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Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

Posted on: November 27, 2011 11:28 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 12:28 pm

By Matt Snyder

What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no minor or major league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. To view the schedule of this feature, click here.

When we discuss the Chicago Cubs, no baseball fan is lacking an opinion -- specifically, everyone seems to have some pet theory as to why the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908. I've long argued with the people who believe the streak has something to do with a stupid "curse" or somehow now has something to do with playing so many more day games than everyone else. No, the real problem is they've never put a top-to-bottom management system in place that has done the job consistently for more than a small handful of seasons. It's possible current Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has done so with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, et al (in fact, I'd argue it's likely), but that's a different discussion for a different forum.

For now, we're left looking at one of the worst Homegrown Teams in our series.


1. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
2. Darwin Barney, 2B
3. Starlin Castro, SS
4. Tyler Colvin, LF
5. Casey McGehee, 3B
6. Eric Hinske, 1B
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Sam Fuld, CF

Starting Rotation

1. Ricky Nolasco
2. Kyle Lohse
3. Andrew Cashner*
4. Carlos Zambrano
5. Randy Wells
* - if Cashner fell injured like he did in the real 2011 season, the options would be: Jon Garland, Dontrelle Willis and Casey Coleman.


Closer - Kyle Farnsworth
Set up - Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol, Al Alburquerque, Juan Cruz, Michael Wuertz
Long - Jeff Samardzija, Rich Hill, Sergio Mitre

Notable Bench Players

Robinson Chirinos, Ryan Theriot, Ronny Cedeno, Brandon Guyer, Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, Tony Campana, Lou Montanez. In fact, feel free to grab any of these guys, plug them in the lineup and play around with it. There's really no wrong answer, because it's one marquee player (and he's only 21) amidst a heap of mediocrity at this point. Maybe Guyer proves a good player, McGehee bounces back and/or Colvin becomes a good everyday player, but we have to go on what we've seen up to this point.

What's Good?

The bullpen is really strong. It's well-rounded with righties and lefties, depth, power pitchers and specialists. Of course, there could be an issue with the lack of a reliable closer when it comes to either Farnsworth or Marmol, but a new-age manager might just abandon that idea and use whoever makes the most sense in the ninth.

What's Not?

The starting rotation doesn't have a true ace (or No. 2, for that matter). The infield defense sorely lacks range and the outfield isn't great either. The team speed is minimal, there isn't a good option at leadoff (or in the two-hole, or cleanup, or fifth ... you get the point) and who is the best power hitter? Colvin? Soto? Basically, everything other than the bullpen and Starlin Castro is lackluster.

Comparison to real 2011

You have to give former general manager Jim Hendry credit for scraping together a team good enough to win three division titles in six years, considering this bunch. Then again, he was in charge as the organization was assembling nothing more than a mediocre foundation (Baseball Prospectus now says the minor-league system is "not bad" but is more "depth than starpower."). Let's leave out the excuses, because there are far more bad picks (Montanez at third overall as a shortstop, for example) than there are instances of bad luck (Mark Prior, for example).

The amazing thing is that the 2011 Cubs were 71-91 and I actually think that team was better than this Homegrown unit. When we do the Homegrown rankings in mid-December, expect to see the Cubs toward the bottom. That probably changes in five years, but we're doing this exercise in the present. And this team would probably win somewhere in the ballpark of 65 games. Maybe fewer.

Up Next: Seattle Mariners

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Since: Sep 28, 2010
Posted on: November 28, 2011 4:03 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

Look at the Garza trade last offseason for proof that the Cubs need a complete restructuring. Garza was awesome for the Cubs, unfortunately the Cubs batters didn't feel like giving him any run support. But, they gave the Rays some of their top prospects, Sam Fuld not being one of the top ones either. 

Since: Oct 1, 2006
Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:26 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

Here is the blue print for the Cubs.  No free agents.  Free agents don't come to the Cubs to win they come for the money as the Cubs do not have a winning traidition.  Groom all players through the draft, farm system and pay them more on the lower levels to inspire them to play harder along with instilling loyalty to the Chicago Cubs organization.  Bringing up all players through the farm system is one way to build team chemistry and the only way to beat the losing tradition is to instill winning from the rookie ball on up through the minors.  Trades are also allowable as the players via trade might not be happy but at least they are not coming to the Cubs for money, it has to be all about winning something the Cubs have  no concept.

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:11 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

Matt: Suggesting that I read something else instead of what I don't like would go nowhere in the process that, with civilized debate, we can't improve the product. As I suggested, I applaud your work, don't agree that you've uncovered anything that is of particular value to me. I keep reading because, as you point out, there ain't no baseball outdoors right now in this country.

But if you want a suggestion, this would be somewhat more cumbersome, is to track the family tree from when a kid is signed (or isn't) and how the team came to be where it is as a result.

We all hear stories of the guy who got drafted ahead of so-and-so ... seldom the reason why other than, it just happened. Classic from the Reds history is Bernie Carbo first, THEN Johnny Bench.

I can't say, however, that reading this has not been at least marginally enlightening. Nobody is always aware of who got drafted and by whom.

I do think sometimes, that trading a known player in exchange for two or three prospects is the same thing. I can't draft every catcher who comes along but I am willing to wait to see who has an extra one, spent some time developing the kid (so I didn't have to) and offloading a veteran to get the kid.

With 30 MLB teams, 150 affiliated minor league teams, dozens of indy leagues and foreign teams, that is all but impossible to track.

So again, you did good work in what you tried to do. I just reiterate that I think it's missing the extra pinch of salt.


Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: November 28, 2011 1:09 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

departure from the norm.Yes, I have seen the attendance the last few years. It's quite good, as always, usually around 3 million,

Paid maybe, because people pre-paid for seasons tickets, or brokers bought them hoping for demand that has not been there, but there have been a ton of people dressed up like seats the last two.  Also, tv ratings are relatively awful.  My point is, the only way fan support would contribute to the team being bad would be if management sat on their hands and just pocketed the money they made.  AS of late, that has not been the case.  The real core issue is that the people put in place to make baseball decsions are, often times, not baseball people and, when they are, they still make bad decisions.  The Soriano contract is a perfect case, President of baseball opertaions John McDonough, who was promoted from the PR department, had to make a splash, and because of that artifical need, they gave Soriano way too many years on his contract.  That is n ot to say that Hendry is blameless, particularly in the Milton Bradley debacle.  It is silly to blame the team's failures on fan support, just as it is silly to blame it on goats, Batman, etc. 

The bottom line is that the main reason they have been bad is because they do not have baseball intelligent people making baseball decisions.

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: November 28, 2011 12:53 pm

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

ju, you make some interesting points, but the the problem is that without the strong farm system you have little to trade with.  Anyone who has followed the Cubs over the last decade knows they are despartely trying to win, but they are still failing to develop talent.  Yes, we traded Bobby Hill for Aramis Ramirez, who has been one of the best Cubs this decade.  But more often than not, you have to trade good prospects to get good players.  And time and time again, the players the Cubs think are good prospect simply are not.  I REALLY hope that changes with the new restrcuring of the team.  As much as I like Epstein I think what is more important is that Ricketts didn't simply hire him to be GM and leave the broken foundation the way it was.  He hired him to be a VP of Baseball operations and now has a plan in place with baseball people at each level.   We did get snakebitten by injuries to Prior and Wood, but what has hurt them more is their inability to draft and develop players that can either help the major league club, or be used to trade for help.  It is an imperfect excerise, but at least in the Cubs case, it shines a light on why they have struggled so much.

Since: Jun 3, 2010
Posted on: November 28, 2011 11:45 am

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs


I respect that you don't like the series, but as with most of the dissenters, I think you're failing to grasp something: We aren't trying to prove anything. It's really just for fun as we slog through the boring offseason. Obviously a million factors go into how rosters are built. We know that. If you don't like it, I respect that, but I'd kindly ask you to just stop reading it. We're doing all 30 teams, and I just don't understand why someone would continue to read/watch anything on the Internet/TV that they don't like. You know? Life's too short. We have plenty of other content here, so check that out instead.

Thanks for the reply. Have a good one.

- Matt

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: November 28, 2011 11:32 am

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

Matt: I think "attack" is slightly strong. I'd consider it debate on distinct sides of the definition line.
I think it's clear that the Cubs, according to your list, haven't had much luck developing homegrown all-star talent.
I would say that the majority of teams fall under the same heading. You get one Pujols and 15 Javy Valentins for every draft season.
But this is generally akin to the reality: The Cubs clearly spent more time developing the trade market than the farm system.
That, of course, isn't being addressed in this series and I accept that you need some ground rules before you proceed.
I suppose I'm just not in love with the premise of the series. I think it tells me that, in comparative terms, all baseball teams end up with a roster full of players. How they get them is a part of the business of baseball.

Honestly, I think the window slammed shut on the Cubbies' fingers in 1984 and almost nobody from that team was a non-trade player.

But I apologize for smearing you. I just don't agree with the series premise and so far, I can't see much that saves it.
I applaud your work all the same.

-- JU1

Since: Nov 28, 2011
Posted on: November 28, 2011 11:10 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: November 28, 2011 7:36 am

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

I’m sorry but I would not call Shawon Dunston a quality middle infielder. He played 12 seasons with the Cubs and due to injuries played over 100 games in a season only 7 of those seasons. His highest OBP during those 7 seasons was .320. Only one other of those 7 years was his OBP over .300; his career OBP is .296. He never won a Gold Glove, never even close, and his 2nd year in the majors he committed 32 errors at shortstop. If Mark Grace didn't play 1st base in his later years, he would have made lots more. In Dunston's later years he played the outfield. He did steal a lot of bases, but you can’t steal first.

Kessinger was a better hitter but committed a lot of errors too. Beckert was a solid player, so I guess he was the last quality middle infielder. He was drafted 49 years ago.

Since: Jun 21, 2009
Posted on: November 28, 2011 12:23 am

Homegrown Team: Chicago Cubs

Have you seen attendance or tv numbers the last few years?  They definately make a lot less money when the team sucks.  Pretty easy finding seats this year.  That argument is tired.  If they had a 30 mil payroll I could buy it, but they are consistantly one of the highest payrolls in the majors.  Look at the contracts of Soriano, Zambrano, Dempster, Ramirez, Fukodome, etc. etc.  Their problem is not an unwillingness to spend, it is that they have consistantly spent their money foolishly.  And that has a lot to do with the fact that the top guys are never baseball guys.   Also, spending for in their prime free agents, which is what you have to do when your farm system is broken, is far more expensive, and risky when a deal goes bad than growing your team from the ground up.  All of this is why the writer ranks them one of the worst organizations in this whole homegrown experiment.  He goes on to say that as bad as they were last year, they would have been a good deal worse if they had been forced to rely on their homegrown talent.  Sad but true.  I am not ready to coronate Epstein a genius, but I was plesently suprised that Rickets actually hired someone to run the organization with a baseball backgroud, instead of having a GM that had to answer to a lawyer, accountant, PR guy, or newspaper man.  Obvious, right?  But a welcome departure from the norm.
Yes, I have seen the attendance the last few years. It's quite good, as always, usually around 3 million, regardless of the team's record. But read what I wrote again- I didn't say they were unwilling to spend. Part of their failure as a franchise is that when they make good or bad decisions, it doesn't matter- Cubs fans still snap up tickets either way (and don't forget, Cubs tickets are one of the most expensive on average in MLB). On top of that, as you said, they spend money foolishly. Most teams have much more elasticity of demand for tickets depending on whether the team is winning or not. Compare, for example, the Mets, who were drawing around 4.5 million at Shea in 2003-4 combined when the team was bad, but drew 7.2 million in 2006-7, when the team was contending, followed by over 4 million in 2008 (90% of the total in one year that they drew in 2 years combined only 5 years earlier!).

The Cubs used to be pretty good at developing players, or at least they were good at signing players who didn't do much for the Cubs and were traded elsewhere only to flourish. The famous 'ex-Cub factor'. This is also part of their history of inept management, but only if you consider the performance on the field, as I said before. As a profit-making business they are the envy of just about every team in MLB with the exception of the Yankees. This, again, is why the franchise is worth so much.

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