Cubs keep to their plan as trade deadline passes

MILWAUKEE -- Judging the Chicago Cubs after the trade deadline -- where they picked up starter Dan Haren and reliever Tommy Hunter -- comes down to that one word used so often with the Cubs during their rebuilding plan: perspective.

On one hand Haren and Hunter won't get the masses excited, but on the other they fill the exact two needs on the team. Haren takes over the fifth starter's position while Hunter should lock down a place in the bullpen occupied by various names like Edwin Jackson, Brian Schlitter, Yoervis Medina and others.

The Cubs wanted a bigger deal for a team-controlled player over the coming years -- think Tyson Ross of the San Diego Padres and Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians -- but it just didn't materialize.

"There were different times in the last 24 hours where we felt we had some traction, some movement towards something close to the final stages," Cubs president Theo Epstein said Friday afternoon after the deadline passed. "We were very aggressive in my mind packaging our prospects for controllable, major league talent including deals of volume and impact."

But the Cubs aren't going all-in just yet. By now you know why. They're too young, starting four rookies on many days. And there's a simple reason they didn't bring in a position player to help a struggling offense.

"We weren't going to add just any bat or replace someone because they're slumping," Epstein said. "These are our guys and we believe in them."

The opening just wasn't there. Experience is needed more than an outside addition at the plate. Time and games played will move the offense in the right direction, in their opinion, so the focus was on pitching. The Cubs have much less of that in the minor leagues. They looked for young, controllable arms and this is simply one of the two times of the year to do it. It's either now or in December.

"You have to be opportunistic during those periods or else you're left without trade partners," Epstein said. "Two main players didn't end up getting moved. ... [Would we] have liked to hit a HR of a deal? Absolutely. If you're dead set on making a big deal for the sake of making a big deal you make a bad deal. We explored everything very aggressively. Came close but we still have that talent in the organization."

But Epstein stressed how things have changed now. They may not have made that blockbuster this time around but it's coming. Being closer to the division lead would help as every big move from a contending team -- save perhaps the Toronto Blue Jays -- came from a potential division winner. (Even the Jays are closer). That's not the Cubs right now.

"In the past we've been hesitant to convert some of our better prospects into big league players via trade but I think our mindset has shifted," Epstein said. "What we have beginning at the big league level and what lies ahead there's no way around it. Our prospects have to be seen as possible currency. They are."

So take a step back. For three years the Cubs sold everywhere they could while in the process of rebuilding their farm system and drafting high. Now in their first year of winning they don't go all out as buyers yet fill a couple of needs while giving up little -- two lower-level minor leaguers and Junior Lake. So they went shopping at the cheaper stores while looking through the glass at the expensive stuff. There's a good chance this offseason or more likely next deadline they'll go bigger.

"You have to give these guys a chance to play, a chance to learn a chance to win for you," Epstein said.

The Cubs still might add a bat in August, if it's needed. And they'll revisit the young pitching market this winter, but that's also when some big names will be available again. The Cubs' pitching staff is good enough to compete the rest of this season; now it's up to the offense to come together. If they do, it's probably a year ahead of schedule; if they don't, the Cubs have still taken that next step.

Remember, forward is a good thing. There's no guarantee each year they'll be moving that way but the Cubs are doing their best to ensure they'll have a long run of contending seasons -- just like this one and ones even better.

"You'll see some trades over the next few years," Epstein said. "You almost did today. We're trying to develop and win at the same time."

Isn't that what everyone wanted out of this team?