In an expected move, the Cubs traded CF Marlon Byrd to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Michael Bowden (RP). The move signaled an important stepping stone for the 2012 season and beyond: Theo Epstein and company are watching the season and are willing to make moves.
Epstein’s rebuilding theme has continued into the first month of the 2012 season. He moved an aging Byrd, who is struggling this season, for a young relief pitcher in a system which is in dire need of bullpen help. The move is encouraging as many fans agree that Byrd is on the decline of his career and the team needs to build for the future. With the glaring focus beginning with the bullpen.
The Cubs bullpen carries a dismal 4.63 ERA (26th in the league), allowing 24 ER (6th most in the league), issuing 29 walks (tied for 3rd most in the league), a WHIP of 1.56 (26th in the league) and is credited with 5 loses (tied for 2nd most in the league). Had the bullpen not blown those leads, the Cubs would be 9-7, 2nd place in the NL Central and giving the Brewers and Reds both an additional loss, rather than wins.
Epstein and Ricketts know the numbers as well, this being why they made the trade and were willing to swallow a large portion of Byrd’s remaining contract. The organization is focused on the future; something many fans of the Cubs are not accustom to.
This move should be an indicator of additional issues the Cubs ownership should be addressing sometime within this season, such as:
The lack of a power hitter – The team is ranked last in the entire league for home runs hit with five (5). Even the Pirates have hit more home runs, who boast the worse offense in the league. Many fans are pleading for Rizzo and Jackson to be called up to the majors, but Gordon Wittenmyer interviewed Epstein who indicated the organization is waiting to move either player to the majors. Brian Davis and Andy Behrens further suggest the organization should wait to move either player with statistical analysis to support their reasoning. These reports would indicate Epstein and his staff will look at possible trades throughout the season to solve this problem.
An aging roster – The Cubs roster has eight players who are over the age of 30; six of which will be over the age of 35 before the All-Star break. Young promising talent is crucial for the development of this ball club within the next three years and into the next decade. Epstein developed such a talent pool in Boston and will likely carry on this tradition within the Cubs organization. The trade of Byrd was the first step in this direction.
It’s encouraging to see the organization recognize glaring problems and addressing them within the first month of a long season. I’m certain the ownership will continue to make moves to improve the Cubs in the years moving forward.
Only time will tell.
Few things we know are for certain going into tomorrow’s 10 April 2012 series of MLB games:
1) The Brewers are a fundamentally sound ball club at the plate: advancing runners, sacrifice flies and scoring on squeeze bunts down the line.
2) Sveum is going to use the season in order to develop the young players of this ball club; winning isn’t as important at this point.
3) DeJesus’ arm will be sore after throwing at least four cross-field throws to 3rd and home plate from right field.
4) Soriano was unable to chase down fly balls that a younger left fielder would have been able to snag. What we are not certain of is why: is it age, past hamstring problems, other injuries or commitment issues?
5) Maybe it was the intra-division rivalry, but Braun faced negative reactions during his first game away from the safety of his home field. This will likely continue throughout the season.
6) Cubs’ fans are mixed about Ramirez’s return to Wrigley, and the errors continue as seen in during bottom of the 9th.
7) This young Cubs team is full of fighters who will not quit, even when down four runs in the bottom of the 9th (as many fans felt differently during the past few seasons).
8) Axford is not invincible.
9) Whoever tracks the attendance record for Cubs home games may not be the best attendance record keeper in the MLB. The reported attendance was 38,136. I watched from home, but there seemed to be a lot of empty seats for only having 3,000 less in attendance from the home opener.
10) Cubs’ fans are diehard and will tweet all game long and thereafter!
It was another loss, but this loss stung much less than the previous two and I’m left with a feeling of hope for the remainder of this series.