Could Cubs actually compete in 2013?

Could Cubs actually compete in 2013?

Presuming the Cubs open the season with something close to their current roster, which includes Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol, Matt Garza, and other players who were at one time or another rumored to be on the market, can they actually field a competitive team in 2013?

Bradley Woodrum of Fangraphs calculates that with the signing of Scott Hairston, the Cubs stand to win between 77-79 games and believes they could be in the playoff hunt.

Dmick89 of Obstructed View is even more optimistic.  He projects the Cubs regulars to be about 37 wins above replacement in total.  When added to the 48-49 wins that would be expected of a team made up strictly with replacement players, those extra wins add up to 85-86 wins.

Now let me say that if you've read these guys before, you know they're analytical writers who try to be as objective as possible.  They're Cubs fans, but they also go by the numbers.  To see both of them project the Cubs as competitive enough to be in the playoff hunt is encouraging.

I'm not going to re-invent the wheel here as my methodology for projecting wins would be similar to theirs.  That is, I would use a replacement level win percentage as a baseline and then add wins above replacement based on 2013 statistical projections.   Suffice to say that I agree with the somewhat optimistic win range of between 77-86 wins.  Though I lean toward the lower end of that scale, there are reasons to think the Cubs could surprise in 2013.

For me, the Cubs biggest improvements figure to come in 4 areas.

  1. Starting rotation
  2. Bullpen depth
  3. Defense
  4. Maximizing offensive production through platoon splits.

The Starting Rotation

Despite trading Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm, this area once again figures to be a strength of the Cubs and there is room for improvement here.   Matt Garza suffered an unlucky year in terms of flyballs leaving the yard and figures to be closer to the 2011 version in 2013.  Jeff Samardzija continued to improve as the season wore on.  The stuff was there all year long, but what impressed me most about Samardzija as the season wore on was his pitchability.  He's tough when he's on, but he learned to adapt when he didn't have everything going.  In short, he is evolving from a harrd thrower to a pitcher who happens to throw very hard.  I look for Edwin Jackson to replace Ryan Dempster's normal level of production, which is that of a solid #3 innings eating starter and I think Scott Baker can be this year's Paul Maholm -- and perhaps better if he's healthy.  The Cubs then have 3 SP candidates to compete for that 5th spot with Travis Wood, Scott Feldman, and Carlos Villanueva.  I think Wood will win that spot but it does give the Cubs the best depth they've had in years if Wood struggles and/or if Scott Baker isn't ready to start the season.

The Bullpen

The biggest addition from the outside is Kyuji Fujikawa, who will set-up for the nearly traded Carlos Marmol.  If Marmol can build on the adjustments he made last year, in which he used his fastball to set-up his slider, the Cubs could have a strong back end of the bullpen.  It also puts two very effective pitchers, Shawn Camp and James Russell, in more appropriate 7th inning roles.    The hope is that the Cubs can shorten games a bit with a steady, consistent bullpen.  What's more is that the Cubs won't be as reliant on Camp and Russell as they were last year.  This year there is depth, starting with the two SPs who will be moved to the bullpen.  Both Scott Feldman and Carlos Villanueva have shown to be very good out of the bullpen and will be able to take some of the innings load off the late inning guys.  The Cubs have unusual depth in this area as well.  Michael Bowden likely holds down one spot after pitching well late in the season.  He's also out of options so it's make or break for him.  No longer will the Cubs have to rely on unproven pitchers like Rafael Dolis and Lendy Castillo for big innings.  They can work in guys like Hector Rondon, Chris Rusin, Brooks Raley, Dolis, Castillo, Trey McNutt, etc. slowly and as they are ready -- not force them into spots out of desperation.  If the Cubs do need emergency help, they could also opt for veterans like Corey Wade and LHP Hisanori Takahashi.  There are options here and that alone makes this bullpen miles ahead of where it was last year.

The Defense

Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro worked themselves hard to become average defenders last year.  Castro, in particular, played well above average for a great chunk of the year and at 22, still has room to get better.  The right side of the IF is among the best in the game defensively with 2 superior gloves in Darwin Barney and Anthony Rizzo while 3B defense will be in good hands whether the the Cub decide to go with Ian Stewart or Luis Valbuena.  The strength of this defense will be the infield and the Cubs will try to tailor that to a pitching staff that will keep the ball low in the strike zone.

The outfield defense should be adequate.  The best fielder may be RF Nate Schierholtz, who has a strong arm and good athleticism.  As mentioned earlier, Alfonso Soriano has made himself adequate and David DeJesus is a steady, reliable defender, though he's a bit stretched out in CF.  Reserve Dave Sappelt is a good corner OF'er who has the athleticism, but not the instincts to play CF at this time.  Perhaps that's something we'll see him work on this spring.  If he could play an adequate CF, that would be a big boost as he could give DeJesus some time off against some LHP.  The latest addition Scott Hairston rates as a slightly above average outfielder in his career per UZR (2.9), though he's best suited for the corners at this stage in his career.  He can play CF in a pinch, however.  If there is a weakness in this defense it's that it lacks a true CF, so the Cubs will have to mix and match a little until Brett Jackson is ready to take over.

Catching is a big question mark but the Cubs are very pleased with how far Welington Castillo has come defensively.  The tools were always there.  He's athletic and mobile behind the plate and possesses a canon for an arm, but it's been the mental side of the game where Castillo has made the biggest strides.  Where once he was thought of as a raw physical standout behind the dish, the Cubs now believe he'll also develop into a leader who can manage a pitching staff.

Maximizing offensive production with platoons

Outfield

The signing of Scott Hairston makes for a potential productive R/L platoon with Nate Schierholtz.

In what is an admittedly quick and crude projection/calculation, I used each players last year's splits and then extrapolated them over (600 ABs) where I give 2/3 of the ABs to Schierholtz (vs. RHP) and 1/3 to Hairston in RF (vs. LHP), I come up with the following combination...

Slash line: .287/.346/.499 with 23 HRs.  I can live with that in RF.

Furthermore, I think the Cubs can maximize DeJesus value by giving him more days off vs. LHP, against whom he hit .137 last year with no extra base hits.  Perhaps Sappelt is the answer if he can learn to play CF better.  If not, the Cubs can play Hairston there and move Sappelt to RF against some lefties to give Schierholtz and DeJesus a break vs. those tough LHPs.  DeJesus hit  hit .289/.364/.437 vs. RHP last year and he rated as an above average offensive player (116 RC+) when facing RHP.  If Sappelt can hit LHP the way he has in AAA and his short time in the majors (.345 career average), perhaps the Cubs can field a combined player who hits above the league average in CF.

If they can play this right (and everything works out, which as we know, it rarely does), it's possible that the Cubs can get above offensive production from all 3 OF positions despite having only one player, Alfonso Soriano, who is currently considered a full-time MLB starter.  They can do that by maximizing the individual strengths of the other 4 players by putting them in positions where they can succeed consistently.

Third Base

The one position that's still a question mark to me is 3B.  Ian Stewart has struggled vs. LHP.  Luis Valbuena is an option and he has hit LHP a little better, but his ceiling is a little low to make a true impact offensively at that position.  It'd be ideal if the Cubs could mix and match at 3B like they can in the OF but they don't currently have the personnel to do that.  The Cubs have minor league invitees Edwin Maysonet, Alberto Gonzalez, and Brent Lillibridge to compete for that 2nd utility IF  spot.  All can play 3B and all hit RH, but none figure to give the Cubs league average offensive production -- even in a limited role.

The wildcards here are Josh Vitters and Junior Lake.  The Cubs would like both to get more minor league seasoning, particularly Lake, who has yet to play above AA, but perhaps a big spring may change their minds.  The fact that both are already on the 40 man roster makes it easier as well as they wouldn't have to worry about removing players from the 40 man, as they would with non-roster spring training invites such as Lillibridge.  Vitters in particular hit lefties well at AAA last season and could be an option to platoon with Stewart.  It could be a way to break in Vitters slowly as he tends to take time to adjust to each level.  Lake, however, is the more versatile, athletic player and may be easier to carry on a 25 man roster.  The issue with Lake is experience but perhaps his great play this winter against more advanced pitching (.312/.382/.474) may ease some of those concerns.

Conclusion and Poll

The Cubs have quietly built some value to their team with their additions to the pitching staff, improvements on defense, and finding players to mix and match to try and dig up starter level production from a combination of role players.  The more I examine this roster, the more I believe the Cubs are not treating this season as a throw-away year.  They intend to try and compete, even if it's not with big name players and sexy signings.

How about all of you?  How optimistic are you about the Cubs chances?

Filed under: Analysis, polls

Comments

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  • John, I voted 70-75 wins, but they could surprise me if they catch some lightning in that jar. Too many ifs, and I think we'll be a sellers again come July which will weaker the team further if we're lucky enough to make some significant deals.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I'm in the 75-80 win mode and like you, I think they have a chance to surprise. If this mad scientist formula works, the Cubs may create something out of what appeared to be very little.

    I also think their floor is higher this season. I do not believe they will lose 100 games this year again.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    What point would you be a seller or a buyer in July?.....

    Would you want Theo trade Garza if the Cubs are in second or first place at the end of July?.......even if another team offer you three top prospects, and Garza was in Cy Young consideration?

    I would have to wait an see where this club stood after the west coast swing after the All Star Break....Theo will work the phones one way or another when the Cubs host the Brewers at the end of July.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    The point of rebuilding is to rebuild to championship level, not to be a .500 team. If we're struggling to get to or maintain mediocrity, and we see teams with assets and needs that could match up with our depth, I'd deal. We shouldn't kid ourselves and thing we've got any chance of competing in October, and the front office isn't getting paid to think that way either.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    If the Cubs were offered three top prospects (Soler/Baez/Vizcaino level prospects) for Garza, I would move him immediately, regardless of where the Cubs were in the standings, and regardless of how well Garza was pitching. UNLESS Garza had been signed to a long term, advantageous contract. And even then I would probably make that trade.

    If the Cubs are NOT contending, and if Garza has NOT signed an extension, then I would not trade him unless I could receive value greater than the second round draft choice I could receive by making a qualifying offer.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Pretty much what I was thinking SFT. Unless something happens where they are in a pennant race hot & heavy come June/July - I see a few more trades to clear space for the youngsters in AAA who might be ready. I really am crossing my fingers that Jackson and Vitters at least get a call-up come about that time BECAUSE they are both lighting up AAA pitching.

    There are just too many flippable contracts on short-term assets in place to make me think that this is NOT the current plan.

    Although you could have said the same thing about my now home-town Orioles last season and they surprized as well.

  • I voted 75-80, but I could see it being higher. The main reason is because of Sveum's confidence in shifting, the improved defense, and the improved pitching.

    I firmly believe the game is shifting back to pitching and defense as the big pre-requisites. Offense is nice, and you have to score runs, but they seem to have much better balance in the lineup this year and should be able to figure out ways to manufacture enough if the pitching and defense keep them in the game.

    Big seasons from Nate S, Soriano, Stewart, and Castillo could absolutely change everything. With guys like Scotty Hairston coming off the bench late in games, and giving us a platoon advantage, there are more brights spots than not.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Those are good points on the the shifts. The Cubs are becoming a team that is looking for any advantage in any way possible. Taken individually, it's not much but they do add up if they can do it consistently well.

  • As I predicted some time ago based on this pitching staff additions, looking at 89 wins for the Cubs.....glad to see John is thinking that 2015 playoff run maybe here faster than most of you thought....

    I see Cardinals having a bad year, especially now that their manager was hit hard with the court ruling this past month.....baseball will not be on his mind.....Cardinals lineup looks weak......pitching is in question also....

    And I feel Dusty will use his spurs & whip too many times on his pitchers this year......like the way he did in Chicago.....

    Lucky Lady is with us in 2013.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    You are really optimistic on this team so very cool. I tend to be a bit conservative with my outlook while I reserve a little optimism deep inside.

    We know things can always go wrong, but once in a while you have those years where things fall into place. There's nothing to say this can't be that ind of year. I hope you're right.

  • That is a tough poll. Everything depends on how the FO feels about the chances of making the playoffs by the trade deadline. The decision to buy or sell at the deadline will have drastic effects on the win total. I went optimistic 85-90.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    That will be an interesting decision if it comes to that. Do the Cubs buy or sell? What if they get an outstanding offer for Garza or even Marmol or Soriano that will help them toward the larger goal in 2015? At what point do you decide between short and long term. It's going to be a pretty tough choice and it'll be fascinating to watch if it happens.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    FWIW, I suspect the FO all things equal would prefer to continue building their stable of quality prospects. That said, I don't think they will feel at liberty to gut a viable run at the Playoffs, if they are seriously "in the hunt". 1st place in the division or being a few games out of first may be close enough for them to ride the wave. I don't think being a potential Wild Card entrant will present the same considerations that a legitimate run at the Division would though.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    I think that's the most likely scenario. The only exception is if the Cubs really do have a shot at the title the way the A's did last year. Can't give up on those opportunities to win. At the same time, I don't think they'll sell future assets to win this year. I'd expect them to make minor additions if they they think they have a legit shot.

    But if it looks like they'll be just short or a fringe wild card team, they won't sacrifice the future. They'll continue converting short term assets into long ones. This year they've built enough depth to withstand that.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I also voted 75-80 wins, but that being said it's still a no- brainer to deal Garza, Marmol, Soriano, Baker, Feldman etc if the right deal comes together..Long Term Assets Theo's favorite term, year i year out competitiveness...You can't abort the plan for an early tease

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Agreed but want to say that we can't use the term "long term assets" too generically to mean prospects. Why can't Garza be a long term asset, for example? He could have 5 good years left in him, enough to be around while the Cubs expect to be contenders.

    I think it will depend somewhat. If the Cubs finish this year thinking they're a year or two away, maybe they keep a Garza -- but I totally agree when it comes to Marmol and Soriano. Those guys are likely gone no matter what if they get a good offer, perhaps even if the Cubs are deep in contention.

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    I drank the blue koolaid and voted 85-90, but there is some rational thought behind this. There is a potential offensive upgrade from last season at 3B (healthy stu), C (Beef > Soso), RF & CF (platoon-heavy, agree w/John, but improvement), and SS (Castro will be back at .300 w/20+ hrs). The only downgrade that is obvious is LF. The starters are quality and deep, bullpen looks better. With this pitching and an average offense, they can compete, methinks.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sell, have to look toward the long term future

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I'm not saying don't sell. I'm saying nothing is black and white. It has to give them surplus long term value and probably something for the present as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Theo is not going to change from his 2015 objective. To take a shot at the playoffs would be short sighted IMO with this team,too much would have to go right to advance deep into the playoffs, let alone to the world series. My motto is take the money (prospects) and run.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    They'll do it if it doesn't compromise the future plan. If they can win the way the A's did (which didn't involve giving up any long term pieces), I think they'll let that play out and see what happens.

  • Another thing that occurred to me is that it might be best for Jackson to start out in Center field. He is going to end up producing over a full season. It might be a Carlos Pena type campaign at worst, but I think most would be happy with that as he should offer much better defense than DeJesus.

    If Jackson is not considered one of the top prospects of the future, why not just let him prove himself this year at the big level? It seems to me it won't be long until he ends up getting called up anyway. It's doubtful he is going to struggle at Triple A in my opinion. He has all the tools and the makeup.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    They seem set on sending him to AAA though we know Jackson isn't going down without a fight. I think some of the moves they've made have bought Jackson some time in AAA, to be honest, but I agree he won't be there long. I think they would like to see him get into a rhythm at Iowa -- and also fall into a slump, as Rizzo did last year, to see if he can figure out how to pull himself out of it. Once he does that I think they'll deem him ready for the majors.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He needs enough ABs in Iowa to make his retooled swing a muscle memory thing and it will be easier there that in Chicago with all the added pressure and scrutiny.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I agree with that assessment.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Also, that was the plan from the start,or why sign Schierholtz when we could have just kept DeJesus in RF ?

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    Who plays CF? I think the Cubs first priority was to find a CF but they were incredibly expensive this offseason. They shifted gears and decided to move DeJesus to CF, where his bat plays better and hopefully make up for it with a good defensive RF in Schierholtz who, along with Hairston, may be able to carry the position offensively as well. It's not an ideal solution but it's a creative one under the circumstances.

  • Nice analysis John, thanks! I am in the 75 - 80 camp although this vote does not factor in a potential mid-season trades for prospects.

    I agree w/ you that 3B is arguably the biggest question mark, but I am hopeful that Stewart's wrist surgery will set the table for his resurgence to some degree, although if that occurs, I suspect it will trend up over time as he re-builds strength and confidence in his wrist.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    Agreed. A resurgence by Stewart would ease a lot of concerns for the Cubs.

  • How many relievers do you see the Cubs breaking camp with ? Is there even room for Rondon ?

  • In reply to Rbirby:

    I think they break camp with 7 relievers but it's going to depend on who is healthy. If Baker starts on the DL, that means Feldman or Villanueva open in the rotation and open up a spot in the bullpen. The same holds true in the less likely event that Garza isn't ready.

    Barring trades/moves, the locks to me are

    Marmol
    Fujikawa
    Camp
    Russell
    Villanueva/Feldman
    Bowden (unless he tanks because he's out of options)

    That leaves at least one spot for someone like Rondon to compete with non-roster guys like Wade and Hisanori as well as roster LHP Raley and Rusin. He has a legit shot even if everyone is healthy and a solid one if the Cubs start with a guy or two on the DL.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    This is off topic (I should change my handle to that), but I'd like to see MLB increase the major league roster to 26. For NL teams, this would enable rule V players a spot or to add DH-type player for interleague. This would also help AL teams keep that extra pitcher needed when playing in a NL park. The 40 man would remain the same. I can't see the union being against this.

  • fb_avatar

    Voted in that 70/75 win column. Being sellers at the deadline. They have the talent to put a 80 win season together if they stand pat but 80 wins won't get you into the playoffs. Selling will get them one year closer.

  • In reply to Richard Cleven:

    Agreed that I think most likely they are sellers. The only way they don't sell is if they pull off a year like the A's or Orioles but won't sacrifice long term for 80 win season.

  • In reply to Richard Cleven:

    I also voted 70-75 wins, 10 or more wins from last year it has to be satisfying ,especially with the kids who get the Sept. call up readying their chance for a spot on the 25 man roster for 2014.

  • After talking to John I was given permission to post this. If you are interested in seeing what this and futures drafts. Come to this link http://bigleaguefutures.net/1/2013/01/26/perfect-game-mlk-tournament/

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I'll also post this separate in my next news and notes column

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks a lot.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Thanks Kevin,
    I woke up in the middle of the night and saw that linked on a tweet of yours. Nice piece!.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thank you.

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    I just dont get the concept of trading Garza...He's young and a good pitcher. Are they saying when the building is done he wouldn't be good enough for a rotation spot? I like what he brings to the table and if healthy can win 15 games easy.

  • In reply to freeagent24:

    Some people I talk to think Garza gone is a forgone conclusion but I'm like you. I'm not 100% sold on that. No reason he can't be a piece over the next few years, especially if teams aren't willing to pony up. Also depends on Garza's willingness to stay and sign a deal that offers the Cubs some value and protection.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    " Also depends on Garza's willingness to stay and sign a deal that offers the Cubs some value and protection".
    No Trade demands will be a determining factor.
    At the present time Garza is still a # 3 and we have plenty of those.

  • In reply to Richard Cleven:

    Can't have too much pitching. I think they'd rather have Garza on a value deal then trade for the sake of trading. As I wrote at length last season, the odds that the Cubs get an MLB quality starter, much less anyone as high as a #3 starter are very much stacked against them. History shows that trades involving a top starter almost invariably favor the team getting the veteran. The prospects received in exchange have failed at an alarming rate. Unless the Cubs feel they have no chance or desire to retain Garza, a team is going to have to give the Cubs something that is likely to have near present day value for the Cubs to trade him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The better Garza pitches the more value he will have and harder it will be for the Cubs to retain him(trade or sign).

  • In reply to Richard Cleven:

    Looking at who is a free agent next year I don't think there is a chance that he will not test the FA market. Look at what some of the pitchers that are not anywhere near as talented as Garza got. We would have to really step up and give a big contract, I don't see that much of a home team discount.

  • In reply to bucknervsdurham:

    Good point.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Then in reply to the Question below, If you don't think you can resign him I would take Olt straight up for Garza. Of course if you can get more do it, but the way the question was posed my answer is 1 for 1 and you have your long term 3rd baseman and lose someone you were most likly to lose anyway. This also might free up Baez in a trade for Price.?.

  • In reply to Richard Cleven:

    That's not to say they won't trade him, by the way. but I do think there are factors in play. The biggest of which, as you say, is what they can get in return. That's part of the reason they've build some depth in that rotation. If a trade comes along that makes them better, they can do it without much hesitation. But they won't trade them because they have too many #3 type pitchers. They'll trade him if they can get surplus value in return. Makes little sense otherwise.

  • In reply to freeagent24:

    No one Ive heard advocates trading Garza just for the sake of trading him. I, for one, have said if Texas wants Garza I want Olt and Perez, or one of there other top prospect arms. Garza is a quality arm, but I don't consider him a #1 pitcher-defense is lackluster and hes still too much of a FB pitcher for Wrigley.

  • John,
    How do you see the division shaking out? I see the Cards differently that CubsTalk. I unfortunately see them as them as the most complete team in the division and maybe in the league. I see the Cards and Reds competing for 1st and the Cubs, Brewers, and Pirates competing for third. I went in the 70-75 range, because I think the Cubs won't be quite close enough to be buyers. Thus, some of those short term assets will turn into long term and will change the Cubs from a 77 win team to a 73 win team.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    I think the Cards are the team to beat this year as well. I don't like them, but I consider them the favorites. Reds should be tough. I think the Brewers will start sliding and the Pirates will need to improve internally to have a shot, since they didn't make a lot of additions. It's possible they'll be in the mix, but I do think a run at 80 wins is more likely. That means they'll probably sell and regroup with much greater optimism for 2014.

  • First time post here. I voted 70-75. I think it could be more but with possible selling off and injury problems I couldn't go any higher. I know they want to win every year but they will not change their plans for the future for a chance at the wild card. Just letting you know I am a addicted reader here and thought it was time to say it.

  • In reply to bucknervsdurham:

    Thanks for the comment and the kind words! I tend to lean conservative as well when it comes to 2013 victories and try to leave a little room for all the IFs that could go write -- all the while taking into account all the IF's that can also go wrong.

    Also agree 100% on not altering plan to eke into a wild card spot.

  • fb_avatar

    Big question here then. Let's assume the Cubs *are* trying to compete with lesser names. Spring training comes around, and the Rangers offer you -- take it or it's off the table for good -- Mike Olt for Matt Garza. Do you take the deal?

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    yes!!!

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Everyday top 3B prospect for a #2 pitcher who is coming off of arm injury...I would take that trade now......then after 2013, Theo can sign Garza to a long term contract if he showed he was healthy.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I'd want something in addition to Olt, perhaps an upper level pitcher. I think that's part of the reason they built SP depth, to give them that option. They can pick up a couple of long term assets and still have a competitive rotation. They're going to err on the side of long term if it comes down to a tough decision like that.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Garza is worth more than just Olt. Texas would have to add at least another top 10 system prospect in the deal.
    Texas can not hope their #4 and #5 starters have good seasons. Angles just improved themselves too much.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Mike, i'd want Olt and Perez at least....the very least..Garza's a proven commodity when healthy...Olt has yet to play a full season in the bigs

  • Without trades, I would have picked the 75-80 category. With the trades that will come, I think <70 wins is possible again. And it won't bother me. I can only hope for a top 3 pick the next draft, and a clear consensus 1st round pick that is a pitcher or Mike Stanton's little brother!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    There are too many bad teams out there to get a top 3 pick. The Mets, the Astros, the Marlins. None of those teams have even attempted to add the MLB depth or talent the Cubs have. I don't see them in that class. In fact, I think the Cubs brass would be disappointed if they wound up with a top 3 pick, except perhaps as a consolation prize.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Dad gummit for crying out loud, there you go again, using reason and logic to burst my bubble! You are probably right. Well at least the trades could boost the minors pitching talent pool.

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    :) There are a few teams out there that are blatantly trying to tank, imo. Those 3 and I think the Twins will be miserable in 2013. It's the Carlos Rodon sweepstakes, I guess. They better hope he stays healthy and he's worth it because slowing progress for one player, even a potentially good one is high, high risk.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Seeing clubs tank is the biggest fall out of the new CBA agreement. I'd like to see a lottery system similar to the NBA's.

  • That depends. If spring training is almost over and Garza is pitching effectively and pain free, I would want much more than Olt. If he is still topping out at 2 innings per game, or if he is still doing towel drills, then trade him.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Agreed. I think if the the velo and stamina is there come mid to late spring, the Cubs can and will ask for more.

  • i would never root for the cubs to lose, but if im being completely honest i'm hoping that the cubs are out of contention early this year. they have so many possible trade pieces this year: garza, baker, feldman, villnueva, wood, marmol, camp, soriano, dejesus, hairston, schierholtz, stewart, barney. clearly the cubs arent going to move all of these guys, but they could very well get some valueable future pieces in trades for some of these guys and the worse the record the better the draft pick, both of these things could really impact our future.

    im not gonna be upset if the cubs are in the race and adding pieces midseason, but i think competing this year could hamper our long term success and that i will not be happy about.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I think you can have balance. You can compete and continue to build much as a team like Washington has. I'm never a fan of losing to win. Too many unknowns when it comes to amateur and lower level minor league talent. Risk is much higher and I don't believe the reward is any higher.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i agree that having balance is a good thing, and i dont think the cubs are bad enough to tank and get a top 3 pick so tanking shouldnt be an option. i just want the cubs to be in a position to trade away most of the assets we have at the trade deadline instead of holding on to everyone and wasting the value of having all of these guys on one year deals.

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    If Brett Jackson can come up and provide a spark at some point this year, then that'd be huge. Not only would help them in a playoff push this year but it would also help speed up the rebuilding process. I know projecting a "future outfield" doesn't have much point to it--last year at this time, Reggie Golden and Matt Szczur were supposed part of it--but a Jackson, Soler, and Almora combo could be fun to watch if they all pan out.

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    There's always a good chance stuff like that can happen. Someone emerges unexpectedly and gives you a boost from a source you weren't counting on. Somethiing like that would be huge for the Cubs chances.

  • Plus / Minus of Wins for 2013 Teams
    (Based on trades, F/A signings, injuries)

    Yankees..........-12...............Too many AARP members
    Orioles.............-3.................Still a good under-rated team
    Rays.................+6................Longoria will be in MVP mode
    Blue Jays.........+18.............Hoping not to be like 2012 Marlins
    Red Sox..........+3............... Calm in the clubhouse.now

    Tigers..............+1..............
    White Sox........+2..............Strong Pen...no more excuses
    Royals..............+1..............Fooling themselves
    Indians.............+1..............Treading water
    Twins...............+1..............long rebuilding process

    A's...................-8................over -peaked in 2012
    Rangers.........-4................need G. Stanton to compete
    Angels............+6.............still need pitching
    Mariners.........-4.............time to trade King Felix
    Astros............- 10.............2nd worst team in MLB

    Nationals.........+3...........a Plus 100 win team
    Braves.............+3............wild card playoff team
    Phillies.............-8............Lee, Halladay, Rollins will want out
    Mets.................-8............can T-Bow pitch?
    Marlins.............-14..........Worst team in MLB

    Giants..............-2............will relax somewhat in 2013
    Dodgers...........+1..........will Ned be calling Theo in July?
    Diamondbacks.....-2.....Health Bell will continue to struggle
    Padres.................-2.......treading water
    Rockies..............-4.........time to rebuild

    Reds..................-12........Baker will burn out his pitchers
    Cardinals..........+1..........Garcia and Carpetner still hurting
    Brewers............-8...........no pitching at all in Brew Town
    Pirates..............-8...........Hurdle, first manager to be fired
    Cubs..................+26......Cinderella team of 2013

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    I want your ouija board!

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    If I did the low side of the Cubs,it would be +22 wins....but I am thinking that Stewart will have to prove everyone he can hit and will be a big plus for us by the way his attitude is now..... .....we are much stronger now than last year with guys like Berken,Lopez, Coleman coming in.....only way Rusin or a Raley comes to Wrigley, if there are injuries to Russell or Wood......we are deep with starters....maybe seven or eight deep......I do believe we have a balance attack, and every night, there will be two or three different guys with a hot bat......we will have an excellent "Bench Mob" that Dale can use on various pitchers.......we need to stay away from injuries to get to that 88 plus wins.....we will get people on base to have them score.....no doubt by end of May, this city will see something special in our Cubs....there will be seven clubs vying for a playoff spot this year.....the Cubs will be one of them..........we have guys who need to prove themselves this year that they are back......I do believe we have players who are not Superstars, but rather "team players" willing to go that extra distance to surprise everyone at the end....no more Zambrano, Ramirez or Dempster attitudes.....more of a winning attitude.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    In terms of wins gained I could defintely see the Cubs being first. Theo and Jed overhauled the team pretty significantly. I will probably go with Jays 1st then Cubs second in terms of improvement. I also think the Red Sox enough talent to jump +3. Lester and Ellsbury could just randomly break out.

  • John, I have a question for you about 3B, and these two guys plus Baez?
    Jonathan Mayo -
    2. Mike Olt, Rangers: Drafted 2010 ...... Olt moved quickly through the Rangers system, spending most of 2012 in Double-A and getting into 16 games with Texas. Olt shows a good approach at the plate to go along with plus power. Although he is excellent defensively, the 2012 Futures Gamer and Texas League All-Star is blocked at third base by Adrian Beltre and has shown that he can play first or an outfield corner, where his bat will profile just fine. Olt is athletic enough to play multiple positions for the Rangers.

    3. Anthony Rendon, Nationals: Rendon was in consideration for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 Draft when injury concerns caused him to fall to No. 6, where the Nationals were thrilled to nab him and sign him to a $7.2 million big league contract. Injuries struck again in his first full season as he missed much of the 2012 season. The Rice product made up for some lost time in the Arizona Fall League, where he played in the Rising Stars Game. Despite the injuries, Rendon still has one of the most advanced bats in the Minors and he should hit for average and power as he progresses. An outstanding defender, it remains to be seen how the Nationals will work his bat into the lineup with Ryan Zimmerman entrenched at third.

    Both of these guys are blocked! Baez is considered a likely future 3B for the Cubs. If the Cubs got one of these guys, hopefully Olt since he stays healthy, what could the Cubs do with Baez and Castro?

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    I think Castro would stay at SS for now. Baez can play just about anywhere in the field with his athleticism and arm strength. They'll find a place for him.

    I like Baez at SS. He may have better hands and instincts than Castro, but he's not as rangy. He won't get too as many balls. It's a tradeoff. If he retains the range he has now, then it's a tough decision. If Baez continues to grow physically and loses some lateral quickness, then the Cubs decision will be made for them. Baez will move to 3B or the OF or possibly 2B.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, I was hoping that is what you would say. But 3B is our big weakness, and 2B and the OF are strengths in MHO. You evaluate this very well in your articles about 2B and OF. With Jackson, Almora, Soler, Szczur, and Trey Martin for example, there are quite a few althletic OF'ers in the system. Enough? Heck I don't know. But I think all of them will be future MLB players. So would trading for a 3B be a good idea? Could that guy, say Olt be traded later to make room for Baez, or should someone like Garza be used to acquire top pitching talent? I tend to think you get the best deal you can, even if it is Olt and not top pitching talent, because Olt is multi-talented as is Baez, and fixes can be worked out. What do you think?

  • In reply to Quasimodo:

    Id like Rendon. Problem is, who do we have that Washington would need? They aren't going to give him away.

  • If this was a 84-86 win division, they might, if everything were to go right, hang long enough to go for it with midseason pickups. But The Cards and Reds are too good and everything going right seldom happens to the Cubs, so the Cubs will be selling at the deadline again, which would make 75 wins a great season.

  • I've predicted 75 wins for a couple months now so I'm gonna stick with it. I went optimistic and said 75-80 because I just can't see this team being 70-92 and 22 games below .500. What's funny is a couple months back I predicted 75 wins over on Obstructed View and Dmick89 didn't think they'd come near that without a lot of luck. Now he's up to 85! I respect the hell out of how mathematically minded they are over there, but my point was it was pretty damn early in the offseason and there are a lot of moves to comes. I think the next day we signed Scott Baker and away we went...

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I think he's actually still in the low 70s. His projection numbers are just higher.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Ah, that makes sense. That seemed like a big jump for him. If I remember right, I think the discussion was that I thought they wouldn't lose 90 games, whereas he was thinking 95 or even 100. If he's low 70's, at least he's closer to the 90 loss mark now.

  • I still see the Cubs as a 75 win type team, better than last year, but they lack offense and a top end starter. Spellcheck can become that guy with more pitchability, something he improved on last year. For the Cubs to compete, they will need basic career years out of guys like Ian Stewart, Hairston/Schierholz, and Castillo to double Sotos lackluster production, and to stay healthy. Cubs lack RH depth in the high minors also. I see improvements, so that's a start, but I don't see a contender,

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    I think they'll be in the 75-80 win area.

    I think they'll contend up to the All Star break but then they'll tail off.

    They'll be sellers at the trade deadline even if they are contending because of their schedule. They have a brutal August and the FO has to know that they're going to struggle that month so why add pieces just to fall out of contention.

  • Most of you are in the 70 to 80 range I see, I went 80-85 for a couple of reasons. One, The starting rotation looks better to me than last years, and so does the bullpen. Marmol is way ahead of where he started last year and there is better depth there I think. So with this pitching I can see the cubs getting hot and going on two or three decent win streaks. Even last year while losing 100 years, they showed signs of this at least once.

    Second, I make this projection based on the cubs keeping this roster throught the season, no major addds, no major trades for prospects. However, I think the cubs will trade for prospects, because 80-85 wins is just average, flirting with 500 baseball, and thiat isn't what this FO is after, so trade they will. And when they do move their better players, then their win total will drop, into the range you all are predicting, and maybe even lower depending on how many pitchers they can deal. So my adjusted post trading for prospects win total is more like 65-70. And I will be more than happy with a season like this if it makes the team better in the long run. I've seen enough .500 cubs teams.

  • that should be games not years, but you know...

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    <70.

    I don't understand how anyone could believe we don't have a possibly to be in the bottom 3.

    Soriano had his best year of his last 5 and played in more games than his last 6 seasons. If he misses any significant time, we are likely then worst hitting team in the league.

    To greatly improve, we need career years from a whole handful of players. Castillo, Jackson, schierholtz, hairston, and Stewart all have to step it up. Rizzo must reach (or start to) his potential. Baker, Feldman, and Fujikawa probably have to do well.

    But if Sori gets badly injured (or traded) we lose a huge chunk of our run production.

    To do well there's a lot of things that need to go right that currently aren't "likely." That isn't to say they're all impossible but just a low likelihood.

    There's a very real likelihood that Sori gets injured.

    Let's look at some other things that are likely or at least well within the realm of possibility:

    DeJesus has only one season in his career where he played more than last year. At CF, his chances for injury are greatly increased.

    The sophomore slump is a very real phenomenon and Rizzo could be a victim.

    Garza's elbow injury was far worse than predicted when it happened.

    Jackson could continue to regress. And even if he doesn't regress, his SO rate was 50% in the MLB last year and 40% in AAA (!!!). You cannot strike out 40% of your ABs in the MLB and be a legitimate player. 50% is a joke.

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    I hate to sound so negative but we were awful last year. And we've only added one significant piece .

    I like the EJax signing, but even he was a consolation prize after the Tigers raised their price.

    Jackson absolutely does nor replace the production of Dempster.

    Baker, Feldman, Villanueva. Maybe they'll be like Malholm. Maybe they'll be like Volstad. No way of knowing. No guarantee.

    We lost a lot of games last year. And I don't see how we're any better.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Ya, some cubs fans are like that. But the data seem's to point to 75-79 wins. I think last year a quarter of starts went to some of the worst pitchers. You also only had half a year of Demp, Garza, and Maholm. Then Shark gets shutdown for a couple more starts. In terms of quality innings thrown Shark and T wood had the most at like 170 and 140. Also the team had a ex w/l of 65 wins. So they were a bit unlucky.

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    The one percent who voted 90+ has my respect.

  • It might be worth the effort to compare rosters with the Cardinals and see how that shakes out. I'm not sure if that's even possible with all the ifs within the Cubs, but it might allow a gauge as to what our prospects are to compete. If anyone here thinks they are good enough at running stats for comparison, I'd surely like to see it.

  • Honestly this is the first time since 2008, where I am very excited and optimistic about this team. We quietly put together a solid team, it is a low cost move. If we don't win, we trade. If we win, we might have enough to make a post-season run. All in all, John I'm really excited about this season. It's baseball, anything can happen.

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