Quantcast

starlin castro javier baezAlthough the Cubs are behind the 8-ball having already lost every game they’ve played this season, some folks can look at their situation and still find seeds of optimism.

To be sure, my dispassionate take on the Cubs’ likeliest outcome this year has them somewhere in the 70-win range, tops, with an expected summer sell-off accelerating the losing in the second half. I’ll hedge by noting that I do like the composition of the roster, particularly the versatility and flexibility, and I do see many players who could surprise to the upside (and if enough of them do it at once, great things can happen). All, in all, though, I don’t see .500 in the Cubs’ future this year.

But FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron can see it. In his recent piece on five things he believes about the 2014 season (must read, naturally), here’s what he says in part about the Cubs, whom he believes might be better than folks think:

I think this team might be surprisingly not awful, in part because I think the players who are taking the field on Opening Day might not be regulars for a terribly long period of time. Javier Baez looks to be on the verge of a Major League call-up, and if he hits in Triple-A like he did in Double-A last year, the Cubs won’t keep him down for too long. And depending on how the infield shakes out, he might not come alone. Arismendy Alcantara and Kris Bryant also aren’t that far off, and depending on how aggressive the Cubs want to be with second half promotions, Jorge Soler could see Chicago towards the end of the year as well.

Toss in the addition of an arm like C.J. Edwards on the pitching side, and the Cubs have a wave of pretty great prospects that could finish the year in Wrigley Field. It’s unrealistic to expect all of them to contribute this year, but with this kind of talent, the odds are good that one or two of them prove to be ready faster than expected, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Baez, Bryant, and Edwards ended up being pretty solid Major League players as soon as they hit the field. I’m not expecting any of them to pull a Yasiel Puig, but given early enough call-ups, I could see some combination of prospects adding three to five wins to the Cubs total this year, and I don’t think a .500 season is completely out of the question.

That’s an interesting perspective, and you certainly can’t rule it out. If Baez continues his tear and is up in June, that alone could add a couple wins on the year. I tend to think, though, that if the Cubs do surprise and approach .500, it’s going to have more to do with guys like Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Mike Olt, Junior Lake, Welington Castillo, Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and the like surprising to the upside. That’s a boatload of potential impact – probably more than Baez/Bryant/Alcantara/Edwards could effect in a half-season, even if they all came up in June/July (which they won’t).

None of that is to poo-poo Cameron’s point, which is a good one: when we project a team’s season, it’s so easy to ignore surprising prospect promotions and impact, which does seem to happen every year. Are there many teams better positioned than the Cubs in that regard? Probably not too many.

Which brings me to the follow-up point that Cameron’s comments brought to mind: are we actually hoping the Cubs go .500 this year?

If you’ve been around for the duration of The Plan, you’re not unfamiliar with this discussion. And frankly, even after having it so many times, I’m still not sure where I land. Since it is unreasonable to hope for the playoffs this year (not impossible, but so unlikely that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if that’s where you put your eggs), should we be hoping for the best possible non-playoff record the Cubs can record?

The downsides to winning, say, 81 games, rather than 69, are pretty obvious: a lower draft pick, less draft pool money, less international pool money, and maybe an unprotected first round draft pick next year (probably right in the range where it’s particularly painful to lose a first rounder, too).

But there are upsides to going .500, especially if your team has been well under .500 for a half decade. There are attendance and revenue increases (particularly notable when on the verge of a new TV contract). There are possible intangible benefits when trying to convince free agents to sign on.

And there’s the big one: for this Cubs team to actually go .500, that means a bunch of individual stories were great this year. A bunch of guys developed. A bunch of guys produced. A bunch of guys look really good going into 2015. Sure, that’s all kind of backwards-looking – which is to say, you’re not really rooting for .500, you’re just rooting for that good stuff to happen (which then results in .500) – but it’s probably the most important part of this discussion.

In the abstract, would I rather the Cubs lost the most games in baseball if they aren’t going to make the playoffs? Maybe. But if that actually happens, things could look really ugly heading into the offseason. I’d rather have a whole bunch of things go right for the Cubs – things that make the near-term future picture look bright – and have them “suffer” the consequences of a .500 record.

At least I think. As I said, this is something of an ongoing internal debate …

  • Funn Dave

    A mid-round draft pick would definitely be enough for me–give me .500 and I’ll be a happy camper.

  • Fishin Phil

    I want them to win as many games as they possibly can. Draft pick be damned! Of course, if they do wind up getting a high draft pick, I will console myself with that fact.

    • Darth Ivy

      That’s how I feel. I want them to win as much as possible with the high draft pick being a nice consolation prize. More important than wins or draft picks, though, is development. Obviously, more wins would come with rizzo, castro, etc doing well. But I’d get more enjoyment from seeing certain guys take the next step in their development than finishing 81-81 rather than 71-91

      • Travis

        ^ What he said.

  • Funn Dave

    One obvious perk is that attendance would go up if we weren’t at the absolute bottom of the pack, which of course means more revenue, etc.

  • Jon

    This is why I can’t sit back and cheer for 95+ losses. There comes a point,(even in a rebuild) when the losses aren’t healthy because it means your young players are stagnant or even regressing.

    Am I glad they had the #2 overall pick in 2013? Hell yeah! College bats like Bryant are rare. But if you ask me this year? meh. The #1 overall stud Rondon suddenly isn’t the sures thing anymore. There is no stud college bat. And pitchers are always a crazy/risky proposition.

  • LEO L

    I agree that if you are not going to the playoffs then you might as well lose all the way to get a better pick. I think that is especially true when you are selling guys and the replacements are not going to contribute. But now we need players to step up. Castro, Rhizzo, maybe Olt, Shark possibly staying, and Edwin Jackson need to start to be major contributers if we are going to succeed in the near future. you hope those guys get us closer to 500. wouldn’t be bad if lake, bullpen, and few other suprises come along too to help with the plan. It is getting to the point where we need things to start to come together if we want 2015 or even 2016 to be a playoff contention. Need some more winning to know the plan is working.

  • http://bleachernation Peoria cubman

    I say stay with the plan and add all the assets you can for the future, a .500 record means nothing at this point. Deal Shark at the deadline and get young arms that line up with the age of Baez and co.

    • half_full_beer_mug

      I’m not sure that part of “The Plan”.

      If The Plan is to lose 100 games each and every year to acquire talent right up until the year you “go for it”; that sounds like a plan that is destined to fail.

      At some point the improving process has to begin. The present players need to develop and improve. The players that the FO deem part of the future need to be locked up for the long term, not traded for more question marks. Then the fancy new shiny prospect pieces become part of the ML team as well.

      Even if all of those things happen in the same year and everything goes well, the record may still be around .500. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Then you can determine where the remaining holes are. Determine if there is an in house solution to the problem, and if not explore other options to fill that void.

      I just don’t think you can get to that point if the team is constantly loosing 85+ games.

      • EQ76

        Agreed. You can’t always go “worst to first” either. Other than a year with an extreme spending spree, there’s usually a gradual climb. I expect this team to be competitive soon. I’m all for a close to .500 year. Remember, we’re probably getting another high impact / top 100 prospect or 2 in this year’s draft.

  • Jim

    I was thinking about this to myself the other day. Being .500 at the all-star break (with non-sustainable numbers by some players) could actually be the worst thing that could happen, for the reasons stated above.

    It hurts me to rationally think that.

    • Jon

      Again, I just don’t get this line of thinking. A 500 record likely means several young players, players you project to be part of your future core are having great seasons. How is that in any way the “worst thing” that can happen?

      • Jim

        You’re right, if young players break out, awesome. But what if its not the “core” thats getting us there, and we are several wins to the lucky side? It wouldn’t feel right not to “go for it”, but if its not realistic, is it worth it?

        I agree. Its a tough line of thinking. But I get the point made here.

        • Jon

          The only player that I think could have a great year, and isn’t part of the core, would be Ruggiano. With a move to Wrigley and more playing time I could see him hitting 30+HR’s.

          If Olt has a great year, he is part of your core now and maybe you move Bryant to OF when he’s ready.

          Lake has a great year, he’s your CF maybe till Almora comes at least. I don’t see any long terms downsides to players on this roster having great years.

          • cub4life

            This is interesting because I didn’t know that Barney, Jackson, Sweeney, Scheirholtz, Valbuena, Baker, Hammel, Veras, Fujikawa, McDonald, Villenueva and Bonifacio were part of the “core”.

            • Jon

              Edwin Jackson in theory could be if he pitches well.

              As for the rest, they are role players. It’s highly unlikely that any of them would affect wins or losses in any significant way.

              • cub4life

                that being said, there is no way that the “core” guys will affect this team enough to get close to .500.

                • Jon

                  If Shark, Castro, Rizzo, and Castillo can approach 4 WAR seasons and you get something from Olt, you are pretty close

                  • cub4life

                    so are you discounting the drop in production from the OF?

                  • cub4life

                    saying all this I do want them to win every game.

            • Brocktoon

              Jackson is the only one of those capable of having a great year.

        • half_full_beer_mug

          I don’t think there is enough luck ( or positive variance) in the world that would allow this team to reach .500 without solid production from a few of the group most consider the “core” including Rizzo, Castro, Shark, Olt, Wood, and Castillo.

      • gocatsgo2003

        Prinicpally because then you likely lose your protected draft pick, which could discourage signing free agents in the upcoming offseason. The more I think about it, the more I would like to see the FO sit on its picks before going all in over the course of one offseason — gaining a protected first-round pick, then “stacking” free agent signings so you can keep your first-round pick while sacrificing those in later rounds and “rolling over” the money from season to season like we saw with this year. The obvious problem is convincing free agents to join in such a plan, but money usually ends up doing the talking. We might overpay a bit as a result, but that strategy could make sense if you slightly de-value the dollars and cents.

        • Brocktoon

          I agree with the “stacking” strategy in theory, but I just can’t see it working in practice.

          -We’d need to have a huge amount of payroll dollars available. Rolling over 15M from this year is sizable if we don’t have to worry about payroll restrictions 2016-beyond, if it has to be broken up over multiple years, it really doesn’t mean much.
          -There has to be multiple viable free agents who are fits for what we need.
          -These players have to want to come here.

          • gocatsgo2003

            You mean something along the lines of $70 million to play with in a single offseason? That’s the ballpark number being thrown about for 2015 even before any incremental revenue additions.

            As I said, the biggest thing would be getting free agents to buy into such strategy. However, as most ballplayers will typically end up with whomever offers the most money (see Cano, Robinson), having a fat wallet to throw at free agents could solve that problem, resulting in some overpays.

            • Brocktoon

              Who is throwing around 70M for next offseason?

              From Cots, with my own back of the envelope arb estimations, I’ve got the Cubs at ~64.5M for 13 players. This includes non-tenders/trades of Barney, Ruggiano, and McDonald.

              The Cubs payroll won’t be coming anywhere close to 135M

              • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                If $110M is their cap in any given year and they have $20M to roll over from this year.

                BOOM, $130M payroll and an increase in revenue giving you another $5M

                • Brocktoon

                  If 110M is their cap in any given year, then this isn’t the first year they’ve come in under budget. And they were apparently planning on dropping 30M on Tanaka?

                  And what happens to the 2015 payroll when that 20M roll-over isn’t there anymore?

                  • gocatsgo2003

                    Ace had a great write-up on this very topic with all the math and commentary you could possibly need:

                    http://www.bleachernation.com/2014/03/28/the-quiet-importance-of-rolled-over-funds-how-much-could-the-rebuild-be-impacted/

                    Long story short, this is the first year that ownership has allowed the baseball side to “roll” its unspent salary dollars. Presumably they will continue to allow the practice, resulting in compounding money to be spent year-over-year.

                    • Brocktoon

                      I strongly question whether we can currently sustain (or are willing to sustain) a 110M payroll considering we haven’t done it the past 3 seasons(and Tanaka would have had to be signed for more than he got with the Yankees to have reached it this year) and revenues continue to decline.

                      Even if all this were true, we’d then have to assume we have 20M more in revenue ready to go for 2016 budgets-beyond.

                      I’m skeptical.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        There are numerous other likely explanations when a team like the Cubs is playing near 0.500 ball late into the season, most of which represent unsustainable good fortune. For example, the Cubs might do extremely well in 1-run games for a stretch. The Cubs might have good fortune in hitting with men on base for a stretch. Etc., etc. Given baseball history, those would be more probable causes for a helium record by the Cubs.

        • Jon

          A .500 record late into the season could push attendance back up, close to 3 million. That’s 30 million in extra revenue. That’s FA money. So I’ll take that too.

          • Brocktoon

            April-May attendance is going to make it a near impossibility to reach 3M.

            • Funn Dave

              3M or no 3M, any increase in attendance would be a boon for the FO & erase one of their excuses for not spending any money in the offseason.

              • brickhouse

                Cubs ticket office expecting 300,000 less in ticket sales this year.

                • Funn Dave

                  …based on projections that have the Cubs performing well below .500.

        • Funn Dave

          I’m going to disagree with you Doc that winning more one-run games and hitting better with RISP represents unsustainably good fortune. If anything, our RISP hitting last year and the results of last year’s one-run games were unsustainably low, and some positive improvement in those areas would represent positive regression to the norm rather than unsustainable good luck. Unless we’re hitting like .800 with RISP or something obviously unsustainably high like that.

  • Brocktoon

    As you said, if this team is nearing 100 losses, then it’s another punt in 2015, and it’s an almost certainty that multiple assets which were to be building blocks have fallen apart. Win as many as possible.

  • CubChymyst

    This season I hope to see improvement from Castro, Rizzo, Castillo, Olt, Samardzija, and basically any other cub that has the potential to be around 3+ years. Record is secondary right now, if their improvements lead to a 0.500 record great.

  • Medicos

    Been a fan for 61-years and have been part of only 17-WINNING SEASONS in all that time. Being a fan somehow helped me get through medical school and I, like Fishin Phil, want the Cubs to win every damn game on the schedule.

    The future looks promising: in 2013 only 18 right handed hitters blasted 30-home runs in all the minor leagues and college baseball (Division 1). 2 are future Cubs: Bryant and Baez. Give the FO time to achieve what they’re attempting to do. It can’t get any worse than the last three seasons: an average of 30-games below .500: 66W-96L.

  • Picklenose

    Personally, I am hoping to see Baez hit a walk-off tater to win the World Series. But I would be happy to see a team I can still believe has a shot at winning on a daily basis after the trade deadline. The last two August-Septembers have been really hard to watch.

  • Lou Brown

    I am hoping for a top ten pick next year. With the payroll so low, Soriano’s money coming off the books, and the leftover money from this year, I would like to see them make a splash in free agency this year. They would be able to go after some of the front line pitching that will be on the market. Add a front line starter, and a solid 2/3 to the core, along with Baez, and maybe Bryant, Edwards, and Soler, and I think next year’s team could be pretty good, good enough to end any discussion of draft location.

    • Jon

      There is no Bryce Harper, Strasburgh phenom coming up for the 2015 draft. If there was he would be on the radar already.

      • gocatsgo2003

        But there could be a guy like Kevin Gausman (#4 overall in 2012) or Michael Wacha (#19 overall in 2012) in the group of Carlos Rondon, Jeff Hoffman, Tyler Beede, etc. — a college-level arm who could be in MLB sooner rather than later.

        • half_full_beer_mug

          Doesn’t Wacha prove the point that you don’t have to tank the season to draft a good player?

          • gocatsgo2003

            As I just responded to Jon, the differences is in the marginal value a rebuilding team gains for drafting in the top 10.

        • Jon

          Essentially, it’s crapshoot.

          • gocatsgo2003

            As it is with all draft picks. The difference is that drafting in the top 10 gets you protections that are not allowed at other draft slots, which adds marginal value to a rebuilding team.

            • half_full_beer_mug

              I guess that’s where we disagree. I think it should be about time to not be a rebuilding team any longer. I think they should be in the improving stage and not a continuous rebuilding phase.

              • gocatsgo2003

                But where we digress is how the “improving” stage should be executed — as I outlined elsewhere, I like the idea of “stacking” all that improvement into one offseason rather than gradually over a couple of seasons. In that way, you don’t forefit the benefits of sucking (better and protected draft picks, increased draft pool, increased international pool, etc.) while improving.

                • CubsFaninMS

                  I’ve mentioned this previously and do agree with your approach. If can get a haul of prospects for a strong-performing Samardzija, supplement his performance during the off season with two stud pitchers, and hit the ground running in 2015. Our farm will be thoroughly stocked by then enough to where losing two draft picks will have minimal impact on the organizational.

                • Funn Dave

                  It just isn’t feasible that A) there will truly be that much FA talent available in one offseason, B) the Cubs will be able to sign all of the players it wants in one offseason, and C) the talent available in that offseason matches up with the specific needs of the Cubs that year.

                  • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

                    Scherzer, Masterson, and Shields will all most likely be available in the off-season, but your point B is the most important one

            • Lou Brown

              Right with the protected the top 10 pick, you are giving up overall pick 40 (roughly) to sign Scherzer instead of pick 10. Big difference in the talent between those two spots.

              • gocatsgo2003

                … and big difference in the draft and international bonus pools as well.

  • Required

    Off subject. Garza looking sharp today. No no through 4.

    • Fishin Phil

      BUNT!!!!

      • Required

        Thought the same thing!

      • half_full_beer_mug

        Not sure why there isn’t at least one bunt every time through the lineup when he’s on the mound.

    • mjhurdle

      Must be something in the air down there, because Gameday says that Harang also has a no-no going.

      • mjhurdle

        The Brewer TV crew just said that Garza is a potential Cy Young candidate this year….

        • Fishin Phil

          Have another beer guys.

        • Picklenose

          Everyone is a potential Cy Young candidate right now. A month from now, eh, not so much.

    • Picklenose

      Garza with the unintentional bunt!

  • MightyBear

    This guy stole my thunder. One of several reasons I’ve been higher on the Cubs this year than most people, especially on this site. 85-77

  • mjhurdle

    If we aren’t in playoff consideration, then I really don’t care what the Cubs record is.
    The biggest thing to me is, like others have mentioned, the development of the “core” players.
    If the Cubs finish with 67 wins, but Rizzo, Castro, Wood, and Castillo all show some sustainable positive development, then I will be happy to take the high draft pick and move on.
    If the Cubs finish with 79 wins, but it is on the back of every player having a great second half due to unsustainable .500 + BABIP, then I won’t feel that great, even though they improved record-wise.
    I want to see the players we all hope will be fundamental pieces of the team going forward have good years. I want to see the prospects we call up make adjustments and show they can succeed at the MLB level. That is what excites me about this season.
    And if players are traded, I want them to be traded because they couldn’t agree on long term extension prices(Shark) or because they aren’t long term pieces (Scheirholtz, etc).

    • Fishin Phil

      “And if players are traded, I want them to be traded because they couldn’t agree on long term extension prices(Shark) or because they aren’t long term pieces (Scheirholtz, etc).”

      And we get a boatload of good prospects in return.

      • mjhurdle

        that too!

  • Caleb

    I say a lot of good things for half the season, but bad luck makes us far out of contention. We flip a few dudes for the top prospects in every other team’s farm system, call up some studs, and roar out the last month of the season 25-5 on the back of a “homer’a’day” plan from Baez. We end up with a crap record (and the goodies that brings), but lots of revenue and enthusiasm going into next year.

    Oh, and all they prospect are then belong to us.

    That’s my hope. (After winning the World Series, of course).

  • cubfanincardinalland

    This is what I like already about renteria. He doesn’t get this concept of building a solid team with young hitters and arms, but still losing 90 plus games. It is really non sensical.
    Time to be a pain in the arse to cocky teams like the dead birds. Time to start winning some ball games.

  • scorecardpaul

    We all want the Cubs to win the World Series every year for the rest of our lives. That doesn’t seem possible starting this year; therefore I’m looking towards a different route. I think the plan is working just fine. I think the position players will start to show up at the major league level. I think that influx of youth (and thus low cost) is what will allow Theo to finally finish his plan. This is how I dream that it happens…..
    We trade our 2 best starting pitchers at the break(.Samardzija, Jackson) We bring up all the kids who are ready after the break. We trade for Price at the break. We finish with one more year of protected picks,( top 3) and we buy 2 stud pitchers in the off season. We have a very strong playoff caliber team next year and almost make it to the world series. I also think that Theo will blow his budget in the college draft this year because he knows that this will be his last year to have a high pick. He blows his money on young high school pitchers that he gets to hand pick who he wants to buy out of their scholarships. This will in turn restock our pitching staff as the older free agents get old. World Series Champs forever. I actually do think a team will go crazy in the regular draft one of these years and just sign a bunch of highly rated high school players.

    • Brocktoon

      If we go crazy in the draft, we’ll forfeit our next 2 first round picks.

      The problem with the idea is with slotting in place, there aren’t nearly as many elite talents hanging around waiting to be bought out of their commitments, because nobody has the budget for it.

      Additionally, you better be sure whoever you do find to buy out of college doesn’t turn out be Andrew Brackman. And you’d better be sure your team is going to be good starting the next year, or the forfeited picks will hurt even more.

      I’d much rather throw away a 1st round pick on an elite FA than on a handful of overslots.

      • scorecardpaul

        I think you only loose one first round pick the first time you go over your budget?

        “The problem with the idea is with slotting in place, there aren’t nearly as many elite talents hanging around waiting to be bought out of their commitments, because nobody has the budget for it.”

        I think you are making my point for me. players don’t even think about it anymore because no teams do it. Therefore the first team to try it would pretty much have their pick of all of the best players?

        • Brocktoon

          Depends on your definition of “crazy” 15%+ over budget forfeits your next 2 1st round picks, along with 100% penalty on the overage.

          Players who are elite HS players are going to get their money in the 1st round. HS players who don’t want to sign for 2nd round slot will drop down and you can buy them out, but you’re going to pay double what it costs to buy them out(due to the penalty) along with forfeiting the draft pick.

    • half_full_beer_mug

      If I send you my address can you mail me some of that stuff you are using right now? It has to be good.

      • scorecardpaul

        hey, I’m on vacation, so sure, send me an address I can hook you up

    • Funn Dave

      We’ve been trading our best-performing and most talented pitchers (Garza, Feldman, Maholm, etc.) for a few years now, so that’s nothing new–not that I necessarily disagree with the idea. I do disagree with the notion that Jackson is a better pitcher than T. Wood, though. And why are we trading our “best” pitchers away at the break while simultaneously trading for Price at the break? That seems like a minimal gain situation.

      • Norm

        Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but Price compared to our current pitchers is only a “minimal gain”?

        • gocatsgo2003

          Pretty sure it is a comparison between having Price while losing our other “best” pitchers (Shark, Wood, etc.) — having one excellent starting pitcher is, on balance, probably a minimal gain at best compared to two very good starting pitchers.

          • Funn Dave

            Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. I’m not debating whether Price is significantly better than our current top-tier pitchers; he most certainly is.

            • scorecardpaul

              sorry, I didn’t know that this would have been the part of my statement that was hard to grab. We will most likely trade Shark, and I’m thinking we could trade Jackson. (we keep wood). That would give us lots of prospects to keep, and trade for price. The thought is that Price is much better than Edwin Jackson. We are going to loose Shark anyway. We now have future players from the trade who may be long term assets, and we have a TOR pitcher. In the off season we sign 2 more TOR starters because most of our position players are making league minimum. Add to that a very young and inexpensive bullpen ( but good) and you have a very good and hard to beat in the playoffs team

  • Porkslap

    There is no point to have this discussion one game into the season. Aren’t we all 100% in agreement that we want the Cubs to win tonight’s game? Brett, are you saying part of you wants them to lose tonight? If not, then what are you saying?

    • Brocktoon

      I’m fairly certain Brett’s ideal for this season is 161-1. He’s a bit more reasonable than that though, and figures mediocre is the absolute ceiling for this club.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      This game is big in the respect that it sets the tone for what we may expect from Jackson this season and how we will fare against righthanded pitching. We already saw how we fare against a good lefthander. I’m optomistic that Jackson will do good based on his last outing in ST. I wonder if Olt is starting today or is Happy going to stick all the lefthanded bats in the lineup? And how do you keep Bonafacio out of the lineup after the game he had Monday? I just hope the rain holds off until they get the game in.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The discussion isn’t about being one-game in – this is, essentially, a preseason discussion.

      I *want* the Cubs to win every single game (I’d settle for 140-22, though). That’s not really the discussion, though. The discussion is what we want to see from the Cubs, in light of how we can realistic project performance.

      • Porkslap

        Basically we want them all to be Andre Dawson and rake for a last place club.

      • terencemann

        I want the Cubs to play better defense, take more walks and run the bases better this season and I’ll be happy. I think that would mean the team has improved.

        As far as realistic improvements, I wouldn’t expect much beyond a few wins over the 70 or so wins the Cubs seem to be projected for. Even if Baez comes up in July and succeeds, that probably won’t be an enormous upgrade over Barney due it only being half a season of an upgrade. Olt probably won’t be tremendously more valuable than the third base platoon last season since they hit home runs, played good defense and got on base at a slightly below average rate (sound familiar?). If Bryant gets called up, it will only be for a month so he won’t be able to add a lot of wins at that point. The Cubs also need to be ready to trade Samardzija if an offer blows them away and ready to trade Hammel and Veras when good enough offers come in. When you add that all up, there could be a lot of moral victories this year and a lot of great signs for next year but this isn’t a team capable of a sustainable .500 season.

      • Funn Dave

        140-22? C’mon Brett, dream big. 161-1 or bust!

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I don’t know if I can endure another sell off and a 90 plus loss season. I know people will say that I’m not a true Cubs fan if I don’t hang in there. But it’s like a relationship where you might love that other person, but you just need to take a break. We know Shark is going to shine this year because he smells a big contract on the horizon. But for Rizzo and Castro it is all on the line this year. Another mediocre year for them will be a significant setback. Either those two get going and Olt and Lake contribute this year or the “core” goes down the toilet. The next two months is huge in determining 2015-16. Is the renovation on or off, and are two guys that the FO locked up worth their contracts?

    • Coop

      I think if you need to take a break, then you probably don’t actually love the other person… you are fooling yourself.

  • mjhurdle

    Harang and Garza both with no-hitters through 6 in Milwaukee

    • Edwin

      Jinxed it. 1-0 Braves on a Chris Johnson HR.

  • Cubbie in NC

    Baez may come up. But I cannot see Alcantara coming up until September at the earliest and when he does where is he going to play?

    Bryant is not going to come up for more than a cup of coffee, and Soler is behind the other three by quite a ways. I would almost bet on Almora passing him.

    I agree with you Brett that the guys there now are the ones that can propel the Cubs to .500.

    A win tonight and the Cubs can reach the goal.

  • another JP

    I’d love to see the Cubs win 81 games this year because it would indicate improvement and verify the rebuild is showing signs of success. This FO has a strong enough talent evaluation system that I’m certain that they’ll still find a great prospect to draft no matter where they pick in the first round. Ellsbury, Buchholz, Pedroia, Papelbon, and Masterson were all lower round picks.

    • Chad

      If they win 81 games and sign a FA with a QO, they will not be picking in the 1st round because they will lose that pick. I’d much rather have them have the ability to sign a FA like Scherzer and keep their 1st round pick as well, and lose their 2nd round pick.

  • Voice of Reason

    Being .500 is a great goal for a young team that is on the upswing and that is where the Cubs will be in a year or two.

    HOWEVER, there is no way in hell that this team does that this year! They have no offense. Even if Rizzo, Castro, Shierholtz and Olt produce, there are still 5 others who will bat for this team. And, hoping that Rizzo, Castro, Schierholtz and Olt all produce this year is another darn near impossible request. The starting pitching is average to below average. The bullpen is improved over last year, but a bullpen is only as good as the starters. In other words, a solid bullpen can suffer from overuse when the starters aren’t good. That’s what is destined to happen with this team.

    There is light at the end of the tunnel. The Cubs are rebuilding and doing it the right way. I’m excited about the future, but .500 just isn’t possible this year.

    This team might set the franchise record for losses!

  • SouthFloridaCubsFan

    A little of topic but when is the earliest Baez could come up to the major and avoid super two this year?

    I keep hearing June and I’m wondering if it is soon enough that he could be up for the series in Miami in the middle of June.

    • cub4life

      According to http://mlb.mlb.com/pa/info/faq.jsp#arbitration

      “In addition, a player can be classified as a “Super Two” and be eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service. A player with at least two but less than three years of Major League service shall be eligible for salary arbitration if he has accumulated at least 86 days of service during the immediately preceding season and he ranks in the top 22 percent (increased from 17 percent in previous agreements) in total service in the class of Players who have at least two but less than three years of Major League service, however accumulated, but with at least 86 days of service accumulated during the immediately preceding season”

      If he is up for more then 86 days of service he would be super 2. Post season starts on 9/30 so if we take 86 days from that it would be about Jul 7 (if i’m calculating that correctly).

      • Brocktoon

        Baez could be up for 150 days and not be a super 2 if there are 22% of player 2>3 years up for 151. Teams have been pushing start dates more and more, but it hasn’t gone that far yet. Mid-June should be more than safe.

    • terencemann

      From Fangraphs:

      The Super Two cutoff used to stand at 17%, but got changed to 22% in the new CBA negotiations. This means that if a team wants to keep a player in the minors until after the Super Two cutoff, they will have to keep that player in the minors for even longer than before. Considering that the cutoff used to fall sometime in June — it varied from year to year, as the 17% cutoff isn’t tied to a specific date — it will likely end up being in July going forward.

  • ClevelandCubsFan

    Meta question for Brett — Clearly, the site began just before the Great Depression (as it related to Cubs baseball). Clearly, the site–as a good business–has grown in popularity and reach. The connection to the Cubs demise may be coincidental. It could be that for some reason the growth of your site has been due in part to the Cubs struggles. So there are many reasons this might be a hard question to answer.

    The question, then: From a business standpoint, what do you suspect is better for Bleacher Nation–a .500 season or another sell-off-protected-first-round-draft-pick season? Do you even know or have an idea? I’m really curious how your site might evolve and change (as it inevitably will) when the Cubs get good. I’m sure you’ve thought about it, though I don’t know how much.

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      And as a full disclaimer, this question comes from the vantage point of a fan of Bleacher Nation and your work.

      Meta meta, maybe I should launch a Bleacher Nation Nation blog that tracks all things of interest to fans (and enemies) of Bleacher Nation. Although I don’t think you’d appreciate my overarching, long-awaited financial piece.

    • Chad

      I would imagine that the sell off would garner a lot of site visits in July, and then the prospect call ups would during August and September. I don’t know if a .500 club would impact that as much. I know I would still visit the site regularly, but when it is trade deadline time, I practically live on here, but that is just me.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      While I can’t know for *sure*, because the Cubs haven’t been seriously competitive for pretty much all of the site’s history (and certainly not since I’ve been doing it full-time (mid-2011)), but I have strong data-based reasons to believe more wins will always generate more traffic.

      The site’s growth over the past few years has been in spite of the Cubs’ struggles (consider the attendance losses as a reflection of marginal fan interest), rather than because of it. If that’s what you mean. But, that said, the rebuilding process certainly provides interesting angles for coverage, and I’ve done my best to keep things interesting around here, despite the losing.

      /META

      • DarthHater

        Win or lose, people will throng here just to read Diehard’s comments. ;-)

        • Funn Dave

          You just can’t pass up that kind of insight.

        • Alan Griffin

          I gotta respect Diehard’s lack of equivocation. Whatever he says is *the* absolute bottom line in regards to whichever topic (or tangent) he’s referencing. Love it.

      • Funn Dave

        I’m not suggesting that bad news for the Cubs is good news for BN, but I do think that BN has an advantage over other Cubs sites these days because of its heavy attention to prospects, which is about all Cub fans have to get pumped about nowadays.

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        Thanks Brett. I generally think you’re right. But I do agree with some posters that your content was uniquely poised to shine in a rough time. You’re overall hits will probably increase but I wonder if your market share curve will flatten a bit. Whatever the case kudos for the great site and best wishes in the INEVITABLE transition that come with lots and lots of Cubs wins.

    • Funn Dave

      Good questions. I’ve been wondering some of those things myself. One thing I’m sure of, though: even if it’s in the best interests of BN, Brett would not root against the Cubs. And I tend to be pretty cynical about these things.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        You are correct. If I had the kind of personality that allowed me to root against the Cubs in favor of my own interest, I probably wouldn’t be successful doing the fan blogger thing in the first place.

        Fortunately, however, our interests are aligned. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, so to speak.

  • Kyle

    Yes, being .500 would be amazing this year. It would bring in more money and possibly give them incentive to actually use their money to bring in good baseball players.

    It would show that the organization is actually good at finding and developing players who can help win at the MLB level, which we haven’t seen much of to date.

    And sure, it’s possible.

    • Edwin

      Plus, the farm system is already pretty stacked. Not getting a top 5 draft pick in next year’s draft isn’t going to make or break the farm system.

      • willis

        I agree and having #4 this year, that is another super high (what you hope to be) impact pick. Enough is enough.

        And I’ve seen it said reading these comments and want to echo it: Seeing .500 baseball would be a welcome sight and would mean that young players are developing into very good players. I’d say with this roster, pulling off something near .500 would be outrageously awesome. Also, it energizes the base, which as said will bring more revenue.

        It would show us a light at the end of this shitty tunnel…something all cubs fans, but especially those of us who are obsessed, could really use. The positve energy it would bring to the ball club would be great to see. We haven’t seen baseball that matters since about the 2/3 mark of 2009…I’d love to see even a half season of it.

    • Funn Dave

      +1

  • TK

    Without predicting any certain W/L, I said pretty much the exact same thing on this MB a few short weeks ago. Amidst all the shortsighted, simple-minded pessimism of all the self-proclaimed experts here, the truth about the quality of replacements we could call-up mid-season to replace the current roster residents is that we very well could be as good, or even better, in the 2nd 1/2. And now you here it from someone outside the org. Additionally, I think the NL, except a few teams, just generally isn’t gonna be that great this year. That would mean the cubs would be more competitive. I say Cubs could win 75, but .500 is probably a bit too optimistic.

    • cubfanincardinalland

      Excellent point. I would not be surprised if no team in the NL won more than 92 games. Despite the early season media hype you are bombarded with on a few clubs, there really is a lot of parity, and there are no super teams in the league.

      • Brocktoon

        I’d be quite surprised to see the Dodgers finish with less than 93 wins.

        • TK

          I think the Dodgers come back to earth a bit this year. Probably still win division, but not like last year. BTW, didnt the injury bug just bite the crap outta them?

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      I am still sceptical about how many guys get called up this year. It seems a safe bet that Baez will and maybe a pitcher or two. With the exception of September call ups Bryant, Almora and Soler will need a full season of development. Alcantara is a good possibility, but it is really unclear where he fits at this time. The infield will remain a question mark until Olt proves that he is the 3rd baseman of the future and Castro proves that last year was just a fluke. If Baez cuts down on his errors and Alcantara shines I would have to think that the FO might start shopping Castro for pitching.

      • Alan Griffin

        Agree that Soler, Almora and Bryant need more seasoning. Hope Castro sticks. I’d like to see Alcantara go to CF with Lake moving to LF when Schierholtz leaves at the deadline. This assumes that Kalish succeeds at the plate, like I hope, and takes RF. Sweeney or Ruggiano could be traded for prospects; both if Bryant looks to be a September call-up. My dream end of season lineup:

        Alcantara CF
        Castro SS
        Rizzo 1B
        Olt 3B
        Baez 2B
        Bryant LF
        Castillo C
        Kalish RF

        Bench: Lake, Sczcur, Villanueva, Bonifacio, Baker

        Could see Vitters over Sczcur, but I like the speedy possibilities with this bunch.

  • Brocktoon

    I think Cameron is off-base in expecting contributions from anyone but Baez this season. Throwing Soler in there as a possibility is totally off the wall.

    • Jon

      Soler is on a major league deal. No clock games to play. He would be on essentially the same age and path that Puig was when he got called up. If he’s ready, he should be up.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        He does have an opt-out into arbitration, not sure exactly how it’s structured by I know it’s in there

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          “Opt-out into”

          That can’t be right haha

      • Brocktoon

        Soler has 344 professional ABs, all of them below AA. He’s been good, but not spectacular. There’s no reason to expect him to be ready this season.

        And best of my recollection, his major league contract has nothing to do with service time games. It can be ripped up for arbitration, the same way Shark’s was. The only way it affects him is his option status, of which he shouldn’t have to stay up for good until 2016.

      • Funn Dave

        He isn’t ready, though. He could be near the end of the season, but I’m not counting on it.

    • TK

      No reason to say contributions from at least Baez, Bryant and Alcantara are unreasonable. Nobody is saying they would reach their ceilings this year – just that they could reasonably be expected to be ready for a stint, and that if so, their performance could reasonably be expected to be at least as good as guys like Barney, and our OF, and even Castro if he doesn’t fix himself. If Rizzo doesn’t progress, Olt could play some 1B with Bryant at 3B. They wont play like Champions this year, but they could better than what we have to open the season. So, if projections are based on what we start with, and assume the 2nd 1/2 will be WORSE, those projections very well could be flawed.

      • TK

        Also, I’d expect to see guys like Ha and Szczur getting shots this year. It is possible that they could be about the same as our current OF. If you don’t think so, I’d say you’re probably over-valuing our current OF.

      • Brocktoon

        I don’t expect to see Kris Bryant until 2015 after we’ve pushed back his FA clock a year. Regarding Alcantara, if Baez takes 2B, there’s nowhere for him to go. If he’s still around, I’d expect the offseason will be the time to shift him to CF

        • TK

          I disagree. I think the FO sees next year as a competitive year. I think youre assuming it will be another punt year. I think FO wants to start putting seats in the seats, and start making money. They way to do that is call up better players, and start winning a few games. I think they want 2015 to be the adjustment/molding season, and to make a serious run at the playoffs in 2016. If so, it would be foolish to not start bringing these guys up to get acclimated to MLB.

          • Brocktoon

            If the serious run at the playoffs doesn’t start until 2016, I’d think they’d be fine molding Bryant et al for 5 months rather than 6.

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        I think with the exception of September call up it is not reasonable to expect Bryant this season. He would have to have a monster year to even make that discussion relevent. Sorry dude, no cookies for you.

        • TK

          Have you ANY reason at all to think he will meet ANY resistance in MiLB? He’s a man amongst boys. MiLB is not even a challenge for him. By mid-season, every outlet will be discussing how ready he is. And they’ll be correct.

  • Jrock1

    If they win 81 games, I’m worried the FO won’t sign anyone in the off season because the lose of their first round draft pick. They seem to care more about drafting/trading for prospects then signing MLB ready players. After this year, the organization should take a turn for the better and I thinking going .500 might mess that up. Let’s hope the boys who come up play well.

Bleacher Nation Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Bleacher Nation is a private media site, and it is not affiliated in any way with Major League Baseball or the Chicago Cubs. Neither MLB nor the Chicago Cubs have endorsed, supported, directed, or participated in the creation of the content at this site, or in the creation of the site itself. It's just a media site that happens to cover the Chicago Cubs.

Bleacher Nation is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Google+