The Winter Meetings was buzzing with news that the Jake Peavy trade was very close to happening. Chicago Tribune reporter Phil Rogers said that it would be "a stunner" if the trade didn't happen; however, Cubs GM Jim Hendry questioned who was "telling me these things." When it was all said and done, the 2007 NL Cy Young pitcher is staying in San Diego. The Padres reportedly had a four team offer on the table for the Cubs to accept, which would have sent Mark DeRosa to the Phillies and Felix Pie to the Orioles. The Cubs would have ultimately lost four players, which would have hurt their future and already depleted minor league system.
In the trade, the Cubs would have traded Felix Pie to the Orioles for Garrett Olsen, then turning Olsen to the Padres in the Peavy deal. While Pie has only hit .223 in 260 at-bats in the majors, he is a .299 career hitter in over 2,500 career minor league at-bats. Pie was sent down by the Cubs May, spending the next several months in the minors before being called back up in September. In the final month of the season, Pie, with a shorter swing and patient approach, hit .300 with a .391 OBP. He then went to his native D.R. to play with the Licey Tigers, where he hit .320 with 1 HR and 4 SB in 50 at-bats. While it is nearly impossible to say when a player is on the verge for breaking out, you could make a strong case that Pie is coming close to living up to his potential as a top prospect.
The fourth team in the deal was the Phillies, who were looking to bring in a utility man to help play second, third, and outfield next season. It turns out that Mark DeRosa was available, and the Phillies were willing to trade prospect J.A. Happ, who went 8-7 with a 3.60 ERA in 24 appearances with their Triple-A affiliate Iron Pigs for DeRosa. Happ also has major league experience, posting a 3.69 ERA in eight games, four starts, for the Phillies this past season. While Happ was the deal breaker, trading a utility man like DeRosa, coming off a career year and heading into a contract year, just didn't make sense.
Pro-Peavy trade fans argue that the Cubs have made DeRosa expendable the past two seasons and he will likely leave next offseason out of a lack of respect. Not only has DeRosa hit .289 with 31 homeruns in 298 games over the past two seasons, but he has emerged as the face of the team, becoming a fan and player favorite. Furthermore, DeRosa questioned the Cubs in Spring Training about why they felt they needed to replace him with Brian Roberts. The impending sale process could short the Cubs on money, so getting an extension done before Spring Training might be tough, especially with the possibility of offering Carlos Marmol and Geovanny Soto extensions as well. They could ultimately lose DeRosa because they brought his name into the trade.
Along with the Garrett Olsen and J.A. Happ, the Cubs would have to trade top prospect Josh Vitters, Sean Marshall, and Angel Guzman for Peavy. Those three players are a key part to the Cubs' future, and sacrificing them does not make sense. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein's plan directly relates the Cubs: "It is a project. You can build 100-win teams, but you would sacrifice elements of your future. If you put all your assets on 2009," Epstein said, "you will have no infrastructure for the future, no foundation. "
Marshall has reportedly put on some weight and is already preparing for the 2009 season in Arizona. Marshall is showing flashes of a great pitcher, he just needs to be more consistent with his secondary pitches. As for Guzman, he worked his way back this season and pitched in thirteen games between Single-A and the majors. He is 31-17 with a 2.92 ERA in 98 games in the minors, and has the makings of a solid spot starter in the majors. Finally, Josh Vitters, the number three overall pick in the 2007 draft. In 68 games for the Low-A Boise Hawks, Vitters hit .328 with 5 HR and 37 RBI. He is just 19 and is the heir apparent at third base with the Cubs.
When building a team, it makes sense to prepare in five year chunks. That way, you know if your prospects are developing well, or if they won't benefit your team in the years to come. The Red Sox operate under that idea, according to Theo Epstein, and it makes sense for a team with similar financial boundaries to operate under than idea as well. For the Cubs, who already have four fifteen game winners in their rotation, it just doesn't make sense, and they will find that it was the right move.