Though losing streak hits seven, Cubs brass staying the course
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org May 21, 2012 10:56PM
Matt Garza allowed seven runs in three innings Monday, one of his worst games as a Cub. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:01AM
HOUSTON — One of the reasons top Cubs officials seldom have been seen in recent weeks is because they’re preparing for the draft that starts June 4, when they’ll have the sixth overall pick.
Think that’s big? Wait till you see how high they draft next year.
That’s an important point to keep in mind in the shrill aftermath of the Cubs’ winless weekend against the White Sox and a season-worst losing streak that reached seven games after an 8-4 defeat Monday against the Houston Astros.
Get Anthony Rizzo up here now? Trade Matt Garza for the best package of prospects available? Blow up the whole thing and get on one of those five-year plans that spin prospect carousels?
For all the talk-show extremism stoking an irritable fan base, nothing the Cubs have done — or, more specifically, not done — in the last week changes anything about how the new front office plans to conduct business.
Anybody who thinks otherwise hasn’t listened to all the talk from team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer about “parallel fronts” and “foundations for sustained success” and sticking to the long-term plan, regardless of short-term results.
Especially this year’s results.
“I think it is important to remind ourselves, especially when we’re going through a rough patch, as we are now, that the complete development of our prospects is a top priority,” Hoyer said via e-mail Monday. “The reason is that we want them to have the best possible chance of having long, productive careers with the Cubs.
“It’s something we’ve stressed from day one and will continue to stress, and to compromise our approach would not best serve our goal of building a championship organization.”
In other words, don’t expect to see Rizzo in a Cubs uniform quite as soon as manager Dale Sveum suggested Sunday.
For one thing, it makes no sense to call up Rizzo any time in the next month and risk losing a year of club control by making him eligible for free agency in 2018 instead of 2019.
Given the state of the roster when the new regime took over and the compromised shape of the farm system, this season always was going to be about evaluations and auditions.
“When you have the situation we’re in, you’re evaluating every day,” said Sveum, who’s starting to consider a shakeup of his own. “At the two-month mark, now I’ve gotten to see all these guys at the major-league level. Not spring training, but major-league competition on an every-day basis. How that’s handled, how guys handle major-league pitching, how they handle left-handed pitching, how they handle adversity. You’re evaluating a lot of other things than just production.”
It will continue to be that way.
With new limits on amateur signing bonuses in the draft and international free agency starting this year, another high draft pick doesn’t hurt the long-term process.
Meanwhile, players such as Garza — despite one of his roughest starts as a Cub on Monday — are more valuable commodities, if only because front-line starting pitching is the hardest thing to acquire and develop.
The Cubs don’t seem to have it coming in the system, but if Jeff Samardzija keeps doing what he has, they have two of those commodities right now, in their 20s.
If Rizzo is the real deal everyone thinks he is, he has plenty of time in the second half of the season to show something. And if the other hitters on the roster and at Class AAA can fill in well enough, that’s where the evaluation process comes in.
As for the bullpen, a good GM can rebuild one in a month over the winter.
So let the auditions and evaluations continue, along with the Rizzo watch.