Lack Of Cubs Prospects Makes Future Hard to Swallow

The Chicago Cubs want to win the World Series. You already knew that. Still, it bears emphasizing: They want to win the World Series, and they want to win it now. Not in a year. Not in two years. Not in five years or six. They wanted to win in 2007, in 2008, and now they want to win in 2009.

All this go-for-broke stuff has its price, though. The Cubs re-signed general manager Jim Hendry, which was probably a net positive for the franchise, but it's important to remember that Hendry is the chief engineer behind the notion that a Cubs World Series can't wait a year or two. It has to happen now. Which is, in turn, why the Cubs have so many huge backloaded contracts on their docket right now -- Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano being the most egregious examples, joined by Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis and Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome. The Cubs' payroll is about to explode, and not only do they not have a World Series to show for it. They don't have a backup plan, either.

The Tribune had baseball statistician and historian Bill James -- the godfather of the modern sabermetric movement in baseball -- rank each team's prospects. He ranked the Cubs 26th. (The White Sox, for what it's worth, are ranked 25th.) Not good.

Of course there are other metrics. Baseball Prospectus ranked its 2008 top prospects before the season, and only Geovany Soto -- who will likely be the NL Rookie of the Year -- and Josh Vitters, a slugging third basemen, made the list. (By contrast, the Red Sox had seven prospects on the list.) If you scratch Soto, since he's no longer a prospect, that leaves you with one highly regarded prospect and Felix Pie, the left-handed center fielder who has yet to figure out professional pitching. It's an ugly scene.

This won't be a problem for the Cubs next year, when Hendry will probably try to slap one more big free agent on the team and go for it one more time. But in the coming years, if the Cubs don't trade smart and acquire top prospects for their aging stars, they'll be worse off than not winning a World Series -- they'll be back to the days of perennial losses, forced to rebuild an empire from scratch. It's up to Hendry to prevent that from happening.

And he has to win the World Series. Easy, right?

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