With every passing game, every meaningless start, and with each day of inactivity, the Cubs' future has been damaged.
It's rare for an organization to have the clarity this 2012 season has embodied. Win later. Play the games -- competing and selling tickets would be a bonus -- but set things up to really win later.
All but 12 teams in baseball entered the weekend within 6 games of a division or wild-card lead. Rare these days is the ballclub that's totally out of it, the clear seller able to sit back fielding offer after offer.
So here you are, Cubs fans, having arrived at the first chance since draft day to deeply impact the long-term plan. It's an opportunity to restock a farm system, hopefully with eventual pitchers of consequence.
How's it going?
I know, I know.
The news Friday that Matt Garza will not make a start before the deadline really stings. Yes he's under contract for next season, meaning he can be dealt in the winter or before next July 31. But his value will never approach what it is right now, when he could help a quality team for two pennant drives.
Chalk up his injury to the proverbial "Cubbie occurrence" if you desire, or at least to simple misfortune.
What has transpired with Ryan Dempster is altogether different, and enraging.
Even if the organization eventually does add a prospect in exchange for Dempster, it won't be one of the caliber it could have been weeks ago.
A true rental like him, a free-agent-to-be at season's end, yields diminishing returns as the calendar moves. A half-season of perhaps 14 starts becomes 13 as the Cubs pit suitors against one another. Those 13 starts become 12 as the Atlanta Braves get angry and move on. Those 12 become 11 while the Dodgers patiently wait for the nail to understand that they are the hammer.
That wish list of one -- now known publicly for all -- means the Cubs are the nail. Negotiating with no leverage at all is an embarrassing predicament. The Dodgers have been able to slowly, calmly, turn down requests for their No. 1 prospect and then their No. 2, and we'll probably soon find out just how low that ladder will go.
But what of those protestations leaking out of Wrigley that Dempster may be kept until season's end to yield the compensatory draft pick from his free agency? Well, I think those are bluster -- an attempt to increase said non-existent leverage.
You can't risk offering him that one year qualifying offer to get a draft pick.
Dempster has to be dealt.
What a mess here at the end of his Cubs life. And for many, his legacy with this team sits in shambles.
He has every right to decline any trade he does not like, as a 10-year veteran, and a five year Cub. But fans do not have to like it.
There have apparently been sniffs of interest towards Alfonso Soriano, and maybe even Bryan LaHair. As of press time, no one has moved.
It's a big moment here at the end of July. The Brewers grabbed 2 of the Angels top 10 prospects (and a throw-in) in exchange for a rental in Zach Greinke. The Marlins grabbed a legit MLB starting pitcher from the Tigers as part of a trade for a rental in Anibal Sanchez.
It's a moment that so far has featured Cubs standing still.
If Tuesday's deadline arrives with some expendable parts still on the roster, that troubling inertia will need to be explained.
• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM, and The Score's "Hit and Run" at 9 a.m. Sundays with his Daily Herald colleague, Barry Rozner. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670. Matt thinks a runner trying to score from first on a double into the gap is the most exciting play in baseball.