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updated: 8/1/2012 8:50 AM

Epstein changing Cubs culture one player at a time

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  • There was panic in the streets a few days ago when the Cubs hadn't done much leading up to the deadline, but as it turns out Theo Epstein managed to move several players of absolutely no use to the Cubs and in return collected a good prospect and several decent young players.

      There was panic in the streets a few days ago when the Cubs hadn't done much leading up to the deadline, but as it turns out Theo Epstein managed to move several players of absolutely no use to the Cubs and in return collected a good prospect and several decent young players.
    associated press, January 2012

 
 

Good riddance, Ryan Dempster.

Welcome, Theo Epstein, to the culture of Cubs baseball.

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For too long, players like Dempster have been comfortable here, happy to stay and lose, protected by management, fans and media pals, rather than accepting opportunities to move along and win elsewhere.

While those days are happily coming to a close, it's a slow process for Epstein while he identifies the winners and the losers -- not to mention the dishonest.

Dempster agreed to go to the Braves, changed his mind and then failed to come clean. If not pressured by the Cubs and fan outrage, he would have remained on the North Side.

The fact that so many young Cubs rave about Dempster is a telling sign, so do you really want a guy around your impressionable players who doesn't have any desire to win a championship?

Epstein gave you the answer by getting Dempster out of town.

Maholm deal

More impressive than moving Dempster is getting a top prospect in Arodys Vizcaino from the Braves for Paul Maholm.

Coming off Tommy John surgery in March, Vizcaino immediately becomes one of the Cubs' top three or four prospects, despite his injury history.

For a guy in Maholm who was merely a placeholder, the Cubs get Vizcaino, who has the stuff to be a No. 2 or 3 starter. With durability an issue he probably projects as a setup guy or closer, which isn't bad at all.

Vizcaino was rated near the top of the Atlanta farm system and was one of the best prospects dealt at this year's deadline.

Dempster value

The Cubs picked up a couple of A-ball all-stars from Texas in the final minutes after Dempster completely destroyed their leverage.

Right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks projects as a bottom-of-the-rotation type and third baseman Christian Villanueva is a better prospect but might not have the power to remain at third and the Rangers had him experimenting at second.

Epstein scores

There was panic in the streets a few days ago when the Cubs hadn't done much leading up to the deadline, but as it turns out Epstein managed to move several players of absolutely no use to the Cubs and in return collected a good prospect and several decent young players.

This is a numbers game, and the Cubs are playing the percentages by adding as many players as possible to their minor-league system.

The label of "top prospect" is a guarantee of nothing down the road, but the more valued prospects the Cubs bring in, the better chance there is that one or two of them can someday help the Cubs at the major-league level.

The rebuilding process is an inexact science and it takes several years, but by playing the percentages and maximizing value on their 40-man roster, Epstein is giving the Cubs a fighting chance.

Matt Garza

With the nonwaiver deadline passed, teams will begin to place their remaining rostered players on waivers to gauge other teams' interest.

The Cubs will do that with Matt Garza once he's healthy. He will not clear waivers, so the Cubs will pull him back once a team claims Garza and try to work out a deal.

With Garza, there is no hurry as they can move him at the winter meetings, next spring or even a year from now.

Alfonso Soriano

Alfonso Soriano, on the other hand, will clear waivers. If a team claims him, the Cubs will let him go and laugh as another team pays him $36 million the next two years.

Once Soriano clears, the Cubs can talk to teams desperate for power and hope one of them is willing to take on some salary or hand over a decent prospect.

White Sox

Ken Williams was quiet on the final day, having already done some solid work.

Detroit silent

Shocking, to say the least, that the Tigers did nothing after picking up Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.

Dodger doings

The most active team at the deadline, the Dodgers, loaded up after a rich new owner told management to go for it right now.

Even after spending $2 billion to buy the team, Los Angeles has money to burn, and cash to build a team, fix up the stadium and seemingly anything else.

Interesting.

Timing award

The Rangers kept quiet the news that Neftali Feliz would undergo Tommy John surgery until after they made the Dempster deal.

And finally …

At the moment Michael Phelps was setting a record for medals, Twitter was setting a record for bogus Cubs rumors.

Said one MLB exec in an email, "More important to be first and inaccurate than second and accurate."

brozner@dailyherald.com

•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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