Pay attention Cubs fans, your time is almost here.  Ignore the fact that the major league team has won five of the past six games, it’s completely inconsequential.  I’m interested in the bigger picture, and the future couldn’t be brighter these days.  Take it from a guy who knows about these things, it’s time to get on board because this elevator is going up from this point forward.  Consider the following (while injecting the kool-aid directly into a prominent vein):

  • The Cubs recently found themselves with their “Big Three” prospects (Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Jorge Soler) ranked in the top 18 in all of baseball by Baseball America.  Historically speaking this is foreign soil for anyone having anything to do with the Cubs organization, but lo and behold there they are.  The cherry on top is that in a recent article, Jim Callis (Baseball America’s esteemed writer) noted that when Kris Bryant (the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft) signs he’ll become the highest ranked Cubs prospect of them all.  That would imply that the Cubs would have four of the top 19 prospects in baseball working their way to Wrigley in the coming years.  And guess what…
  • Kris Bryant signed!  He put his name to a monster (in today’s system) $6.7 million dollar contract and will be assigned to a low level minor league affiliate shortly to begin what promises to be a rapid ascent through the system.   While I’m not thrilled that he took every last cent he could get his hands on, wasting an entire month-plus in his development time in the process, I can’t blame him in a capitalist society for getting everything that he felt he deserved (‘Merica).  I’m sure the Cubs would have preferred that he agreed to less than his slot amount so that they could use some of the savings on their other draft picks, but at the end of the day I think they did just fine (Bryant actually got paid more than the #1 overall pick due to a little thing called leverage).
  • While the fun of the Major League Draft has been tempered in the past few years due to the Marxist salary slotting system promoted by the one and only Jerry Reinsdorf, the collective brain trusts of Major League Baseball franchises have been seeking for new ways to gain competitive advantages.  It used to be that teams could pay their draft picks whatever they wanted to, leading to their having the ability to buy prospects out of commitments they may have made outside of playing baseball.  The Red Sox under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were known for exploiting this practice.  With that window closed, it became a footrace to see who can find the next loophole to exploit, and it would appear that the Cubs front office were the first to find one. 

I’ll save you the gory details, but in short there is an entirely secondary market of talent from international countries that is not subject to the MLB amateur draft.  For these kids (they can sign with an MLB team at 16 rather than the US kids who can’t be drafted until they’re 18) Major League Baseball has again implemented a slotting system that caps the money teams can spend in the international pool based on their record from the year before.  Spending more than one’s cap allotment results in a tax of up to 100% of your overage (if teams spend 15%+ beyond their allotment) and removes a team’s ability to spend more than a fixed amount on any individual player next year.  The system is designed to control spending on these essential lottery ticket prospects and hopefully balance the playing field between the rich and the poor teams.  The Cubs opted to raise a metaphorical middle finger to the system and have thus far blown past their cap limit in signing the six of the top 30 prospects available this year, and they’re not done yet.   It could possibly be a game changing strategy as they stock the very lowest levels of their system with the highest end international prospects.  Included in this year’s group are the consensus #1 prospect (Eloy Jimenez-OF), #2/#3 prospect – depending on your source – (Gleybar Torres-SS) and multiple pitchers from Dominican, Columbia, and Taipei with more kids reportedly coming as soon as they turn 16. 

Whether this strategy pays off is several years from being determined (the Cubs brass swears they’re far more interested in this year’s crop of players and aren’t worried about missing out on next year’s class), but it’s this kind of outside the box thinking that we’ve been looking for since the regime change in 2011. 

  • The Cubs were able to flip Scott Feldman, a player they essentially signed this winter with the intention of trading within three months, for starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (the former #67 prospect in baseball with wicked heat and the need to harness his control) and flame-throwing reliever Pedro Strop.  I’m a fan of the trade because at the very worst Arrieta is a piece they can turn over once again for more parts as early as the end of this month, or more likely, he’s the exact kind of potential star that they’re able to afford some patience and time under the coaching staff’s tutelage.  A team in the Cubs position needs to be collecting as many high upside assets as they can get their hands on in hopes that a handful of them reach their potential as that’s the easiest way to gather talent in the game today.
  • In a smaller deal the Cubs turned a short term bench bat in Scott Hairston into a starting pitcher who just made the Single A All-Star team for the Washington Nationals.  Another brilliant move within the framework of collecting assets.
  • Oh, and Matt Garza is the hottest commodity on the trade market currently.
  • Additionally Kevin Gregg, Darwin Barney, James Russell and in the right deal even Jeff Samardzija could be on the block as well (we’re talking two very high end prospects for Jeffery).  The proverbial trout pond that is the farm system is going to continue to be stocked over the next five to six weeks with potentially high end talent from the farms of those teams looking to compete on the big league level today.
  • And finally the nightmare that has been the Wrigley Field renovation project seems to be behind us.  I’ve consciously kept this topic out of my posts to date as it only leads to frustration, but I’m glad to hear that everyone was able to come to their senses to get this resolved.  I have nothing but respect for the Ricketts family for sticking to their guns and offering to pay for the entire project themselves (rather than asking for public funding) as long as the city didn’t get in their way.  Despite the fool-hearted efforts of Alderman Tom Tunney to muck up the process, it appears that they’ve got the green light to move forward. 

Here’s my beef with the whole thing since day one.  Unless you’ve lived north of Belmont, east of Southport, and south of Irving Park since 1924, there is no feasible way that you did not knowingly sign up for the travails that come with life in Wrigleyville.  You don’t like traffic, drunkards, and noise until all hours?  You picked the wrong neighborhood buck-o.  It think it sounds great for every 23 year old coming to live in the city for the first time and absolutely terrible for anyone who’s 26 and above with a regular paying job. 

For all of the rooftop owners complaining about signage I’ve got news for you, your business has exactly zero value without Wrigley Field and the product the Cubs organization puts on it.  I’ve sat on those rooftops and I can tell you first hand that no one up there is in it for the in-game experience.  Even the best properties today have whole sections of the field, and the players occupying them, obstructed from view.  You’re selling the ambiance that the Cubs create and you should be appreciative of the market that this single product has provided for you.  It’s like if those fish that suck onto the fins of sharks started to complain about the shark’s diet choices.  Get over it. 

As for you Mr. Tunney, the whole reason anyone knows your name is because you just happen to preside over the biggest neighborhood block party in the city.  Taking a moral stand for the .1% of the residents of you Ward is doing you no favors.  Again, anyone complaining about Wrigley modifications was either ignorant in signing their lease/mortgage or are bitching that their free ride is about to end. You’re basically hosting the biggest party in town eighty-one days a year, don’t be the guy that flickers the lights at 10pm and calls everyone’s parents to come get them.  You should embrace what makes your neighborhood special, not act like it’s a sore that your community could do without.

Theo and his boys came in with the momentum of being the crew that was going to turn this organization on its ear, and that’s exactly what they’ve done over the course of the last two seasons.  In 2007-08 I started to take The Wife (at the time The Girlfriend) to Blackhawks games because something special was brewing on West Madison.  I may not be good at much, but I have a unique ability to foresee trends that are coming, and the Cubs organization is roughly in the equivalent spot as the Hawks were right after they drafted Toews and Kane.  It’s still in the Cubs best interest to lose as much as they can for the remainder of the season to accrue one more high draft pick next summer, but the organization has officially turned a corner at this point and plenty of good things lay ahead of Cubs Nation in the very near future.  Take my advice and get on board now Cubs fans if you haven’t already.