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updated: 7/31/2012 11:06 PM

There it is, Cubs fans: More hope

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Welcome to the next few years, Cubs fans.

General manager Jed Hoyer explained the Cubs' strategy at the trade deadline and beyond.

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"We have to trade our short-term assets for longer-term assets," he said.

Translated, that means the Cubs exchanged pieces that are worthwhile now for pieces that might be worthwhile later.

Gone are starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm, catcher Geovany Soto and outfielder Reed Johnson.

Apparently the Cubs were playing too well the past month, so some of them had to be replaced with less accomplished players.

Dempster's next scheduled start was Tuesday night against the Pirates. Casey Coleman took the ball instead and was losing 4-0 after five batters.

You think Dempster, with the major leagues' second-best earned-run average, would have been down 4-0 after five batters?

To be fair, Coleman settled down a bit and maybe the Cubs will settle in after their 5-0 loss to Pittsburgh in Wrigley Field. However, getting 1-hit by the Pirates' A.J. Burnett wasn't encouraging.

For the legitimate major-leaguers the Cubs dispatched, they received four pitchers and a third baseman that you likely hadn't heard of. Hoyer hopes you'll hear from them a lot in the middle of this decade.

Hope has been the Cubs' crutch the past century, right?

The Cubs are building for the future with those long-term assets, a solid strategy but one that raised the question of who the midterm assets will be.

Hoyer didn't give much of a clue, only vaguely addressing the final two months of this season. What he failed to address was what the Cubs might do to fill out the roster the next two years, or three or four or five.

Today's core consists of first baseman Anthony Rizzo, shortstop Starlin Castro, starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija and perhaps reliever James Russell.

Building around them will take awhile. The Cubs by design will be bad before they become good. Only in sports could this be a business model.

Imagine a tissue company saying we're working on developing a product that will be great in a few years but in the meantime you can blow your nose in this high-priced sandpaper we're peddling.

After the trades, sympathy was expressed to teammates who saw friends depart and to manager Dale Sveum for being stripped of four contributors on a team short of contributors.

How about some sympathy for the fans in the stands who were supposed to see Dempster pitch against the Pirates but were fed Coleman instead?

This is like expecting Kleenex and getting Brillo.

OK, so that's how it goes in sports. There are seasons in which a team rebuilds and everybody suffers through the process.

But is Cubs management talking a timetable of another year, two more years, another decade, another century?

Pretty open ended, apparently.

Most Cubs fans signed up to be patient, but for how long? You know, without a competitive product or a complete roster of promising youngsters offering a peek into the future?

"I hope we'll be buyers instead of sellers," Sveum said of next year's deadline.

The Cubs are more likely to divest themselves of more short-term assets that you know for more long-term assets you don't know.

"We always want to field a team we're proud of," Hoyer said.

Nice idea, but it looks like the Cubs will have a difficult time passing their midterm exams the next few years.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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