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WHITE FLAG OVER WAVELAND: Cubs are tanking. The only question is, how hard?

The Yu Darvish trade is done, as Oleg covered here.

And while the Cubs’ return includes Zach Davies, who was actually pretty decent in 2020, and completes the Cubs’ Three Milhouses achievement, the true effect of the trade won’t be felt for years.

Here’s a really good write-up and evaluation of the minor leaguers the Cubs got back. If there’s any consolation, it’s that the Cubs’ farm system was improved by this trade. But the minor leagues are designed to make the big club better, not the other way around. Unless…

We’ve all seen this movie before. When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer came to the Cubs back in what feels like a century ago now, they were in the business of moving veteran players for prospects. Guys like Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, and Scott Feldman became Kyle Hendricks, Carl Edwards, Justin Grimm, Addison Russell, Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. They, along with some astute (and lucky – remember, the Astros could have taken Kris Bryant first) drafting, not only gave Cub fans the greatest season of their lives, but it also gave the Ricketts family a season they could milk for revenue for years.

If there’s one thing that is absolutely true in Chicago sports, and proven by the 1985 Bears and 2005 White Sox, it’s that there’s more sure money in yesterday than in tomorrow. The White Sox were able to buttress the lean years on 35th Street by occasionally trotting out Paul Konerko or Jim Thome to give the fans warm and fuzzy feelings to let them forget what was happening on the field.

As much as the Cubs won’t admit it, it’s one of the factors that was taken into consideration when the office that had been occupied by Joe Maddon now belongs to David Ross.

And while Yu Darvish wasn’t part of the 2016 team, his arrival was signaled as the Cubs keeping the party going. Jake’s losing velocity? No sweat, here’s a guy still hitting 97! Now Darvish is part of the San Diego juggernaut and the Cubs are left with a less-good version of their new ace. And the four guys who may or may not be something some day. I mean, Russell went from an MLB top 5 prospect to being non-tendered in five years.

The bigger question is, what’s next? Between the non-tendering of Kyle Schwarber and the trading of Darvish – even with the addition of Davies’ money for 2021 – there’s a significant cash savings for the Cubs’ billionaire owners. They’ve got Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo all entering the last year of their contracts.

If the Cubs are really looking to commit to the tank, the next move Hoyer should make is to call the Dodgers and offer Bryant for whatever the Dodgers are trying to get Nelson Arenado for. They can also shop Baez to the same teams that have shown interest in Jose Lindor.

Yeah, it sucks. It also means the Cubs are folding despite having a hand strong enough to take the pot that is the NL Central. But when owners couldn’t get everyone on board with colluding a couple years ago, the ones who wanted it can just empty out the clubhouse and pocket their money anyway. Believe me, as soon as people are allowed back into Wrigley Field, the joint will be full. And all the Ricketts-owned properties around the ballpark itself will see their coffers get fat again.

Look, maybe the day comes when Reginald Preciado blossoms into a star. Maybe Owen Caissie breaks windows up and down Sheffield Avenue. Maybe Yu Darvish suddenly changes from a veteran pitcher to an old one. But championships aren’t won on maybes. But selling sunshine, beer and lots of stuff to do around Clark & Addison aren’t dependent on wins and losses. Which is where we are.

Players come and players go. But garbage ownership lasts forever.

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