The Cubs are attempting to deal "most of their valuable assets" before Spring Training begins and "a complete overhaul of the team will definitely happen," two Major League sources tell David Kaplan of CSN Chicago. The impending Sean Marshall-for-Travis Wood trade is the first step in this process, as the Cubs are acquiring a young, controllable, 24-year-old southpaw starter for a 29-year-old reliever who was set to earn $3.1MM in 2012.
We heard last month that the Cubs were shopping their entire roster, though as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes pointed out, "a team drawing three million fans a year doesn't often embark on a full-on offseason rebuilding effort." The Marshall-Wood trade, for instance, still gives Chicago a player who can contribute in 2012. Also, the Cubs were rumored to be in on the Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder sweepstakes this winter, as signing either player would represent the Cubs' first step towards respectability under the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime. Kaplan, however, hears that the Cubs aren't in on Fielder, nor are they planning to make him "a major offer."
"The Cubs have never had the guts to completely blow up their roster and build it the right way," an unnamed NL executive tells Kaplan. "They have to have a plan for sustained success instead of always trying to patchwork a roster for a surprising season."
Even if the team does rebuild, I'd argue the process may not take as long as the Wrigleyville fans may fear. Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Marlon Byrd all come off the books after this season, leaving Alfonso Soriano as the only major remaining albatross contract on the payroll. Chicago's future payroll commitments could get even lower should Matt Garza and/or Carlos Marmol be traded, so Epstein and Hoyer could have tens of millions of dollars to work with by as soon as next winter. This is admittedly a long list of ifs, but if this extra spending money can be augmented by a couple of strong drafts and the emergence of young stars like Andrew Cashner and Brett Jackson, the Cubs could be back in the NL Central hunt by as soon as 2014.