Last year was a disaster, except for Lake, Wood and a first half where the rotation basically carried things the progress of the Epstein-Hoyer regime showed up little in the Show. Regardless moving forward on structural revenue issues like Wrigley and other matters, most of the development was way down yonder in the system.
So they fired most of the staff. Regardless of the wishful thinking apologists, Sveum & Co was ineffective. So now they reorganize. They are bringing in a known quantity from SD in Renteria, a rookie manager who is known as a communicator and mentor for Latin-bred players which will probably predominate the Show in Chicago for the foreseeable future. The deal in being a manager goes from being a whisperer to the one getting the whispers and making the big decisions is night and day. Managing is far more than filling out a lineup card or pulling a pitcher, it is about setting up so many moves for the future, both in a professional's psyche so they are confident and ready next time and against the competition. often so far in the future others can't see it. It is also about making sure your staff does what needs to be done and getting it done, it is measured by how many games are won above expectations.
They also brought in not one, not two, but three hitting instructors, two former Cubs; Mueller & Brumley (a career utility player who broke through with the Cubs). Mueller I see being the approach guy, working with established vets, while Brumley is the mechanics guy...we shall see, but hitting was a big problem last year and the year before and the year before that. So then they added something new, a quality assurance coach....Wat? Castro is 55, has spent 25 years as a minor league hitting coordinator or a hitting coach for the following programs; Royals, Mariners, Marlins, Padres and Expos. Once he was at the MLB level as an interim hitting coach for the Mariners way back in 2008. So there are now three persons, not one looking or having expertise at hitting. (Seems there is a SD and Mariners connection in the clan.) Bet Castro is the stat or saber guy looking at measurements of how things are progressing if any, reporting back to Mueller and Renteria, but QA people also often are dotted line reporting back to Exec's---interesting. Bet there is an internal report every week.
Cubs kept the pitching program intact, and I bet they focus heavily on developing the leagues best bullpen now and work at filling in the rotation for the near term. Finally there is 1B coaching still open, bet, they are looking for a specific skill set, probably one they lost. An old timer at the MLB level, who is from a winning program, knows OF defense and aggressive base running but can stay calm when losing, probably also comes from the Latino world.
These are actions. They demonstrate that the Cubs identified problems that they had to apply resources and even new or novel approaches to. It will be crowded in the dugout and locker room. Now Renteria got his guy in Jones, while the organization put Hyde in there, which is key. Hyde's purpose is to inform and facilitate the future call ups...that is obvious. That facilitation will probably be informing Renteria of a players strengths and weaknesses, for situations but also inform the execs on progress and when is a good time to pull the trigger to trade off an asset and bring one up.
Now is roster development time. I said it before and I will say it again, Samardzija is gone, he is not a number one starter in development nor is he a number two. At best he is a number three level starter who is 29 and still learning. If the Cubs can get value that is what they got from TX w/out the Olt being a super risk, by all means do it! Castro too is on a block, regardless of those who over and under value him because of last year, that is fantasy thinking. Castro is a very good player who would finish off a roster on a team like Pitt or Bos or even NYY, and the return could be extraordinary.
Yes to many a superficial and fickle fans this might seem like more selling off but these are not parts that will bring a WS or perennial contender to Wrigley. What you see is the Cubs are actually putting together a robust player development staff at the MLB level, something new. So when they bring up the players they still have the capability to work on and fine tune player development. What is needed is more than merely a starting lineup with spot utility players but a roster that has potentially 14 position players who could start in multiple positions, so when/if a Baez or Bryant or Rizzo is sat for a few days to work on some things, the Cubs have players to substitute effectively. So OF'ers need to be able to play all fields. IF'ers need to have more than one, hopefully three or all four spots.
To do that the Cubs need a stable rotation of healthy deep into the game starters and a bullpen that is lights out. Six pitchers who are not simply innings eaters but a staff that shuts down the game in the 7th inning. That will give the manager breathing room and the development staff time to integrate what appears to be a rapidly developing positional players.