The recent trade of relief ace, Sean Marshall, to the Reds for starting lefty Travis Wood and eventual starting outfielder, Dave Sappelt, would seem to be the ideal template for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s big picture plan of restocking the Cubs with young, talented ballplayers who will play significant roles for an eventual winner, several years from now, at least.
The one catch to all this is that Marshall is a quality player, a commodity that Theo and Jed have to understand is very limited on their team and although there is the possibility of trading number one starter Matt Garza or even franchise talent, Starlin Castro, eventually the one step forward becomes two steps backwards, a tedious dance at best.
Trading on the fair and square has its limits. Hoodwinking, bamboozling, bribery, chicanery, deception and outright cheating are all viable options if the Cubs are really going to improve their lot in a reasonable amount of time. If you can do it to your fans, why not your fellow front office peers in MLB?
But nobody’s mama brought up their baseball general manager son to be a dummy, you say. One assumes the 29 other MLB honchos maintain enough sobriety during their working hours that would prevent them from accepting a Cubs leftover holiday gift basket filled with rotten fruit like Alfonso Soriano or Carlos Zambrano, no matter how pretty might be the bow atop it.
No character outside of an old Warner Bros. Looney Tunes would be fool enough to accept a package left at their door containing dynamite with a burning fuse like Big Z, you say? Then, how about simply having Zambrano show up at the opponent’s spring training camp in full uniform (they can be purchased online by anyone with a credit card) and pretending that they are the latest addition to the Washington Nationals or the New York Mets?
Assuming that the other side would never be that naïve to accept such a Trojan caballo and would summarily phone up the Cubs front office demanding an explanation, simply reply, “You don’t remember what we discussed at the New Year’s Eve party? That time you were drunk on your ass and said, “Hell yes, I’ll take Zambrano off your hands, good buddy!” You sure you don’t have any memory of agreeing to that deal?”
No, I don’t, would come the obvious reply.
“Well, you were pretty drunk, my friend” is what Theo or Jed should say, chuckling knowingly into their Blackberry while standing in line at the new Cubs’ McCafe across the street from Wrigley Field ordering up a mocha latte. “But it was all written down on a cocktail napkin in lipstick by that hot lap dancer, remember? No? You want me to bring it over to your house and show you and your wife what I’m talking about? I’ve got the pictures on my cell phone!”
You get the idea. Blackmail the other teams into thinking they are better off taking Zambrano from you than facing an irate spouse who is going to be asking more incriminating questions along the lines of “What were you doing out partying with that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer crowd?” than will your fan base who will simply think Big Z is the perfect piece to put your 2012 roster over the top.
Look, guys, anyone can trade a good pitcher like Sean Marshall and get a couple of decent prospects in return. But, Theo and Jed, if want to live up to your reputations of being smarter than the average front office mope, you are going to not only have to start thinking outside the box, but a little outside the law, at least ethically.
Go screen a bunch of those great black and white film noirs at The Music Box and see how Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet did business for and against one another. If you want something more contemporary, start watching old episodes of The Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire. That Wrigley Field renovation isn’t going to get done by itself, you know!