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Cubs play small ball at trade deadline, and it’s a shame

The Cubs are fighting like hell on the field to get a playoff berth, and as a reward from ownership, they now have 86-m.p.h.-throwing Dan Haren to help them in their push.

There are two big issues coming out of the team’s weak trade-deadline efforts Friday, which included the addition of middling reliever Tommy Hunter. The first is that the Ricketts family would not or could not come up with the money for Cole Hamels or Jonathan Papelbon. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer had pushed for the two top-line pitchers as hard as their resources allowed the past few weeks.

This, despite the vow from ownership that the business side of the operation would respond whenever the franchise became competitive on the field. The Cubs are 54-47, two games behind for the second wild-card spot.

“All I can tell you is when Theo and Jed get to the point where they need more resources to execute their plan, the Ricketts family will be there for them,” team spokesman Dennis Culloton told the Sun-Times at the beginning of the 2013 season. “It’s as simple as that.”

The Ricketts family was nowhere to be found at the trade deadline.

The argument that the Cubs are waiting for 2016 or 2017 to make their big push doesn’t hold water, not when you look at Houston, a team following a similar plan. The Astros are 58-45 this season, after going 70-92 in 2014. How did they respond? By acquiring pitcher Scott Kazmir and outfielder Carlos Gomez in exchange for prospects.

Meanwhile, the Cubs traded prospects to Miami for Haren and cash. The small-market Marlins are sending money to Chicago? Good Lord.

The second issue is the Cubs’ farm system. Do the Cubs overvalue their prospects? Do they hold on to them too long? Would it have been better to trade shortstop Javy Baez last season, when other franchises coveted him? Why don’t the Cubs have many minor-league pitching prospects?

Only time will tell whether Epstein was smart to keep Jorge Soler and any other sought-after rookie.

For now, Cubs fans are left to hope that a young, talented team can make the playoffs without the benefit of a trade-deadline boost. It doesn’t seem fair after five straight fifth-place finishes.