Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been busy

theo-epstein-and-jed-hoyerThe Cubs were having a rather quiet offseason until December 23rd when they traded Sean Marshall. In a span of one month they’ve traded Marshall, DJ LeMahieu, Tyler Colvin, Carlos Zambrano, Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Ha. All of them except Ha were on the team’s 40-man roster. A new front office trading current players is nothing new.

On July 5, 2002 Jim Hendry was promoted to GM. At the deadline they traded Darren Lewis. A few weeks later they traded Tom Gordon and Jeff Fassero. At the beginning of September they traded Bill Meuller. In November Hendry traded for Paul Bako. He then traded Todd Hundley. As the season neared he released former top prospect Kevin Orie. In free agency he added Shawn Estes, Ramon Martinez, Troy O’Leary, Tom Goodwin, Mark Guthrie and Mike Remlinger. The 2003 Cubs were significantly different than the 2002 team.

New executives tear bad teams apart and that’s what we’ve seen Theo and Jed doing. Let’s briefly go over the trades again.

On December 8th the Cubs traded Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu to the Rockies for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers. LeMahieu and Colvin are more than likely nothing more than back-ups, but Stewart does have some upside. I wouldn’t call this trade a win for either team except to say the Cubs added more upside than they gave away.

The second trade occurred on December 21st, but wasn’t officially official until the 23rd. Sean Marshall was traded to the Reds for Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes. It was a great trade for the Cubs. Sean Marshall had a $6.5 million trade value and they received at least $20 million in value in return and possibly as much as $40-50 million. I still have no idea why the Reds would make this trade.

A few days ago the Cubs traded Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins for Chris Volstad. I’m not the biggest fan of this trade. I figured there was as much chance of Zambrano being a Cub next year as there was that I’d be the starting pitcher on Opening Day, but Volstad just doesn’t impress me. Aside from his 2008 rookie season he’s been pretty bad. He gives up home runs like people give out candy on Halloween. That’s not likely to improve in the hitter friendly Wrigley. He does keep the ball on the ground, but it seems every time it’s in the air it’s a home run. Let’s hope for a 100% ground ball rate. That being said, the money is a wash and the Cubs got something for someone who teams had little interest in.

Yesterday the Cubs completed a trade sending Andrew Cashner and minor leaguer Kyung-Min Ha to the Padres for Anthony Rizzo and minor league Zach Cates. I like this trade a lot more today than I did yesterday. There was very little chance that Cashner was going to be used as a starter and even if he did it’s not like we can count on him to make even 20 starts. He has become a relief pitcher at this point so getting an every day player who is much younger and has more upside is nothing but a good thing.

In the meantime the Cubs have reportedly maintained interest in re-signing Kerry Wood, but before they can sign him they would have to remove someone from the 40-man roster. The most likely candidate would be one of the three left-handed relievers with little to no experience. Jeff Beliveau was added to the roster this offseason so that’s out. John Gaub and Scott Maine are the other two so I would think one of them would be taken off if they signed Wood. Or they could make another trade.

At this point there’s no reason at all to keep Matt Garza. Keep negotiating with multiple teams as I assume they are still doing and at some point I expect them to accept the best offer. I also expect the Cubs to trade an outfielder as they have 7 of them on the 40-man. They cannot trade Reed Johnson or David DeJesus as each were signed to free agent contracts this offseason. There’s little to no chance that they would trade Matt Szczur. That leaves Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano, Tony Campana and Dave Sappelt. I can’t imagine they’d trade Sappelt as he’s valuable simply because he’s a cost-controlled player. They’d love to trade Soriano, but is any team going to take him? He has almost no value at all. I’d bet that Byrd gets traded yet this offseason, which will open a spot for Brett Jackson when he’s ready to be called up.

The Cubs have built themselves a very good and young offensive core to build around in the future. Brett Jackson is only 23 and is already the best outfielder in the Cubs organization. Anthony Rizzo had a disappointing rookie season, but he still has a great deal of potential. At just 22 years old he has a chance to be a middle of the order hitter for this team for many years. Starlin Castro is probably better than both of them and he’s also the youngest of the group.

If this group can develop as we hope and remain prison-free, the Cubs have a very good offensive core. We may soon see a lineup that includes the three of them at the top. Brett Jackson has more power than your typical leadoff hitter, but he gets on base an awful lot. He makes the pitcher work and has a lot of 5 and 6 pitch at-bats. He has plus speed so he can move himself into scoring position without help. Castro is more of a number 2 hitter even though he hit third a lot last year. He could develop into a legitimat middle of the order hitter. Rizzo has the potential to be a number 3 hitter. I expect we’ll see a lot of Jackson, Castro, Rizzo combinations in the order in the future. Hopefully they can all develop into middle of the order threats.

There is not this kind of young and talented core to build around when it comes to the pitching staff though. Dillon Maples may be the best pitcher in the organization and he hasn’t even thrown a professional pitch yet. Trey McNutt is the second best. Both of them may actually profile better as relievers. The good news is that there are several very good starting pitchers who will soon become free agents so the Cubs can begin to acquire top shelf pitching prospects and add veterans for the time being.