Last night’s loss assured the Cubs their fifth straight losing season. That is not good, but brighter days lie ahead – I’m still pretty certain of that. Interestingly, the last time the Cubs had at least five consecutive losing seasons? It was from 1978 to 1983, and, hey, 1984 turned out pretty well. Here’s hoping this iteration is just five seasons long, not six.
As for the 2014 season, the Chicago Cubs stand at 64-82, after an ugly six-game losing streak. That places them with the 6th worst record in baseball with 18 games left to play. While the precise location the Cubs pick in the 2015 draft has come to feel less critical as the team gets closer to competitiveness, it does remain important that, if you’re going to finish far out of contention anyway, you’d like to be among the teams with the 10 worst records.* That ensures that your team’s first round pick in 2015 is “protected” – i.e., you lose a second round pick, rather than a first, if you sign a free agent who has received, and rejected, a qualifying offer. While it’s debatable whether the Cubs will actually be in on any qualified free agents, having as many realistic options as possible is always a good thing. You just never know.
So, presently, the “reverse” MLB standings look like this:
- Texas Rangers – 54-91
- Colorado Rockies – 59-87
- Arizona Diamondbacks – 59-86
- Minnesota Twins – 62-82
- Boston Red Sox – 63-83
- Chicago Cubs – 64-82
- Houston Astros – 65-81
- Chicago White Sox – 65-80
- Philadelphia Phillies – 67-78
- San Diego Padres – 67-78
- Cincinnati Reds – 69-77
- Tampa Bay Rays – 70-76
- New York Mets – 71-75
- Miami Marlins – 71-73
As you can see, the Cubs are currently 5 games clear of the “danger zone” that is the 11th record from the bottom, currently belonging to the Reds. As importantly, there are four teams between the Cubs and that danger zone. With just 18 games left to play, it would be very difficult for the Cubs to climb out of the bottom 10 spots (and, if they did, it would take a hell of a winning streak, the value of which might exceed the value of having a protected pick – we don’t want to be myopic about this stuff; tons of winning has its offseason benefits, too).
With Dustin Pedroia now out for the year, the Red Sox and Cubs each have injury problems that will hurt them the rest of the way. It’s plausible the Cubs could “climb” past the Red Sox and Twins if their losing ways continue, but that number 4 spot is as high as the Cubs could realistically go. In the other direction, the Cubs are 3.5 games clear of the Phillies and Padres for the 9th and 10th spots, which feels relatively safe. In other words, the most likely range into which the Cubs’ 2015 pick is looking to fall is between 4 and 10.
The Cubs play the Reds three times, but otherwise only playoff contenders the rest of the way, so that’ll help or hurt, depending on your perspective. Looking at some of the teams around the Cubs:
- The Twins have six games left against the Diamondbacks and White Sox.
- The Red Sox play three games against the Rays, who are probably better than their record, and three games against the Yankees, who are probably worse. The rest come against clear contenders.
- The Astros have three games against the Mets, but otherwise play contenders.
- The White Sox have three against the Twins, and three against the kinda good Rays.
- The Phillies have six against the Marlins and four against the Padres.
- The Padres have those four against the Phillies, three against the Diamondbacks, and three against the Rockies.
Those last two are pretty key, because, with the Phillies and Padres playing each other four times, someone’s gotta win those games. Throw in the other games in the Phillies and Padres’ schedules, and there are a lot of winnable contests in there. It remains possible for the Cubs to “fall” past that 10th spot, but it will require a really significant stretch of winning (which, again, is not necessarily a bad thing).
*Although the Astros will receive the number two pick in 2015, MLB has confirmed that the teams will the bottom ten records in 2014 will all have protected picks. In other words, the 11th pick in 2015 will be protected.