If you paid attention during this week’s winter meetings, you might have spotted Mark Prior at some point in the background as Cubs officials networked in the lobbies and corridors of the Swan and Dolphin Resort.

In many ways, he’s part of the background of everything the Cubs do — and more often don’t do — during a long winter’s wait for the promise of top prospects and new dollars they believe will someday deliver them back to relevancy.

Fit, tanned and still just 33, the most polished, can’t-miss prospect of his generation attended the meetings as the newest member of the San Diego Padres front office at a time in his life he was supposed to be telling World Series stories and strengthening a Hall of Fame resume.

Instead, Prior is the ghost of foundations past that many on the dream-selling side of the Cubs’ ­operation would rather you ignore as construction timelines and budget promises get pushed back while ticket prices remain among the game’s highest.

The Cubs have some of the most elite hitting prospects in the game piling up in their farm system, and that is central to their marketing and justification for a third-year ­rebuilding process that included only the trade for a platoon outfielder (Justin Ruggiano) during the meetings.

But not even a baseball operations department firmly committed to its player-development plan will try to sell the idea that those top prospects will be the championship solution on the North Side when they arrive.