Must-Read of the Day Reveals Loads of New Information Behind-the-Scenes of the Chicago Cubs’ Latest Rebuild

Want to get the most insight we’ve gotten yet into the current Chicago Cubs rebuilding process (and why the Cubs won’t call it a “rebuild”)? We know things have obviously become very, very different in Chicago over the past few years, but not all of that is viewable on the surface of the roster. What else is going on?

Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney today dropped a deep, deep look at just that over at The Athletic. It’s well-reported, thoughtfully-considered, and loaded with significant bits of news and context:

Among the notable reveals:

  • The Cubs are expected to have their front office headcount back to pre-pandemic levels as of this offseason, per The Athletic. Although the dismissals back in 2020 were framed as partly normal process and partly budgetary, I would expect that this isn’t a matter of just re-hiring the same people or even filling the same positions. There has undoubtedly been significant turnover, as this all coincides with Jed Hoyer taking over as President of Baseball Operations. That, too, is part of the rebuilding process.
  • The Cubs are increasing the size of their new offseason-long prospect program to a whopping 60 players, who will not only receive the training associated with the program, but also housing, transportation, and meals. The cost is over $1 million, which is small compared to a big league team’s payroll, but is pretty darn large in terms of additional development costs for the average organization (it’s something they always should’ve been doing!).
  • The Cubs are also working on a facilities plan to upgrade in the Dominican Republic and in Arizona. Neither is a particularly old or out-of-date facility, but you have to keep moving forward. I’m glad to hear it.
  • The extent to which the Cubs have leapt forward in PROPER technology usage the last few years – and how they work with players on it – seems extremely significant, especially in the lower levels of the farm system. There is some really eye-opening stuff, and it’s a lot harder now to think that the Cubs are getting their lunch eaten by the other big boy organizations (which was the concern about what happened after the World Series win). Prospects now get very similar data and breakdowns and processes that are happening at the big league level.
  • The pitcher development infrastructure, which started being rebuilt as far back as 2018 (when the Cubs internally viewed themselves as bottom three(!) in the league), is paying dividends – especially now that the minor league process and big league staff are in complete alignment:
  • For years, the major-league team and the minor-league affiliates essentially ran separate pitching systems, one club official said, but that gap has now almost disappeared as the two sides merged under the direction of Breslow, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, bullpen coach Chris Young, assistant pitching coach Daniel Moskos and major-league pitching strategist Danny Hultzen.

    After some injury setbacks in 2021 raised questions, 2022 is being viewed as a legitimate step forward. As a whole, the pitchers in the farm system finished top 10 in baseball in both ERA and strikeout rate. They were fifth in whiff rate, top three in both average fastball velocity and “stuff” grade, and nine pitching prospects made their big-league debut this season.

  • It reads to me like the Cubs had, in the middle years of the last administration, gotten too data-heavy, without having enough of the human element involved to make that data worthwhile. That seems to have improved considerably, and the data/technology, itself, is seen as state of the art around MLB.
  • One more quoted section, as this is how The Athletic piece talks about the part of the current phase, transitioning into competitiveness:
  • But this should still be the fun part for the Cubs, the potential to be involved in any deal they want this offseason. Given the resources at their disposal, it really shouldn’t be that hard to put together a roster capable of winning 85 games and playing meaningful baseball next September. That may require trading some of those precious prospects and being a little more irrational in free agency.

    “Theo was definitely more of a gunslinger,” said one source who has good relationships with Epstein and Hoyer. “Jed is more, ‘OK, take a step back, what’s the data say?’”

  • That feels right, and it also underscores why everyone who observes this situation dispassionately thinks the Cubs are really going to spend this offseason. They have all the reason to want to be at least competitive in 2023, and with the resources they have available, getting to a mid-80s win projection should be VERY realistic this offseason.
  • There is so, so much more in the piece, so head over to The Athletic and give it a read.
  • written by

    Brett Taylor is the Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and on LinkedIn here. Brett is also the founder of Bleacher Nation, which opened up shop in 2008 as an independent blog about the Chicago Cubs. Later growing to incorporate coverage of other Chicago sports, Bleacher Nation is now one of the largest regional sports blogs on the web.

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