By Nick Shepkowski-
(CBS) The idea of a potential 100-loss team and actually watching it take place is sufferable.
The 2012 Cubs have been everything most thought they would be, as they’ve scored the fourth fewest runs in the league and have won just four of their last 21 games. As the trade deadline sits now just over 50 days away, your televisions and Twitter timelines will be full of rumors pertaining to who ends up where and for what.
For the Cubs, who are on pace to win 55 games, their most important couple of days of the season outside of the recent MLB Draft are what happens around the trade deadline on July 31. Those are the only two time periods during the season where the team’s minor league systems will be able to grow and the importance of doing so can’t be stressed enough.
As of right now, the Cubs minor league system looks something like this: Anthony Rizzo and whole lot of nothing. Say what you want about Brett Jackson – he’s currently hitting .261 while striking out 1.38 times per game at Triple-A Iowa. The same can be said for Josh Vitters, whose .308 OBP at Iowa doesn’t exactly make you think he’s going to be a respectable every-day third baseman at the major league level anytime soon. Add in the lack of potential major league arms in the system, and the Cubs aren’t exactly ready to compete in the next few seasons.
To date, the hottest name the Cubs could potentially deal has been Ryan Dempster. He is the holder of a 2.54 ERA and if it weren’t for awful run support he’d have much more than his one win on the season. As nice as Dempster may be to add to a team like the Yankees or White Sox, who have obvious holes in their starting rotation, what is a 35 year old in the last year of his deal really going to bring back?
Theo Epstein won two World Series in Boston with the first coming from trading away a player that was seen as “untouchable” by both Red Sox fans and media. Nomar Garciaparra was supposed to put the Cubs over the top in 2004, but instead it was the Red Sox acquiring Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz who wound up hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy. Sure, that was an already contending team, but the idea of trading stars is nothing new to Epstein, who also dealt Manny Ramirez in 2008.
You may also recall the Red Sox trading away their future star shortstop in the late fall of 2005, Hanley Ramirez. Sure, Ramirez played just two games with Boston, but his hype was part of the reason Epstein was able to bring Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to town and in turn win a second World Series.
In no way are the Cubs in any position near where the Red Sox were at the time of these trades, but anyone who thinks the Cubs have to build around Starlin Castro is out of their minds. Right now he’s a 23-year-old shortstop who has proven he can hit the baseball well, but has gotten on base only just over 32% of the time this season. He’s also a young man who has had serious problems keeping his head in the game with forgetting how many outs there were Monday in San Francisco and then having a horrendous base running mistake in Milwaukee the following night. As much potential as he has, nobody should be thinking he’s such an integral part of the team going forward.
People love to talk about the hype surrounding Castro and how one day he may be a 20 home run guy. To those I ask, what about his 17 homers in 339 career games makes you feel that way? Sure, he’s still young and hasn’t even stepped in a major league batter’s box 1,500 times yet, but what has he improved at since his spectacular debut in Cincinnati now over two years ago?
He’s still a horrid fielder and takes a walk twice a month. For the seemingly endless holes the Cubs have right now and the lapses he’s had, there’s no reason to think Castro is untouchable when it comes to building the teams future.