The North Siders had the best record in the National League and only needed to add a few parts to possibly compete for a pennant or World Series title.
Instead, the Cubs have regressed.
Part of it is the economy, even though I find that hard to believe knwong that the Cubs make money hand-over-fist with sell-out crowds for 81 games a year, merchandising, advertising and $7 beers at the ballpark. But the other part is bad baseball decision making.
GM Jim Hendry signed a contract extension to begin the offseason and then proceeded to cut ties with closer Kerry Wood. Not only was Woody a rock at the end of the bullpen as he notched more than 30 saves, he was a clubhouse leader and the face of the team. So not only did the Cubs lose any chance at draft-pick compensation when they did not offer him arbitration, they will also lose his leadership.
To replace Wood in the bullpen, the Cubs traded pitching prospect Jose Ceda to the Florida Marlins in exchange for Kevin Gregg. A year ago, Ceda was deemed untouchable in a rumored trade for Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts. This offseason he was traded straight up for Gregg, who will be most rememberred by Cubs fans for giving up a game-winning pinch-hit home run to Daryle Ward.
Ceda wasn't traded for Brian Roberts, and this year's Brian Roberts is still not a Cub. The Cubs failed at acquiring Jake Peavy from the San Diego Padres when it was rumored to be all but a done deal. It might be something the Cubs might look at down the road.
The Cubs recently signed infielder Aaron Miles and outfielder Milton Bradley, both are switch-hitters that are nice pieces to add to a line-up full of righties. But the Cubs traded another team leader, Mark DeRosa, to the Cleveland Indians for a few pitching prospects. DeRosa will be even harder to replace than Wood because of his versatility. DeRo was not only the Cubs every day second baseman, but he was their first baseman when Derrek Lee needed a breather, third baseman when Aramis Ramirez was hurt and left or right fielder when Alfonso Soriano or Kosuke Fukudome hurt their fragile mind.
It has been a puzzling offseason for the Cubs, but thankfully (for Cubs fans) no other team in the NL Central has done anything to improve itself. But if the Cubs want to win at least one playoff game, they might want to add some talent before pitchers and catchers report.