two three part piece, Z.W. Martin will look at the Cubs future, -- at the major and minor league level -- tell you why they should not sign Albert Pujols and give his recommendations for the Cubs moving forward. Enjoy!
Around March, it became clear Albert Pujols would not re-sign with the Cardinals and would be a free agent at the end of the 2011 season. Speculation proceeded, many mentioning the Cubs as possible suitors. Then on May 10, 2011, Albert Pujols and JIm Hendry hugged. Fodder. Fodder. Fodder. The Internet exploded. Everything was confirmed. Pujols was a Cub.
Clearly, this was an overreaction. A media driven blitz into premature elation. Instead of looking at the DOB next to Pujols' name, the Cubs left fielder as a warning, their minor league system, the Cubs themselves or a weak free agent class, everybody saw the big dude that hits a lot of home runs hugging the Cubs' GM. Suddenly, all the Cubs problems vanished. It caused quite the buzz. To me, it was annoying and a little scary.
The Machine: Albert Pujols
I will be the first to admit it, Albert Pujols has been the most destructive offensive force in professional baseball since Barry Bonds. No question. He even plays a good first base, does charity work and seems genuinely likable. What's not to like?
My reasoning behind not signing Pujols really has little to do with him, -- even after breaking his arm -- but mostly to do with the Cubs. The Cubs are not good and will not be good for quite some time. Signing Pujols does not change that. Sure, he makes the Cubs better, but nowhere close to a contender.
The injury to Pujols -- who has had trouble with his oblique in years prior -- is not a major concern if it is in fact his forearm that broke and not his wrist. He should recover just fine. It is his age. He will be in his decline years -- around 35 -- when the Cubs are ready to compete. Building a lineup around withering talent is not ideal. A fading star is a fading star, regardless of how bright it once shone. Just ask the Cubs left fielder.
The Blinking Red Warning Light In Left Field
I am of course referring to Alfonso Soriano and the eight-year, $136MM deal he received in 2006. I understand what
Hendry John McDonough was thinking when doling out that contract -- he saw a team coming together with a real shot at the the World Series and Soriano was going to be the major, if not final puzzle to The Curse. Soriano was going to solidify the Cubs lineup, as well as Hendry's legacy. Hendry was looking short-term and hoping long. It did not work out.
With Pujols, it would simply be hoping long. The Cubs have no short-term this time. Wasting Pujols' best years and praying he maintains his dominance when Chicago is ready to compete again is not the grandest of solutions. Having two such contracts on the same payroll would be dire.
A Few Years Away
As of March 11, 2011, Baseball America ranked the Cubs farm system 16th in all of baseball. It seems fair given the weakness of the upper minors and strength of the middle and lower levels. To put names to the rankings, top prospects like Josh Vitters, Brett Jackson and Trey McNutt -- who is only 21 -- are still two or three years away from their rookie seasons. While guys like Matthew Szczur or Austin Kirk are more. Chicago's immediate system is weak. Very weak. They have decent role players, -- as Tim Wilkins so famously drafts -- but no impact players. The double-A team is very talented, but they're not ready, as I mentioned above.
Recent call ups like Chris Carpenter, DJ LeMahieu, Tony Campana and Lou Montanez only confirm this notion. Nice pieces. Good role players. Flexible. But they are not everyday players. At least not yet (LeMahieu and Carpenter have shots). The Cubs are a few years away -- probably closer to three than two -- from having their farm system make the impact needed to maintain a run deep into the playoffs. The sooner fans and front-office staff realize this, the better and a change can finally take place on the Northside.
Part Two of Z.W. Martin's three part series "A Look Into The Future" will be up tomorrow and will discuss the Cubs in 2012 and 2013. Part 3 will tell you what Z.W. thinks the Cubs should do to reverse their current slide into obscurity.