The 4-12 Chicago Cubs certainly haven’t given fans anything to boast about thus far in 2012, but it’s rather impressive to look at what Theo Epstein & Co. have done with the pile of garbage they inherited from the previous regime and see how quickly they’ve been able to implement and begin to execute significant parts of their plan to rebuild the inept franchise from the ground up.
Yesterday’s trade of 34-year old Marlon Byrd to the Boston Red Sox was the latest step in the plan to rid themselves of older players who are clearly not part of the Cubs’ future. Byrd’s initial enthusiasm and effort after joining the club in 2010 was slowly replaced by indifference and sub-par production, culminating in his paltry three singles in 43 at-bats to start this season. Tom Ricketts will have to eat most of his $6.5 million salary due him, but he’s got the money and Byrd is clearly in severe decline. To be able to further pillage the desperate, spiteful, and spiraling Red Sox for promising 25-year old, left-handed reliever Michael Bowden and a player to be named is just icing on the cake.
The housecleaning started a mere two months after the new braintrust took office with the jettison of North Side pariah Carlos Zambrano. Big Z’s welcome was more than worn out in Chicago, though he was always great fodder for this blog. Any production out of Chris Volstad will be worth it and even though it cost the team $15 million to send Carlos’ sorry ass down to Miami, it was money well spent.
Next up in the gut-rehab project should be trading the recently DL-ed Ryan Dempster and his mildly amusing Harry Caray impression. The jocular Canadian has been a cornerstone fo the staff for years as a closer and starter with 87 saves, 62 wins, and a 3.83 ERA over his eight-year career with the Cubs. But at age 34, he’s simply not part of the future. A quick return from his strained right quadriceps will go a long way toward boosting his trade value by the deadline to a playoff contender looking for pitching depth. Get healthy Demp!
The coup de gras will be finally moving Alfonso Soriano and the three years and $54 million left on his albatros of a contract that Jim Hendry saddled the club with. It would take a miracle for Epstein to ever pull that off, but hey—they said the same thing about the Red Sox ever winning another World Series.
So at least there are a few positive signs for Cubs fans to look at just 16 games into what everyone knows is a lost season. This is going to be a long process, but the process has definitely started.