The Rundown: Dismantling of Roster Separates Hoyer from Epstein, Cubs Shopping Contreras, Padres Own Offseason So Far

“The sail was patched with flour sacks and, unfurled, it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.” – Ernest Hemingway

This time of year is always a sad one for me personally and the Cubs aren’t making it any better. Today is my father’s birthday and a reminder that were he alive he’d still be just 83 years old, and that he has now been gone from me for more years than he lived.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the death of my first favorite ballplayer, Roberto Clemente (“Arriba,” “The Great One”), who made it difficult the hate the Pirates even when they were beating the crap out of the Cubs. I watched the game where he recorded his 3,000th hit, the last of his career, and cried like a baby when it was reported on New Year’s Day 1973 that he had tragically passed the night before.

This year we are witnessing the dismantling of a Cubs team that we were promised would always be in contention for a world championship. In hindsight, the failure to develop pitching is the cause of this shipwreck, and so far Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber, Yu Darvish, and Victor Caratini are the goods that have been relinquished willfully by the team’s owner, Tom Ricketts, and his captain, Jed Hoyer. In maritime law, those abandoned assets are known as derelict, and I suppose no word is more appropriate.

If you’ve ever read Hemingway’s story The Old Man & the Sea, you are aware of the book’s most poignant arc: Don’t tell me, show me. While Theo Epstein was running things, he talked of a reckoning that he was unwilling to conduct. In the meantime, Hoyer is showing us the type of inventory management Epstein seemed content to avoid.

Like Santiago, the protagonist of the story, and unlike his predecessor, the Cubs’ new president of baseball operations is concise and to the point. He uses a deliberate economy of narration and description: Not a word more and not a word less.

“Every offseason is different,” Hoyer said after discussing the non-tender of Schwarber. “[We] knew that this group was coming up on the end of our natural control of them, so we have decisions [to make].”

Whereas Epstein entered every offseason claiming any player could be moved in the right deal, his successor is simply proving that salvaging a sinking ship requires the unloading of any and all allegedly burdensome cargo, at any cost, and with complete disregard to loss. For fans of the submerging organization, Hoyer’s moves, at least so far, are representative of a cultural loss as much as a physical one.

We no longer find comfort in the citified existence of the previous regime. Though the two executives seemed tied to the hip at almost all times during their last decade of working together, we’re now seeing a side of Hoyer we thought unimaginable just six weeks ago. We knew changes were coming, but nothing as drastic as we’ve seen so far.

What lies ahead is still to be determined, but it’s not difficult to see that by choice or directive, Hoyer is intent on establishing a new law of admiralty. With that in mind, Cubs fans should get used to seeing the team trade veterans for unheralded prospects and immediate debt relief. Whether or not those types of moves are any less shocking remains to be seen.

“Hope is never so lost that it cannot be found. Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is.” – Hemingway

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

This quote by San Diego GM AJ Preller is probably the best indicator of what lies ahead for the Cubs this winter.

Wednesday Stove

The Phillies announced yesterday that they acquired hard-throwing left-hander José Alvarado from the Rays in a three-team trade that included the Dodgers. Philadelphia sent right-hander Garrett Cleavinger to Los Angeles and the Dodgers sent infielder Dillon Paulson and a player to be named to Tampa Bay.

While the Padres are attempting to build the best MLB roster in the game, the Rays continue to add elite pieces to an already best farm system.

With the Rays retooling, the Yankees have become the big winners in the AL East by doing absolutely nothing.

What San Diego has done to restock its rotation for now and in the future might make them the best team in baseball.

Trevor Bauer seems like a good fit for the Mets or Yankees, but he could give the Padres an historic rotation. Is now a good time to mention the Cubs have shed a crap-ton of salary and need rotation help?

Winning the offseason offers San Diego no guarantee of success once the regular season starts

The Dodgers are “definitely in the mix” for free agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu.

The Red Sox may have a decision to make regarding outfielder Andrew Benintendi.

The White Sox are building their organization to avoid the same mistakes that are now handcuffing the Cubs.

First baseman Justin Smoak is heading to Japan to play for the Yomiuri Giants.

Extra Innings

“People let me tell you ’bout my best friend, he’s a warm-hearted person who’ll love me ’til the end.” – Harry Nilsson.

They Said It

  • “His last season and a half has been as productive as anybody in the game. [Yu Darvish] is a force. So I think getting back on the phone with him, catching up for a few minutes, really looking forward to being around him every single day again.” – AJ Preller

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills & Nash – Nothing is as big, or meaningless, as the promise of a coming day.

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