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What the Cubs Must Do

Like Carlos Zambrano, I have reached my boiling point with the Cubs organization. There have been worse seasons than this one, but rarely has one seemed this disappointing. Perhaps that’s because one look at this roster and you realize: this modern era of Cubs success, 2003-2008, is over. An aging roster filled with bad salaries isn’t going to blossom into playoff caliber anytime soon. As I see it, there are two, and only two, moves that the Cubs can make:

1) Fire everybody.
2) Rebuild.

Preferably in that order. I have many written positive words about Jim Hendry, about Tim Wilken, about the Cubs front office in general over the last decade or so, as Hendry helped engineer an era of competitiveness. His mistakes were usually more subtle — the failure to sign Player X, Y or Z — although he’ll be remembered for ill-fated contracts given to Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano, and perhaps unfairly, Milton Bradley. But more, with talented rosters that were sometimes chosen by pundits to win a title, this front office and coaching staff never broke the curse that haunts the organization.

The Cubs now need a new leader, one with less personal ties to the assets in this organization, to begin anew. A person that would start with these moves:

1. Trade Ted Lilly and Kosuke Fukudome. This was the main point Jack Moore made in his “What Should the Cubs do” piece from last week, and since then, Lilly only lowered his ERA. The difference between that number (3.28) and his xFIP (4.63) is now staggering, and he represents the most typical mid-season trade chip the Cubs have. Trading Fukudome would mean eating salary in 2011, but if that means acquiring a decent prospect, it’s worth it.

2. Put Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano on waivers in August. This won’t work. But desperate times…

3. Keep Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez. This rebuild is not geared at success in 2011, so selling low won’t do any good. The draft compensation from Lee’s next signing will likely surpass his 2010 midseason trade value. Ramirez is a sure bet to pick up his $14.6 million player option for 2011, so I’m not sure you could trade him now anyway. But keeping him does allow for a bounce-back next season (while adding a year of development for Josh Vitters), which would allow you to trade him July 31, 2011.

4. Trade Marlon Byrd and Carlos Silva. Credit to Hendry where it’s due, as he may have created two assets out of thin air here. Byrd has been extremely valuable, and is signed to a team-friendly contract through 2012. A team like Atlanta, with their outfield problems and limited finances, would surely part with a good young player for Byrd. Silva’s value on the open market is a little less transparent, but given the Mariners commitment to his salary, he’d only come at $4 million for this year and $6 million for next year, without accounting for what the Cubs might kick in, too.

5. Trade Carlos Marmol. This would be wildly unpopular given Marmol’s quest to shatter the K/9 single-season record. But relievers tend to be overvalued in midseason markets, and Marmol would offer a team 2.5 seasons of arbitration-controlled salaries. He would, semi-deservedly, attract the biggest haul of the bunch. The Cubs could also afford to be stingy with their demands, as he might bring in just as much this winter.

Without question, these moves would be met with scrutiny from Cubs fans and media alike, but they also exist the only chance this team has to compete in a couple years. Hopefully the new person in charge could handle easy decisions like getting rid of the Koyie Hill temptation, returning Sean Marshall and Andrew Cashner to their rightful places in a rotation, riding the Tyler Colvin never-ending hot streak, etc. It shouldn’t be difficult.

Ownership groups are not remembered for the sponsors they land, or the renovations to bathrooms they finance. The Ricketts family must be decisive, and quickly, to salvage something from their inherited regime, and to ensure some eventual success.

Dear Mr. Ricketts: Fire them all. Start over. Faithfully, Bryan Smith.