Is it time for the Cubs to go with a youth movement?
When you talk to Cubs fans, they’ll generally tell you that at this point they’d rather watch young players trying to compete than veterans struggling to find what’s left.
Bringing the Brett Jacksons and Trey McNutts of the world to the big leagues seems like a simple process, however it’s important that the Cubs develop future stars like Jackson and McNutt before they start their major league careers.
Trading off veteran players also is not quite as easy a process as the fans, or even the media, perceive it to be. With multi-year deals and no-trade clauses, some contracts – like Alfonso Soriano’s – are almost impossible to move unless the player himself asks to be traded. Contracts such as the aforementioned Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano would take player’s consent in order to trade.
As general manager Jim Hendry found out in 2010, even when you think you have a deal, the player must go along with the concept. Last July Hendry had a trade in place with the Angels for first baseman Derrek Lee. After taking almost a week to decide, Lee turned down the request and invoked his no-trade clause. In August the Cubs approached Lee a second time about the Atlanta Braves’ interest in a trade. This time Lee agreed and the trade was consummated.
With the recent rash of injuries to players like Andrew Cashner, Randy Wells, Matt Garza and Marlon Byrd, the Cubs are unable to make trades from a position of strength. Byrd will be out an extended period of time, Cashner’s rehab will be a minimum of six to eight weeks, and at this moment it’s unknown how much time Garza will miss. As for the youth movement itself, Jackson has missed almost three weeks recovering from a severely bruised left pinky finger. After rehabbing at the Cubs’ minor league camp in Mesa, Ariz., he’s just returning to action at Double-A Tennessee.
The Cubs do have some good-looking young players in the minor leagues who should make it to the majors at some point. You’re already watching good young talent like shortstop Starlin Castro and second baseman Darwin Barney, and Welington Castillo behind the plate looks like a keeper as well. However, considering a wholesale sell-off of veteran players at this time would probably be ill-advised unless you, the fan, are prepared to watch the Chicago Cubs develop like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals have tried to over the last two decades.
Tom Ricketts and his family are trying to do two things at once – compete for a World Series and develop young players. Unfortunately, at this point only the latter is working.