After a year of watching the Chicago Cubs, President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have seen enough. They are cutting players, allowing players to walk, and just plain trying to ensure that the 2013 roster does not resemble the 2012 roster. Can they do enough? Will they do enough to rejuvenate a team that was one of the worst in baseball?
For starters, the Cubs have signed starters. Chicago inked free agent Scott Feldman to a one-year, $6 million deal. That was soon after they signed free agent Scott Baker to a one-year, $5.5 million deal. There was a sale on Scotts, so Chicago took two.
Both of the Scotts are scheduled to serve time in the Cubs’ starting rotation during the 2013 season, but whether or not either, or both, are worth it is hardly a slam dunk. The Texas Rangers let Feldman go. The Minnesota Twins sort of seemed to want to keep Baker, but they didn’t try all that hard.
Cubs fans rejoiced when Epstein, who supervised the building of and accomplishments of the two-time World Series champion Boston Red Sox of the first decade of the 21st century, came aboard. The figuring went that he eased Boston’s pain, so he can ease Chicago’s pain. He was seen as the king of providing balm to the long-suffering.
Anyone who knew anything about baseball, though, knew that the Cubs were not going to be re-built any faster than Rome was built. Feldman and Baker may be upgrades on the group that pitched for the horror show 61-101 team this past season, but they are definitely not any kind of major answer by their lonesome, or even together. Even if Ernie Banks came along all over again, Mr. Cub couldn’t lift the team much higher without considerably more assistance. It isn’t as if the Cubs are one Scott away.
Baker, 31, has a lifetime record of 63-48 with a 4.15 earned run average. He might do some good for the Cubs. Feldman, 29, has a lifetime mark of 39-44 with a 4.81 earned run average. A few seasons ago he went 17-8 for the Rangers, but that’s looking like a fluke now. It’s difficult to tell if the acquisition of these two guys represents busy work for the Cubs, or if management truly thinks they are front-line starters that can help record a season that would be a 20-win improvement or so.
It’s not as if Baker and Feldman are flawless either. Feldman had a knee injury in 2011 and became a long reliever instead of a starter, his preference, for Texas. Baker had an elbow injury. No wonder these fellows were so happy to obtain multi-million-dollar offers to play for the lowly Cubs. They are happy to be playing.
The Cubs need so much more than Feldman and Baker, but the Cubs do have money to spend. They need a sweeping gesture for a big team upgrade and to send a we’re-trying-hard message to the Wrigley Field fans. Epstein is probably wondering why his old Red Sox pals didn’t call him when they were exiling Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers for bread crumbs. Heck, the Cubs have bread crumbs in abundance, and adding that trio would have been a big deal in Chicago.
And Epstein is probably wondering who is mad at him in Toronto, too. When the Marlins wanted to dump half of their roster on the Blue Jays and shipped Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson north of the border, Epstein was probably going, “What? You lost my number?”
Those are the kind of bold strokes the Cubs fans want to see from Epstein–adding a bunch of guys who can play at all once, with money being no object. Feldman and Baker just look like window-dressing, acquisitions for the sake of it, not really like ballplayers who will help the team very much.