Rozner: Cubs' promising future now a thing of the past
It can't be that Cubs fans are shedding tears over the loss of Yu Darvish.
This is the same player that was so disdained as late as June 2019, the one that was a complete waste of $126 million and a horrible signing by Theo Epstein.
Can't be the same player.
Three months of 2019 and two months in 2020 can't completely change the opinion of Cubs Nation -- even if those two months last season merited better than a runner-up Cy Young finish.
Maybe it's something more. Maybe it's that everyone is finally understanding that this is the end of an era, the best era of Cubs baseball in franchise history.
If that's the real reason for the tears, then it's understandable, but you also had to know this was coming.
The Cubs haven't really competed since 2017, and even that pitching staff was on fumes, no real challenge to the Dodgers after surviving the Nationals.
In 2018, they limped home and if Javy Baez didn't homer down the stretch, they had little chance to win before going out quietly in Games 163 and 164.
The end to 2019 was a sign that you couldn't expect much in 2020, and despite a division title, it was really a .500 team that wouldn't have been competitive in a better division.
To keep that team together another year was pointless, as the Cubs are far from competing with the likes of the Dodgers in the National League.
It should have never come to this, but then few could have predicted that nearly every player so young and so good in 2015 and 2016 has so little value by 2021.
Theo Epstein had always planned to walk away about this time, but his intention wasn't for the team to be rebuilding again as he walked out the door. The playbook called for moving valuable contracts and valuable players for younger assets and needed pieces to keep the program moving forward.
Instead, almost the entire core went to pieces -- and that's why the Cubs are dumping anything they can now for whatever they can get in return.
As for the 34-year-old Darvish and the roughly $60 million remaining over three years, there was no guarantee he would stay healthy and effective, and this might have been the Cubs' best chance to rid themselves of that contract.
The Jason Heyward deal is a cautionary tale.
When the Cubs signed him for eight years and $184 million, they never imagined he would be so bad that when the window for moving him opened (2019-20), that they would have zero chance to move those dollars.
They believed that contract and that player would become an asset they could deal -- if necessary -- and instead it became a burden. Thus, the motivation to get rid of Darvish now.
The pandemic and the economic uncertainty it wrought, the ambiguity of upcoming CBA negotiations, plus the poor performance of so many key assets, combined with teams wanting to avoid bringing in high-salaried players, has led to the spot the Cubs are in now.
No one saw this coming five years ago.
This was supposed to be a group that had a shot at multiple championships. Instead, the entire group fell apart. No one in baseball forecast that, certainly not Epstein or the man now sitting in his chair, Jed Hoyer.
As for what Hoyer is doing now, he can't say he's dumping salary when he's dumping salary, because nobody wants to hear it, but the next time Darvish hurts his arm or gives up 6 runs in an inning, it will probably make more sense.
You can hate the Ricketts family for whatever helps you get through the day, but it doesn't change the fact that the Cubs weren't all that good in 2020 and weren't going to be better in 2021.
Whatever Hoyer's reasons for moving on from Darvish now, the Cubs have fallen off a cliff and they will need time to climb out of a crevasse they never suspected they would be in again so soon.
This is likely to get ugly on the North Side before it gets straightened out, and baseball itself could find its game in a world of hurt as players and owners bicker over lost revenue and the politics of a new agreement.
If you thought 2020 was ugly for baseball, it's quite possible the next 12 to 18 months will be even worse.