Wisch: Why The Cubs’ Deadline Inactivity Wasn’t Dumb

By Dave Wischnowsky –

(CBS) Across the country – and throughout the blogosphere – baseball watchers everywhere have been scratching their scalps raw this week while trying to figure out exactly what it was that the Chicago Cubs were up to last weekend at the MLB trade deadline.

When they were, you know, up to pretty much nothing.

Labeling the team a “Deadline Loser,” ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark wrote about Chicago’s Less-and-Less-Lovable ones: “Between no-trade clauses, contracts that acted like no-trade clauses and low-energy under-performance from so many guys on this roster, the Cubs headed for the auction stand with almost nothing they could sell, other than Kosuke Fukudome.

“And once Fukudome was gone, that’s exactly what they did get moved: Nothing.”

Meanwhile, over at Grantland.com, writer Jonah Keri also took the Cubs’ “non-decision-making” to task, firing off the condemnation that, “There is no clearer mark of trade deadline cluelessness than the non-contending team that does nothing … if you’re out of it, and you have players whom other people actually want, what the hell are you waiting for? …

Keri continued his rant about the Cubs, writing: “They had multiple players with real trade value and no keeper value with teams sniffing around. Yet they didn’t make any trades. They didn’t seem to want to field offers at all, preferring to let the baseball world know that fifth place would be just fine.”

Well, as disgusted as I’ve been with the Cubs’ performance this season – this four-game win streak notwithstanding – I’m not going to agree with Keri on that one. Rather, I think Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts does indeed want a first-place team (and, certainly, first-rate attendance).

I’m just not sure he knows how to get there.

But I’m also not sure that the Cubs’ inactivity at the trade deadline was at all the colossal mistake that so many people seem to want to make it out to be. And now, let me tell you why.

First off, many critics have ripped the Cubs this past week for their unwillingness to part with the likes of Carlos Marmol and Carlos Pena, while also expressing disappointment in the team’s inability to part with the likes of Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano.

Well, as I wrote last week in regards to Zambrano, if the Cubs had been able to deal him in order to dump his bloated salary, then by all means they should have done it. Same goes for Soriano.

But, if the ballclub was going to trade either of those players and still have to foot the bill for most of their multi-year contracts – as was widely reported – then just keeping them both was a wiser move.

After all, paying players just to go away doesn’t give the Cubs any additional money to pay new ones to arrive this winter.

Now, in the case of Marmol, Keri demanded through his piece at Grantland.com to know why the Cubs wouldn’t trade their closer to an interested contender. But I instead ask, why on Earth would they?

With his recent struggles, Marmol is currently at what has to be the lowest trade value of his career. Beyond that, he’s only 28 years old, is signed through 2013 and still has the tools and make-up to be the kind of closer that the Cubs will want (and need) if they actually become good again in the near future. At this point, he’s still worth hanging on to.

Meanwhile, the decision not to deal Pena does seems like a bigger head-scratcher. After all, with his one-year contract, his decent power numbers and the likelihood of the Cubs pursuing a marquee free-agent first baseman in the offseason, Pena looks like natural deadline trade bait. But I think people need to fish a little deeper.

Because, while the Cubs might indeed want to sign Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols this offseason, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to do so. And if they can’t? Well, then having Pena back at first base is probably your best option.

And, fact is, if you trade Pena, there’s almost no chance that he’d sign back with the Cubs if they find themselves in a first-base pinch.

Now, as to why the Cubs weren’t willing to trade a Marlon Byrd here or a Jeff Baker there, I can’t say. But perhaps the offers for them just weren’t very good (entirely possible). So why trade for just the sake of making a trade?

On face value, I completely understand why the Cubs’ lack of action is so baffling to so many. However, I have a different guess as to why general manager Jim Hendry was so quiet at the deadline.

And it’s because, perhaps, he was told to be.

SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported this week that Hendry still has a strong rapport with Cubs ownership, according to people connected to the organization. But even if Tom Ricketts loves Hendry, I find it difficult to believe that the Cubs chairman will be foolish enough to bring him back for yet another go-around in 2012.

Not if Ricketts wants to actually sell tickets.

And if Hendry isn’t going to be back next season, do you really want the guy making a bunch of trades this season that will impact the ballclub well into the future? I know I don’t.

Now, I very well might be giving Ricketts far too much credit, but I’d also like to believe that the reason why Hendry’s hands were so still at the deadline is because the Cubs chairman had them tied.

And that he’s willing to wait until this winter to make a deal.

By naming new management for the franchise.

Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.

davewisch Wisch: Why The Cubs’ Deadline Inactivity Wasn’t Dumb

Dave Wischnowsky

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.

  • Larry

    Pick a controversial topic, and then write about it, taking the contrarian position to draw attention to yourself. Yawn.

    Gee whiz, moving players would have cost the Cubs money. Gee whiz, Hendry didn’t do anything because maybe Tommy told him not to do anything. It’s almost like God himself sent this information down on tablets. Wow. What revelations.

    And you’re wrong. Not doing more at the deadline was dumb. I don’t care how you get rid of 12. It must be done.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Ha. And, good afternoon to you too, Larry. Doesn’t seem like I should need to point out the purpose of a blog or not, but, um, yes, the whole intent is to take a perspective and then pose an argument for it.

      In any case, I think the reasons for the Cubs’ inactivity are just as obvious as you apparently do (although you disagree with my conclusion). But my whole point is that what I see to be the reasons for Hendry’s inaction are things that other commentators seemingly haven’t been able to see during the past week.

      In fact, Jonah Keri is his piece at Grantland.com wrote that he was “grasping at straws” trying to figure out the method behind the Cubs’ lack of deadline madness.

      Well, here are a few for him to clutch on to. And a few for you to bicker with, as well :)

  • Dave Wischnowsky

    And, certainly, the Cubs should deal Soriano if they can actually deal Soriano.

    Trying to just give him to the Yankees by paying 95% of the $56M he’s still owed makes zero sense in my book. It’s not as if he’s currently blocking the path of some stud minor league left-fielder and if you’re still shelling out that much of his contract, it’s not as if you’re in better position to sign another top player to replace him.

    The Cubs made their bed with Alfonso, and it was a messy one. But they’re likely just going to have to lie in it until more of his money comes off the books. Then they can thinking about eating his contract once the portion becomes more palatable

    And sensible.

  • Jonathan Beller

    “And you’re wrong. Not doing more at the deadline was dumb. I don’t care how you get rid of 12. It must be done.”

    Ok, first off calm down Larry before I go get Moe to smack you around. Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk, and second off Dave makes his best point at the end of his article.

    “And if Hendry isn’t going to be back next season, do you really want the guy making a bunch of trades this season that will impact the ballclub well into the future? I know I don’t.”

    Sure Larry, let Hendry, who got the Cubs in this situation in the first place, mastermind his next major blunder. More likely however, blunder[S].

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      In some things in life, I’d say that if you make a mess you should get out of it yourself. In this case, I would argue otherwise. Hendry has done quite a job of putting the Cubs in awful contractual binds — side note: Why so many no-trade clauses, Jim? — and because of that, I hardly trust him to get the team out of them.

      The Cubs need a new GM to clean up this mess.

      • paulh

        I’ve been thinking this very seriously since it was obvious to me that this team wasn’t going anywhere. I hope and pray that Gillick is brought aboard to replace Kenney as team President and he hires his own GM. Gillick has a past working relationship with Tim Wilken and that’s good. If I were Ricketts, I wouldn’t allow Hendry to dismantle this team. Hendry has simply been ‘taken’ too often by other GM’s in deals. Doing nothing now allows the new guy to do something later. No need to have the new guy deal with more of Hendry’s mess than we already have. As a lifelong Cub fan. I think we need to accept the probable fact that we’re stuck with Z and Fonz. I’m with you on this one Wisch.

  • Greg

    Interesting angle. I wish I was as convinced as you are that Ricketts has a clue. Nothing I’ve seen from him thus far gives me any indication that that is indeed the case. If you have seen anything that would seem to support your hunch that he has a plan of any kind, I would love to read about it. Until then I’m assuming another 20 years of futility.

    I hope he proves me wrong.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Greg, I’ve been holding off on fully judging Ricketts until this offseason when the Cubs have all this money come off the books. However, thus far, I haven’t been impressed with one thing he’s done during his tenure. In fact, his only tangible action seems to have been erecting the Toyota sign at Wrigley Field.

      I have my fingers crossed that this season of Hendry, Quade and 90+ losses has woken Ricketts up to the fact that he needs to start acting like a major-market owner. Immediately. But until we see that actually happen, I hardly feel safe in saying that it will. I’m hoping, but make no mistake in thinking that I’m actually confident about it. We’ll find out a lot about what kind of baseball team owner Chairman Ricketts really is this coming winter. All eyes on him.

  • Larry

    We’re not going to win with these players and they’re going to continue to cost us a fortune, but let’s keep them anyway because we would have been rooked out of money by trading them now and maybe they’ll have more value next year when they’re older, slower and worse? Wow, that’s smart if that’s what Tommy’s thinking.

    The 12 deal has been the worst deal in Cubs history. I’ve never seen a player hustle less outside of maybe little league.

    Z’s stock is probably pretty high right now vis-a-vis a year ago. Sure, keep him when the return would be at its highest.

    Pena? That speaks for itself. Brutal.

    Rami? Good ball player who only plays and hustles when he feels like it. Aggravating. Just like his team and its management. 2003 and 2004 are long gone.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      But, Larry, no one is arguing that the Cubs should not have traded these guys if they could have actually traded them. My argument is that there’s no sense right now in eating enormous — and we’re talking absolutely ENORMOUS — multi-year contracts in Soriano and Zambrano.

      Here’s what I wrote last week regarding Zambrano: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/07/29/wisch-what%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98z%E2%80%99-deal-keeping-zambrano-makes-more-sense/

      And trading Pena only makes sense if you’re certain that Prince Fielder is coming to Chicago next season. If you’re not certain of that, then you hang on to Pena as an insurance policy for the time being. It’s called covering your bases, because somebody is going to have to play at all of them in 2012.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Thanks for the angle Dave.
    I had noticed the national media proclaiming the Cubs as THE deadline losers.
    Yet I question the Grantland writer…he made the Twins and the Nationals, respectively, big losers and big winners based on the same NON-deal (CF for Closer)!!!

    Hendry needs to go (Crane Kenney and Quade too). Better not to have let Hendry do any more damage at this deadline.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Exactly, Arse. Hendry has done enough. He just needs to leave this mess well enough alone at this point, and allow someone else to come in and clean the table.


    Hi Dave,
    I agree with most of it, but if Jim Hendry is back, he’s going to give Pena a giant payday.
    It’s inevitable.
    I also can’t figure out why they re-signed Reid Johnson this year. It’s almost as if they don’t want anything to do with Tyler Colvin. So. . . trade him.
    I think Marmol could rebound with better instruction.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Hendry just cannot come back. I can’t see how Ricketts could justify that considering the precipice the team has fallen off since he dealt Mark DeRosa and signed Milton Bradley. It’s been a truly frightening fall. Hendry did some nice things in Chicago, but it’s time for someone else to get a shot.

      • SPAULDING!

        Enter the mind of Tom Ricketts. Nooo!

        Remember when Hendry picked up Karros and Grudzelanek? “Wha happen?”

        You would have thought, that as a condition of loaning this money, the bank would have insisted on a new president. At least, some Mr. Drysdale (with Ms. Jane in tow) who would have had the financial security of the organization as a priority.


    Dave hope your right,Henry has to go.Please hire some young aggresive gm,cubs weve suffered enough.How about rick hahn,he always sounds in the know when hes on your station.Keep up the good work and dont listen to Bernstien.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      For the record Bernsie is a Sox fan.

      Rick Hahn is an excellent nomination.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        that was meant to be “yes” not hyes…I did not channel a Tim Conway character or pick up an accent while in MN.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Hahn is Harvard Law School/ Kellogg B School.
        Super, super sharp guy.

        Ed, that was a GREAT idea…and hyes, he is impressive when on the Score.

  • Murphs Upper-Lip

    What crawled up Larry’s Arse??? (Not referring to Larry Horse’s Arse ;-) Dead on, as usual Dave. National media blows. It always makes me wonder, if they are so off base so often about the teams that I follow locally, why do I listen to what they have to say about ANY team? Ah well, as we’ve already discussed last week, to trade just to trade is not smart baseball; love you’re point about Marmol and his value currently being at his lowest. As I’ve learned from Wallstreet and Glengarry Glen Ross, you don’t sell low, you buy low.

    • Murphs Upper-Lip

      AHHH!!!! I committed the ultimate sin@!@##!! I’ve incorrectly used your/you’re, my bad.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Wow I have never seen the REVERSE your/you’re eff-up….not even since days of yore.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    You made me LOL as usual, M U-L.

    The Grantland guy was utterly bogus with his Twins/Nats analysis (he made the Twinkies seem the patsy whereas they would have stolen Drew Storen, a closer for the next 15 years for a CF who projects not even to start for the Twinkies next year. That’s why I like Dave…honest analysis.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Dave, did you see Tiger’s uggg-leee purple shirt today???

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      No! I missed it! Has Jim Phillips gotten to him, too? :)

  • Monte

    Dave I think you nailed it.You don’t let your GM makes big moves if you plan on replacing him, you wait until the end of the season when other GMs are available and entice them with players that he can bargain with. Some people want to make trades just to say their team did something,then later regret it.The season is over,play it out and wait for the winter meetings with a new GM(if you can get a better one) a new manager,then make the trades and signings.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    So the Illini are going to play the WVa Huggy-Bears in ITALY!
    What happened, did David Stern lock them out of pkaying in the USA???

    This blog entry was a real winner, sparked tons of great conversation.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Thome hit 595 last night against the Angels.
    I’d love to see him hit 599, 600 and even 601 vs the SOx, so long as the Sox beat the Twinkies in each game.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      that was 598, typo but I really am an arsehat, sorry

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I hope the 7 Wins doesn’t impede Ricketts from having the resolve to clean house in management.

  • Larry Horse's Arse


    Z makes me look like a real arse.

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