Before his match against general manager Jed Hoyer last February in the Cubs’ bunting tournament, Theo Epstein was told the pressure was on.
“Nah, no pressure here,” Epstein said. “Pressure is trading Nomar.”
It has been almost nine years since Epstein engineered the trade deadline deal that sent Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton to the Cubs in a four-way trade. Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera came back to the Red Sox in return, and Epstein also acquired Dave Roberts in another deal. The Red Sox went 42-18 the rest of the way and won its first championship since 1918.
As the Cubs begin the second half with a 10-game visit to the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Giants, Epstein is on the other side of the fence, trying to make a deal to help speed up his rebuilding process.
While Matt Garza isn’t an iconic player in Chicago like Garciaparra was in Boston, he’s considered the best pitcher currently available and has allowed only six earned runs over his last six starts.
Epstein said his ‘04 summer was “all about polishing the roster the way the pieces would fit together to maximize contention and playoff viability.” Now his summer is all about restocking the shelf with prospects who may not be ready to blossom until the team is playoff viable in a couple of years.
“Here, as much as we want to compete, there’s a vision for the future that falls in, a lot of talent coming through the system and an infusion of talent coming the next few years,” Epstein said.
“The start we got off to this year at the big league level kind of crystallized things for us. We knew we probably would be in a position to be able to make trades in the middle of the year. It’s a bit of a different mindset.”
Garza isn’t the only Cubs player who will be dealt before July 31. But he’s the only one who merits a big return. The Garza Watch has been a constant since 2012, when he went down with an elbow injury on July 21, ruining any chance the Cubs had of making a deal.