Marlins are a model as Cubs develop talent
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org May 19, 2011 8:42PM
Updated: June 22, 2011 7:24PM
MIAMI — The Cubs didn’t have to look far Thursday night to see one of the organizations they hope to emulate.
The Florida Marlins — the bane of the Cubs since keeping them from the World Series in 2003 — have remained competitive and relevant in the tough National League East nearly every year despite some of the lowest payrolls in the majors because they keep signing and developing some of best amateurs in the game.
If the playoffs had started Thursday, the Marlins would have been the NL wild-card qualifier despite the fourth-lowest payroll in the league ($57 million).
‘‘They just always seem to have a couple more high-ceiling guys knocking on the door,’’ Cubs assistant general manager Randy Bush said.
That kind of consistent, high-caliber player development has been one of the major emphases since the Ricketts family bought the Cubs in October 2009. And, consequently, it’s one of the reasons no one should assume GM Jim Hendry’s job is riding on the results of this season — even though the Cubs so far have the NL’s third-worst record and the second-highest payroll.
The changes under Hendry — which include highly regarded executives Tim Wilken and Oneri Fleita running the scouting and farm systems, respectively — are showing results, even with 2006 first-round pick Tyler Colvin being demoted to the minors this week and with 2008 first-rounder Andrew Cashner out of action with a shoulder injury.
Thursday night, for instance, rookie second baseman Darwin Barney and second-year shortstop Starlin Castro took the field as the Cubs’ top two hitters this season. And pitcher Casey Coleman took another shot at proving himself while filling in for injured homegrown starter Randy Wells, who could be back in the
rotation in about a week.
‘‘We’ve got the right [scouting director] in place,’’ Bush said as the Cubs prepare for an important draft in two weeks with the ninth overall pick and two in the first 42. ‘‘And we’ve got some continuity now, with the people underneath [Wilken] that he feels real comfortable with. I think a lot of other [successful] organizations will tell you one of their keys is continuity of people in key evaluation positions.’’
The Marlins have had that under GM Larry Beinfest since he and the front office moved south with owner Jeffrey Loria when Loria swapped out his Montreal Expos for the Marlins in 2002.
This week, the Marlins’ outfield consisted of three of the top young players in the league: Logan Morrison, drafted in the 22nd round in 2005 (and the guy the White Sox tried to get in a trade for manager Ozzie Guillen), first-rounder Chris Coghlan (2006) and second-rounder Mike Stanton (2007). The Marlins also boast slugger Gaby Sanchez (fourth round, 2005) at first base.
It’s a model the Cubs hope to eventually follow.
‘‘It is, absolutely,’’ Bush said. ‘‘I think all teams are committed to scouting and player development. But you still have to make good
decisions. And [the Marlins] have. You have to give them credit for that. They’ve done a tremendous job.’’