The latest trade by the Chicago Cubs is a clear message from management to the fan base that the team is at least one year away from contending in the NL Central.
Picking up young starting pitcher Travis Wood and a possible starting second baseman of the future, Ronald Torreyes, for Sean Marshall, who is arguably the best left-handed setup man in the National League, is an indication that building up the organization’s youthful manpower is the main focus for Theo Epstein & Co.
Epstein, the team’s president of baseball operations, confirmed that aggressiveness by stating on Friday that he’ll continue to talk to teams about trading Matt Garza for a batch of young prospects.
Although Epstein hasn’t ruled out signing Garza to a three- or four-year extenstion, the only real way for the Cubs to contend in what is now a strong NL Central is to dump out of the 2012 race and prepare for the future.
The Toronto Blue Jays seem to be the best matchup for the Cubs in a Garza deal. After just missing out on Japanese starter Yu Darvish and watching left-hander John Danks re-sign with the White Sox, the Blue Jays best chance to compete would be to acquire Garza before the start of the season.
Toronto’s No. 1 pick from 2010, right-hander Deck McGuire, will be the focal point of any negotiations between the Cubs and Jays. The 22-year-old pitcher was a combined 9-5 at three different minor-league levels in 2011. The Blue Jays are convinced he’s near major-league ready.
The Cubs will also inquire about the availabilities of left-handed pitcher Justin Nicolino and power-hitting outfielder Jake Marisnick. Nicolino, a 20-year-old pitcher, was 6-2 with a 1.33 ERA at two minor league levels last season. He allowed just 39 hits in 61 innings. Marisnick is considered a five-tool prospect and hit 14 homers at the lower-A level last year.
The Cubs, who have no great agenda to trade Garza, are also preparing to talk to his agent about a long-term deal. So far they don’t like where the trade talks are going.
Players over 30 years of age should be aware that they really aren’t a fit for the Cubs at this point.
Attempts to move veteran outfielder Alfonso Soriano to an American League team have been futile so far. The Cubs may have to eat somewhere in the vicinity of $40 million of the $54 million Soriano is still owed in order to find an AL team to take Soriano as their designated hitter.
For the short term, you can call them the Chicago Carps -- as they will continue to bottom feed for 2012 and try to build a championship caliber team for 2013 and beyond.