Today’s trading deadline could be the biggest purge yet of the remnants of Jim Hendry’s Cubs, in favor of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s new vision of the team. Consider the Hendry pieces that have already been traded away or allowed to leave town: Kosuke Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Marlon Byrd, and now Geovany Soto and Reed Johnson. I’m not counting Kerry Wood, since he was from the pre-Hendry era.
Hendry-era names on the bubble for today include Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, and the biggest Hendry project of all: Alfonso Soriano. The only names that might survive are Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney, Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Marmol, and Starlin Castro. The rest of the team has been effectively turned over since Hendry was let go last July. The times they are a changin’ on the North Side of Chicago.
Whether Dempster bites the bullet and agrees to be traded will probably be apparent before tonight’s game, with Dempster scheduled to start against the Pirates. Manager Dale Sveum has said that he’ll be surprised if Dempster starts on Tuesday night, and Cubs fans will probably let Dempster hear their displeasure if he does take the mound.
Dempster can, in fact, veto any trade proposal, but the Cubs have already seen the Atlanta deal for Randall Delgado fall through, and other potential takers for Dempster may be looking around for someone else instead. Dempster’s final two months in Chicago, if he’s not traded on Tuesday, won’t be pleasant for him or the organization. Some fans will doubtlessly cut him a break for not wanting to be traded, but other fans will see this as an act of selfishness that hurts the team’s attempt at building for the future.
The Cubs aren’t renting any big-name free agents for the stretch run, unfortunately. What they’re after this year is prospects, prospects and more prospects. And the more pitching they can acquire, the better to fill in for the potential loss of Dempster and/or Garza. Samardzija seems to be solid in the starting rotation, but there are several spots left to fill. And upgrades in the bullpen, including the closer’s role, would be a very good thing, indeed.
Whatever happens today, the Cubs will be using Hendry’s players as bait for trades that can help them build toward the future. Exactly how much of this bait will be appealing to baseball’s other GM’s will be known over the next few hours. It should be interesting to see who’s on the Cubs’ roster come Wednesday morning.