By Steve Silverman
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The Chicago Cubs are a pitiful baseball team.
New York baseball fans got an indication of what the Windy City is looking at on a regular basis in the Mets’ 17-1 triumph over the Cubs. The fact that the Cubs won the first two games of the series will probably keep Mets manager Terry Collins from sleeping well later this summer.
But we’re not here to bury the Mets for losing to the Cubs. We’re here to explain what the Cubs are doing and why Brian Cashman needs to make a call to Theo Epstein –- sooner rather than later.
When the Red Sox collapsed in September last year, the Red Sox made a series of major executive moves. First, they canned manager Terry Francona. There was enough dancing and word-changing to make it seem like it was a mutual decision, but the Sox ownership had seen enough of Francona.
They also realized that the Boy Wonder era was no longer so magical. Theo Epstein, the baseball executive who could do no wrong, had lost his magic dust. He was no longer the trusted frontman of the organization. When the Cubs came sniffing around, the Sox let him go to Chicago.
The Cubs team that Epstein inherited was a mess. Forget about 104 years without a championship and 67 years without a National League pennant. The team simply had very little legitimate Major League talent, and a complete rebuilding job with an emphasis on the draft and building up the Minor Leagues was started in earnest.
The first big move the Cubs made to help themselves came to fruition against the Mets. They brought up their young star-of-the-future in Anthony Rizzo. Epstein had first landed Rizzo while in Boston, but he was traded when the Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres. When Rizzo did not hit the ground running in San Diego, Epstein got him from the Padres.
Rizzo has a classic swing and should hit with power for years. He appears to be a player with legitimate star potential.
That means that Rizzo has accomplished nothing and there are no guarantees. In baseball, potential is often a curse.
So the Cubs are at least two or three seasons from contending. But they do have assets that would help a team that put not one, but two starting pitchers on the disabled list yesterday. The best of those assets is pitcher Matt Garza, who is languishing in Chicago as he labors for this group of sad sacks.
Garza is one of the few legitimate proven players on this team, and he has an American League East pedigree. He was one of the mainstays on the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitching staff from 2008 through 2010, and he knows what it’s like to pitch in that meat-grinder division.
If Cashman were to make Epstein an offer that included a Minor League prospect, a draft pick and perhaps one bench player, he’d get a quality starting pitcher who would have a chance to remain in the rotation through the end of the season and beyond.
Andy Pettitte was making a nice comeback before he was hit with a batted ball. When a 40-year-old pitcher breaks an ankle, it may take longer for him to recover than a 30-year-old pitcher. If it would take a 30-year-old pitcher six weeks to recover, it could take an older pitcher longer.
Sabathia’s groin injury is not likely to keep him on the sidelines very long, but if he feels pressure to come back too soon he could make the injury worse with a premature comeback.
Cashman may want to take his time and not pull the trigger too soon, but more harm can come from waiting than it would from acting quickly.
Cashman may not want to give Epstein the chance to get the best of him in a trade. But he needs to do what is best for the team, and that means pick up the phone and make a trade happen.
The Cubs want to build a future. The Yankees have a championship to win at present.
Yankees fans, what would you be willing to give up to get Matt Garza from the Cubs? Is a top prospect, a high draft pick and a bench player too much? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…