We have all at one time or another questioned Jim Hendry and his moves. He has basically been in control of player development since the mid-nineties and we have failed to bring impact players to the major league level. Of course there have been successful player in that time and even some all-stars (i.e. Carlos Zambrano, Kerry Wood, Geovany Soto), but the overall assumption is that Big Jim has been a Big Failure when it comes to the young guys.
What the Cubs have done over that time is build a team that is a contender. They have won 3 division titles in the last 6 years. They have accomplished this because of two thing.
1. the trib decided at some point that if they opened up the purse strings that the team would be more valuable. This value was important for the first time in 30 years due to the fact that the trib wanted to squeeze every last penny out of the club before selling them. We have brought in top talent such as Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, Milton Bradley, Kosuke Fukudome, and Mark DeRosa. The Cubs have also been able to re-sign their own top talent instead of letting them leave via free agency (Ryan Dempster, Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, etc...).
2. Through trades.
We have all questioned the bringing in of so-called "mid-level prospects" but what have mid level prospects given us over the years? Lets compose a list of what we have gotten from the "garbage" prospects, as most people refer to them.
Aramis Ramirez: Ramirez was brought in during the 03 season and was acquired for at the time current major leaguer Jose Hernandez and two mid level prospects; Matt Bruback, and Bobby Hill. Plus we received Kenny Lofton in the deal as well
Derek Lee: acquired before the 04 season for who some cubs fans would call a top prospect Hee-Seop Choi. However, when examined in comparison with the rest of the league Choi was merely a mid-level guy.
Nomar Garciaparra: This trade didn't really work out but it could have. We landed Nomar for more of these mid-level guys.
Some of these mid-level guys have also contributed at the major league level for the cubs.
Ryan Theriot: this is a player that no one thought would ever be an everyday major leaguer. He has proven to be slightly above average in the field and a decent hitter.
Geovany Soto: reigning NL Rookie of the Year. a mid-level prospect? yes in fact he was. he was drafted in the 11th round and until 07 was not even considered to be one of our top prospects.
Carlos Marmol: converted catcher who appears as if from nowhere with the nastiest slider that I would guess most hitters have ever seen.
Sean Marshall: Gives the Cubs solid starting depth and allows them to use guys like Rich Harden with out too much worry.
almost every player that fits into that fill-in role in our bull pen would also fit into this list.
The moral of the story is that while the Cubs farm has not been a monumental success, I do not think that you could say it has not been a success.