There has always been a lot of talk about how 2014 can be the begining of the compettitive window for the Chicago Cubs. By the begining of the 2014 season, the Front office will have had 3 offseaseasons and two regular seasons under their belt. I don't believe that anyone expects them to be magically competetive - especially considering the imminenent sell off- but that has always seemed to be the start of the start according to most, if that makes sense.
Now, if your reading the MB that probably means that your a little more grounded than this, and probably realize that the 2014 cubs are not going to be that great unless the trades they have this deadline are for near ready/young mlb players ala Delgado last year.
There are some big names available like Cano, but I'd imagine that if the Yankees don't re-up (I think its likely) the Cubs would only be in on a price/contract length that any team would take. Two free agents that have been talked about a good amount that I would like to see the cubs go after are Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin So Choo.
Jacoby Elsbury had a monster year in 2011, then missed much of 2012. His early season 2013 numbers aren't heroic, but they are quite good:
.294 AVG, .360 OBP, .406 SLG, .765 OPS, 32 steals, 7 triples through 72 games.
Next year will be his year 30 season, an age that is a little beyond what this FO seems to target (or at least want to). However, if Ellsbury can come on a 4 year contract, I'd like to see the Cubs go after him. Of course the notable connections include the FO's familiarity with Ellsbury and their fondness of his general style of play.
Shin So Choo has been having a fantastic year in which his stats read:
.271 AVG, .421 OBP, .461 SLG, .882 OPS, 11 HR and 8 SB through 75 games.
Next Year will be Choo's (So Choo's?) age 31 season, definitley beyond this FOs target years; however, he is a solid OBP outfielder, and all around good ball player.
There is a chance (albeit not a large one) that several of Soriano, Dejesus, Shierholtz and Hairston will all be gone, so there is an obvious need for some outfielders. Also, its not as though Bogusevic, Borbon, or Bjax are knocking down the door for a starting job. I wouldn't mind using Sweeny or whoever else is not traded this year to round out the outfield, but I digress.
Choo and Ellsbury are Epstein-esq players, are available this offseason, would make the team better in 2014, and would probably (hopefully) not fetch Mega-contracts. I don't believe that either of them on 4 year deals would block any of Soler or Almora, and may only slightly get in the way if someone like Ha, Sczuzer, or maybe even Lake develop into starters (very optomistic IMO) over the next 1-2 years. Also, on 4 year deals spanning years where Soriano's contract and Marmol's contract come off the book, Choo and Ellsbury will not drag down the payroll.
It seems that in consecutive offseasons this FO has gone after increasingly expensive and talented players. Dejesus, Maholm, etc.. (offseason 1) Shierholtz (ehh.. maybe that just worked out), Edwin Jackson, Annibal Sanchez, etc... (offseason 2) Therefore, its reasonable to assume that with more money coming off the books, a positional need, a relatively good fit and just the tiniest bit more pressure that a 3rd season brings may lead the cubs to pursue these two, and I am on board.