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The Cubs will be going for it in 2014, here's why:
Posted 31 December 2012 - 04:40 PM
Currently on our roster, we have 12 players that shouldn't be going anywhere: Michael Bowden, Alberto Cabrera, Lendy Castillo, James Russell, Arodys Vizcaino, Welington Castillo, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Luis Valbuena, Christian Villanueva, Dave Sappelt and Jorge Soler. Whether it be for bench depth, potential swing roles, projects, specialists or starting roles, these guys are all cheap and productive (or have potential to be). It's all about assessment. Right now, we have 3 players that can play 3B (probably Lake, too) and all of them have their hangups. We can expect more International Signings that do not count against our spending pool to fill holes, but will they be core pieces? There are reasons why I did not include some players, even fan favorites, because you can...
Expect one huge trade and a bunch of small ones. As of 01/01/13, there's a logjam for spots in our starting rotation and more in AAA preparing to be starters as well. We just signed Edwin Jackson to a 4 year deal, but even he can be traded after June. I expect a higher turnover in our rotation than last year. Baker, Feldman, Garza, and Villanueva are all auditioning for other teams to start the year. Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood could even be on the block because they are more valuable (they have more than 1 controllable year) and we can get more in return. Additionally, there will be positional players that will be auditioning for other teams. If a player is performing well, consider them off to greener pastures. We've been shopping Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano this off season, so you can deduce that they will be moved before final roster adjustments.
With that one big trade coming, it's good that we were horrible in 2012 because we have draft position to reload in 2013. Out of all of the pitchers that we drafted this year, I don't think we'll be moving any of them any time soon. We'll be moving more familiar names like Maples, McNutt, Whitenack, i.e., old regime picks that will be included in packages. The moves this front office is making now are just preparation for moves later. 2014 will be the year to spend the "real" money and show people that they have evaluated the system and are ready to have sustainable success.
There are some friendly faces in the 2014 free agent market and that bodes well for the Cubs because they fit like a jigsaw falling into place with the needs of the team. Jacoby Ellsbury, a small, 30 year old lead-off hitter coming off of an injury, may not expect to land a big contract in the free agent market if he does not perform well in 2013. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a switch-hitting catcher who will be 29, hits better from the left side and would be a perfect match to split time with Welington Castillo. Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano are also very interesting free agents to consider if we actually believe that we are going to compete, but they will most likely demand a contract out of our range. Phil Hughes, Suk-min Yoon or Corey Hart could also be an out-of-nowhere signing.
The spark that drove the Orioles in 2012 will be mirrored when Javier Baez gets called up in 2014. The Orioles went 31-16 after Manny Machado was called up. The Cubs can hope to reproduce that kind of success. Javier Baez's presence may force a trade. Jorge Soler will be close to starting in RF when the season starts, but he may also be a mid-season call up. The anticipation of greatness drives fans to be more involved in the game and it is contagious, especially at the park. It was also the pitchers who contributed to that success (that no one outside of baseball had heard of).
No one has a crystal ball or a direct line to an agent's cell phone who can't keep secrets, but if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture from afar, you realize that we're probably 1/3 of the way there from competing in the NL Central. We're at least two years away from competing for a World Series (depending on the free agents we sign next off season), but what the A's and Orioles have shown us is that anything is possible and not everything predictable. It would be so nice to have playoff baseball on the north-side of Chicago in 2014, though.
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