually build winning clubs.
The other school of thought is one shared by the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox. They don’t bring too many of their young assets up to the big club. Their idea is to sell before they come up based on potential. They get established veterans in return and acquire a few ‘high priced’ commodities from time to time to keep them in contention almost every season.
The Cubs have their own model which is not focusing on development of the young talent and paying way to much for marginal, veteran talent. This school of thought has nabbed them a couple of winning seasons but not the big prize. It also creates a hell of a situation when you have very little in the minors. What you have is currently up and contributing and the vets you have are being paid way too much for the results they produce. I know, they kind of sound like the Bear Stearns or Morgan Stanley of baseball. If someone like Carlos Pena can earn $10 million per season what would someone like Ted Williams or Mike Schmidt be worth today? $50 million a season. It is ridiculous.
So now the Cubs have these high priced, aging, under-acheiving veterans and a few young pieces they might want to build around. Add in the pathetic 30-42 record and you have an organization that is in quite a pickle. What are they going to sell? What are the other teams needs?
Well, based on an article on MLBTradeRumors.com most contenders are looking for a 3rd Baseman that can drive in runs. Oh, wait a minute! The Cubs have Aramis Ramirez. He is a good 3rd basemen that can drive in runs. He isn’t that old and his salary won’t scare off too many teams. Great, they have a strategy. Uh oh! What did Aramis say? He doesn’t want to be traded! Mayday!!! Mayday!! Aramis is the guy that is going to bring the Cubs the returns they are looking for. He is the guy that will bring in 3 or 4 decent prospects. However, he doesn’t want to leave. He wants to be a Cubby 4 Life.
Moving on the Cubs will free up a lot of money next season and they want to free up even more. Soriano, Pena, Fukudome and Zambrano are all big money vets the team wants to move. Who wants them? Unless some of these contending teams like Boston, New York, Anaheim, Texas or Philadelphia get racked up with injuries their simply isn’t a play for them. Not too mention they would have to eat at least 50% of Soriano or Fukudome’s contracts just to get teams to take them. And what would they get in return? Zambrano could net them a top prospect but most of these guys might only bring back a handful of mid-level prospects and a couple of other ‘bad’ contracts.
Some fans might think, “Who cares? Cubs will have about $30 million to spend next season.” There in lies the problem because that is what they do season after season and it doesn’t work. Neglect of the minors and buying veterans only goes so far. If the Cubs don’t get a lot in return for these over priced guys they currently have they are going to spend obscene amounts on guys like Prince Fielder and Grady Sizemore and then these contracts will look really bad in 4 or 5 years. I’m not sure there is a right answer but they way they do business has to change.
Getting out from these terrible contracts is a step in the right direction. Hopefully some opportunities present themselves where teams will have an immediate need for a DH (Soriano), left handed bat (Fukudome) or a starting pitcher (Zambrano, Dempster). Another teams desperation is about the only thing that can help the Cubs in this buyers market.