By the time the 2011 season came to a merciful end, it was all too obvious that the Cubs needed to rebuild. When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer joined the team, expectations skyrocketed (and rightly so). But some hopes seem to have been ill-founded—while analysts debated whether Epstein and company could bring a championship to Chicago, the 2012 season simultaneously began to look more and more dismal.
Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Jose Reyes have all signed elsewhere. Now, dreams of watching Prince Fielder launch baseballs out of Wrigley Field in a Cubs uniform for the next five years are beginning to fade, and some have begun to wonder exactly what the Cubs' front office is trying to do.
The answer may not seem appealing at first. The Cubs are rebuilding with a long term plan, perhaps a very long plan, so those hoping for a dramatic, Diamondbacks-like resurgence will likely be disappointed.
But the lack of blockbuster trades and huge signings does not mean that Epstein and Hoyer have been idle. Indeed, they have made a number of smart moves already. With Ian Stewart and David DeJesus, they have filled holes in right field and third base with cheap and potentially effective solutions. Travis Wood will give them back rotation support for at least a few years—at any rate, he should be more successful than last year's experiments with Rodrigo Lopez and Ramon Ortiz. In that same deal, the Cubs also picked up two very promising prospects in Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes.
It would not come as a huge surprise if Matt Garza is dealt this offseason. Garza is under club control until 2013, which means he could sign elsewhere before the Cubs return to contention. The good news? If the trend continues, the Cubs will get useful and promising players in return.
Cubs fans should not be disappointed with Epstein and Hoyer's moves so far. They know precisely what they are doing—their work has been cautious, but also intelligent. Cubs Nation might have to delay World Series talk for more than a year or two, but that does not mean things are going badly. At least the Cubs are heading in a different direction, namely, up.