Saturday, June 02, 2007

Blow Up The Team...Or Not

As the Cubs season continues to circle the drain and it seems like things just can’t get any worse, things do get worse. In the midst of a loss to the Braves, Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett decided to spice things up with a fight that left Barrett with two black eyes and a split lip, and both players a little lighter in the wallet. It was a stupid display by two guys with more emotion than brains.

Predictably, the Cubs blogosphere started calling for a trade of one or both of the players. Then the knee-jerkers started calling for a wholesale dismantling of the club including trades of Derrick Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Alfonso Soriano. I wasn’t surprised to hear people call for the team to be blown up and for the Cubs to start over, but I was surprised at the number of normally reasonable people that joined in the chorus.

So I decided to give some serious thought to the calls for wholesale changes. What if the Cubs were to trade away their best players and start over? Would it make sense? Certainly, it’s going to be difficult to field a team that is going to do worse (or much worse) than the current crop of players. So, is the call for blowing up the team legitimate?

In a word, no.

If you’ve read previous articles on this fine blog, then you know that I am in favor of making changes. In order to improve the team, I feel the Cubs need a reliable bullpen arm, a good hitting SS, and perhaps an outfielder (CF or RF) with some pop in his bat. In order to get those pieces, I can see the Cubs trading any or all of Zambrano, Jacque Jones, Matt Murton, Ceasar Izturis, Cliff Floyd, and Scott Eyre. Throw in some minor leaguers if you have to. But parting company with the nucleus of the team – Lee, Ramirez, and Soriano – doesn’t make any sense.

Think about it. If you trade Lee, are you going to get a player (or even two players) that will equal his offensive production and fielding prowess? I don’t think so. And if you don’t, why would you trade him?

Ramirez and Soriano may not have the defensive upside that Lee has, but will you be able to replace their offensive production? Don’t be fooled by Soriano’s slow start. He was a 40/40 man last year. He hasn’t forgotten how to hit.

So the question is, will the Cubs be better as a team if they trade Lee, Ramirez and Soriano? No they won’t, unless you are in favor of a long rebuilding process.

The only way you can justify trading any of the Cubs big three is if your plan is to build the team to be a winner three or four years down the road. In that case, the Cubs can use Lee, Ramirez, and Soriano to attract a lot of really good young prospects. The Cubs could load up on young players with the hopes of building a team that can win in the future. I’m not in favor of such a plan, but it is a possibility.

The Cubs as currently constructed are not that far away from being a contender, especially in the NL Central. A couple of key moves and the Cubs are right back in it. I completely understand the frustration of watching this $110 million team struggle through the season, but dismantling the team is not the answer.


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