Are the Cubs doomed to another losing season in 2014? Not necessarily.

Are the Cubs doomed to another losing season in 2014? Not necessarily.

Progress isn't linear.

How many times have we heard that?  Probably not quite as often as we forget it.   We tend to believe that things move in a steady direction with a definite beginning, middle, and end.  We tend to think in terms of destination, and we take the perspective as a point A to point B ride.  And thus we think of how far we are from our destination in relation to our current vantage point-- only to be fooled time and again that it wasn't as close or as far as it appeared.

I don't  see things in that way and while it may make me sound like some glassy-eyed optimist, I'm not letting the current state of the team define how good this team can be next season.

I see a team making progress.  Really.

I saw a team this year that improved it's ability to hit for power, had another good season from their starting pitchers, played solid defense, and when the team was in tact, they showed the ability to compete in this league.  This was illustrated with mid-season run differential numbers that were more indicative of a team that was in the middle of the pack rather than one that was destined for yet another top 6 pick.

The season has since gone south but it hasn't been all bad.  The Cubs may have found a few more long term pieces in catcher Welington Castillo, Travis Wood, Blake Parker, and Pedro Strop.  Perhaps Junior Lake and Jake Arrieta can be a part of the solution as well.

There were role players that emerged.  Luis Valbuena, Nate Schierholtz, Donnie Murphy, Dioner Navarro, and others all have helped the team win at times.    These aren't guys you build around, but every team needs players who can step when the stars have an off night.

But I'm not that much of an optimist.  It doesn't take a baseball genius to understand that that's not enough.

Not everything took a step forward.  The bullpen was a disaster and blew an inordinate amount of games, especially early in the season when in just about every other aspect, the Cubs were playing .500 baseball.

Another big problem is that the Cubs just don't have those stars -- or to put it in more appropriate terms, impact players, that can carry the team day in and day out.  The team was hoping to get that kind of production from two then 23 year old players, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, both of whom were unable to carry the load at this stage of their respective careers.

But...

That wasn't a given when the season started.  Optimism ran high with both of those players.  Even the most pessimistic Cubs fan could be heard to say, "Well, at least we have Rizzo and Castro to look forward to this year".

What if we had been right?  What if Castro took the next step forward and became a .290/.350/.450 shortstop with 20 HRs and consistent defense?  What if Rizzo really did turn into that high OBP guy with 30 HRs and Gold Glove caliber defense as we all thought he would.

What if the bullpen would have been just average?

Granted we can play the what if game all day -- but those aren't outlandish possibilities.  We could have rationally expected those things to happen and nobody would have asked us what we'd been smoking.

Now, think of those completely reasonable expectations coming to fruition and combining them with what actually did happen -- which was good starting pitching, improved power, and a team that competed well on a day to day basis.  Now imagine adding Rizzo and Castro to that and a bullpen that didn't blow half of those games.   Where would the Cubs have been?

Would they have traded Matt Garza, David DeJesus, Alfonso Soriano or even  Scott Feldman?  Could they have even been buyers and added yet another piece or two?

The point is that maybe the Cubs aren't as far away as you think and, unless you think that Castro and Rizzo are lost causes after a bad season, then that outlook doesn't change much heading into next season.

In the offseason, the Cubs will discard the pieces that didn't work and keep the ones that did.  They will likely add pieces to the puzzle -- some of which will work, some of which won't -- but the accumulation of the parts that actually do work will continue.   Eventually, the team will reach a tipping point and, considering that it was entirely possible that could have happened this year with just reasonably better years from Rizzo, Castro, and the bullpen, who's to say the Cubs can't reach that tipping point in 2014?

Despite the aforementioned issues, the Cubs were 48-55 on July 28th.   Is it outlandish to believe the Cubs could have been 55-48 instead?  It's only a 7 game swing and it would have changed the outlook of the entire season.  Is it unrealistic to believe that very scenario could unfold next season with better years from Castro, Rizzo, and the bullpen -- plus whatever additions they bring in?

If the Cubs have that 55-48 record by July 28th of 2014, we can expect that they'll not only be buyers at that deadline, but that they would also be in the position to add in-house talent such Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Arodys Vizcaino (and other bullpen arms) and perhaps even Kris Bryant, Pierce Johnson or CJ Edwards.

And if something like that happens, everyone will be calling the Cubs the surprise of 2014 -- but that's only because people insist on thinking from a strictly linear perspective.

Progress isn't linear.

Or have you forgotten that already?

 

 

 

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  • doomed we are doomed.... Nah

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    Ha!

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    I loves me some sarcasm,......

  • Well thought out John. I'm as usually optimistic and even though I get depressed by some of the day to day shenanigans I still see the overall positive changes that are running through the organization.

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    Thanks. I think it's easy to get trapped into linear thinking, but I've found that life just doesn't work that way sometimes. Same goes for baseball :)

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    "Life is not a straight line. Life is like a bowl of spaghetti."
    --Leonardo da Waveland

  • In reply to Cubfucius:

    Indeed. Mr. Waveland was quite a philosopher, I see.

  • Really wish they'd go after Choo and Ellsbury. I think there's a good chance this is the last time they are able to sign a good free agent without forfeiting a 1st round pick. You can plug both of those guys in immediately in the outfield and put them in the 1 and 2 spots in the line up and greatly improve your team. Those two guys add a veteran presence and take the spotlight off the kids next year. You could add both of them and still have a payroll that barely touches $100 mil

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I think they'll add some nice significant pieces, though I'm not sure they're going to go all out for this class of free agents. I'd be happy with one and then finding another Schieholtz/Feldman or two somewhere else.

    And maybe a trade becomes a possibility as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The problem with going the Schierholtz/Feldman route is that for every one of those guys you find, you find a Scott Baker or Scott Hairston. At some point you need to not gamble and go find a more sure thing.

    I'd be open to a trade as well. I just think they need to add more than 1 significant veteran. I know people love line ups in 2015 that have all home grown players, but very few, if any teams, win and win big starting 5 position players in their first or second seasons.

    If Soler, Almora, Baez, Alcantara, and Bryant are all in the line up in 2 years, the Cubs probably aren't going to be very good.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I agree to an extent. Sometimes, though, sure things aren't so easily defined, as we've seen from recent top FAs Pujols, Fielder, and Hamilton -- all of whom (along with Michael Bourn) have been guys that fans have been clamoring for the Cubs to sign in the past 2-3 years. Remember that the Cubs are a team that puts faith in their ability to project future performance rather than pay for past performance. That's what good teams do.

    That said, bringing in the right piece or two is always in play and the Cubs showed that with their pursuit of Anibal Sanchez and then eventually, the signing of Edwin Jackson. They fit what this team is looking to do moving forward.

    So the question isn't to try and bring in two big FAs for the sake of improving in the short term. The question is whether any particular free agent fits into their process and whether they project as being helpful in the long term. If the Cubs think they can do that with two big name FAs, then they'll do that -- but I don't think that's where they are at right now. I don't think they'll rush that process unless they are guys they think are absolute fits. I've been pretty accurate as to whom they would pursue the past few years -- and I could be wrong but I really don't see signing both as an option they'll even entertain.

    What if the Cubs bring in one impact player and/or one impact pitcher, a couple more solid contributors, and solidify the bullpen? You don't think that team has a shot as long as Rizzo and Castro rebound to their expected level of production?

    I think they have a legit shot if that happens and that may be a wiser gamble than putting a lot of years and dollars into guys who 1) aren't huge impact level, can't miss guys and 2) may end up being part of the problem in 3 years.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thats a big if about Castro and Rizzo but for the most part I agree. I guess I don't see Ellsbury and Choo on the same level as Pujols or Fielder. I think you could get both for at most $30 mil combined and at most for 4, possibly 5 years. I'm not advocating spending $120 mil for 6 years on a couple of players. Bourn got 4 years, $48 mil. I can't see either player getting much over that. With a $65 mil payroll going into next season, they could gamble a bit on some guys, especially if they front load the deals like they did with Jackson.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Are they guys that you want holding up significant payroll space in 3 years, though? That's the question for me. If you think Ellsbury will move to LF in 2-3 years to accomodate Almora, then now you have a significant overpay because his OBP/Power numbers are less than ideal for a corner OF spot. Choo will be 35 in 3 years.

    I like the idea of Choo if you can get him for 3, but as for both and at 4-5 years, I don't want to gamble that percentage of a payroll on two guys who likely won't be impact guys 3 years into the deal. That will inhibit their ability to spend at a time when they may be most ready to compete for a title. In the case of Choo, you can eat his salary if you sign him for 3, but at 4-5 years for two players who will very likely be overvalued for the second half of the deal? I'm not so sure that's a good idea.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Fair point, I just hope that in 2 years with all of the renovations, the new TV deal, and the new signage that we aren't constricted to a $100 mil payroll. Say Choo and Ellsbury are in decline in years 3 and 4 of 4 year deals. Say the make at that point a combined $26 mil. That shouldn't really hurt you if you are able to carry a $140 mil payroll. Especially when you consider that Castro and Rizzo are on cost controlled deals, Castillo doesn't make much, and you expect to have 2-3 other players on very low cost deals (say Almora, Baez, Bryant) for arguments sake. You should be able to carry those guys and still be able to make a big signing or trade if desired.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I agree Ike. Signing a few quality vets shouldn't hurt a major market team like the Cubs just because their contracts become less appealing in their final year or two. The Cubs can afford to absorb that cost. If they want to be consistent contenders they'll have to be able to take chances on players and occasionally absorb the cost if it doesn't work out. That allows you to go after unproven players like Puig and Darvish, or proven players who are already 30 years old, like Ellsbury and Chu.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John,

    What is the scenario of losing draft picks if we sign a FA who has been offered a qualifying offer? I know we wouldn't lose our first round pick (top ten protected) but would/could we lose a 2nd or 3rd round pick as compensation?

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    Yes, you lose your 2nd pick and then on and on depending on how many guys you sign.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    Thanks for the answer.

    If that's the case, then the FO has to be really "sure" of a FA signing
    fits what the team is looking for, going forward, that losing a 2nd or 3rd round pick will not set us back in that overall goal.

    This may be the last year we get a top-10 pick for a while, so they can't afford to blow that opportunity for short-term gain.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    They'll lose their next highest pick, which will probably be their 2nd rounder.

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    In reply to Ike03:

    So let me get this straight. If our top prospects are in the same line up and make it up to the majors in 2 years we won't be good? Yea that sure makes sense, maybe we should hope for the middle of the road prospects to come up then if we won't be good

  • In reply to Jorge Soler:

    It is very likely that most of them won't even be good major league ball players. People need to stop acting like all of our top prospects are going to walk into the league and set it on fire. Its much more probably they are average players or wash out of the league than become perennial all stars.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I agree, some people make it seem like if the prospects are here in 2015 then the Cubs are going to instantly contend.

    There's going to be a lot of growing pains. Just look at the ages of the players in 2015 as pertaining to the mock line-up so many people like to throw out

    Almora 21
    Baez 22
    Bryant 23
    Soler 23
    Alcantara 23
    Castro 25
    Rizzo 25
    Castillo 28

    Really really young. Theo and Co. will adjust accordingly though. I say the Cubs definitely get one of the top 3 free agents and one of the top 4 prospects get traded (probably next off-season) Similar to a Wil Myers/James Shields deal. Someone with potential for someone who is a proven major leaguer. Now I know that's looking like a bad trade in the future for KC but the circumstances are different, Moore had to make that trade to contend NOW to save his job. So please save any "look how that's working out for KC" comments. The basic premise of trading a good prospect for a proven major leaguer is what to pay attention to.

    That line-up above doesn't contend in 2015, they'll contend in 2017 and beyond though, the front office will probably have worn out their welcome by then.

  • In reply to GoCubsGo:

    An example would be ... signing Ellsbury and trading Almora next offseason for a proven corner OF. Off the top of my head I can't name anyone, I'd have to look at contracts and things but that's two impact bats in the line-up in 2015 (we're going to assume we can get an impact bat for Almora, I sure think so.) as opposed to just a rookie Almora. I like that method as opposed to the kids getting here and waiting a couple years until they adjust to quality players.

    That's just an example, I don't think Ellsbury leaves Boston anyway.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to GoCubsGo:

    The lineup above probably doesn't compete in 2017 because it has two lefties in it. This is very little reason to make a trade this off-season. Wil Myers was in AAA. He had significant trade value -- the closest guy the Cubs have to that is Baez, and he seems close to untradeable at this point. Almora, and Soler just don't have Myers trade value yet. (Bryant doesn't either, but he can't be traded.)

    Moreover, that trade wasn't bad for KC just because they aren't competing -- although that's bad -- what makes it catastrophic is that in 3/4 of a season James Shields has a WAR of 3.1 whereas in 57 games (roughly 1/3 of a season) Wil Myers has a WAR of 1.8.

    There's no good reason to make this trade yet -- unless they decide that they want to go all in on David Price. And I'm not sure that's a good idea.

    Much better to see which prospects make it and then, in 2015 or so, trade the next wave of prospects to fill out the team.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That's why I said next off-season, Almora will be on the cusp of AAA. Having two lefties isn't the reason. Five rookies in a line-up is the reason they won't compete.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    "At some point you need to not gamble and go find a more sure thing."

    You mean like Hamilton has been for the Angels?

    You mean like Werth was an 'instant' success for the Nats - this year they may have gotten their money's worth, but before this year?

    There is no such thing as a 'sure thing' in Free Agency - just like there is no such thing as a 'sure thing' prospect.

    Not saying that a well timed FA addition is a bad idea. Just keep in mind that spending big money does not guarantee big success.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    So you sign those two, and block two OF spots for the next 4-5 years? So from Almoravid, Solar, Bryant (if he goes to OF), Lake, and others are blocked out. Just like the old Cub ways...I disagree with signing both of those guys. Either one signed may add 5-6 wins, not a significant amount warranting the a 4- or 5-year contract, which they will be seeking. If they would accept a one-year contract, then maybe.

    Living in Scottsdale, I cannot wait for the AFL to start.

  • In reply to JollyCharlieGrimm:

    Ha, my phone auto corrects Almora to Almoravid too. But on a serious note, Soler and Almora haven't even played a day in AA. They are at best, 2 years away from the majors. Bryant is going to be tried at 3rd so I'm not worried about where he'll play in the outfield. If you signed both of them, at most they'd block a player for 2 years. If one of them is ready to play every day, there is still a third spot in the outfield for them and if by chance all of these prospects pan out, you could trade either Choo or Ellsbury to make room for them.

    Point is, there's no reason to avoid signing good players on the hope that in a few years a young player will be ready to play there. There's no reason they need to throw away the next 2 seasons waiting for players. The tear down is over, the rebuild can't just include hoping draft picks develop into stars.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I think we found a new nickname for Albert :)

    I can understand your point, which can be stretched further by saying these guys can help create a "winning" environment for the young players. I just don't want to see money tied in two players that have reached their "prime" peak, and have that much less money to get a FA (or more) in 2015 or 2016 that can help leap us in the playoffs.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    My auto correct always says "Almost" instead of "Almora". I hope that's not an omen.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ha! That reminds me of when the the Bulls anounced their opening roster after the pre-season a couple years back and had Morris Almond listed on their roster but had him as Morris Almost... He was promptly cut the next day. I since have always refered to him as Morris Almost.

  • In reply to Rudy:

    Morris almost made the team.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    My question is..does Choo or Ellsbury get us to the playoffs next year? I think John would agree that his hopeful 2014 projection is as likely as another terrible season. Unless you project every top hitting prospect will (1) not need a whole year at AAA (or in some cases, AA or high A) to get to the majors, and (2) be very successful right away upon getting to the majors, there won't be significant help from the minors. Perhaps Baez by mid-year, but I can't see anyone else (Bryant has played 20 games at high A ball...you cannot count on him being great yet IMO).

    So then Choo or Ellsbury will be added and hopefully Rizzo, Castro, Lake and Castillo do well. Even then...we still aren't a playoff team without overacheivement elsewhere. We still are 4th place in our division at best. And unless we assume 22-24 year old Baez, Bryant, Almora and Soler will make the majors, be successful quickly and not have adjustments and difficulties like Rizzo and Castro currently are having, we likely are not better than 4th place in 2015.

    Then we are in 2016, Choo is 34 and likely fading. And by then we should be expecting Almora and Soler (or others) to be getting to or close to the majors. If you were assuming a good team in signing Choo, you likely were also assuming Lake would have continued success. So now Choo will either be blocking a good young prospect (for a non-playoff team) or sitting the bench at $10+ million. Meanwhile, to sign Choo, we gave up a prospect similar to Vogelbach, Blackburn, Underwood (recent 2nd round picks).

    Unless the Cubs sign a great deal more than Choo or Ellsbury, they likely won't be a contender IMO; there are too many ifs and hopefullys involved to assume it will happen with a Choo signing. Personally I'd rather keep the second round pick and see if Vitters/Ha could handle playing time, Lake can continues and see if Nate S is a one year wonder.

  • I like that scenario. With a couple spring surprises and a couple FA additions, and some more favorable "luck distribution", I think we can make some noise. Maybe sniff the second wildcard?

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I don't see it as out of the realm of possibility.

  • fb_avatar

    I see your point, John. The reason I don't completely agree is that, while I think you're right in saying those lofty expectations about Rizzo and Castro were reasonable before this season, I'm not sure that's the case anymore. I still have faith they'll eventually be fine and turn out to be MLB average starters. The thing is, they just didn't show us enough this year to make us believe they can be much more than that, and particularly not as soon as 2014. Of course, they COULD step up and have a breakout season next year - but it would be a big (happy) surprise. And let's face it: without at least average production from those two, it's hard to envision the team competing.
    I'm much more optimistic about 2015, when all of our big time prospects will be ready or nearly ready to join the show.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    That is the caveat. If you feel the past year is the new norm or even significantly reduces future projected performance, then the Cubs will need bigger/more additions to reach contention next year.

    I'm not convinced that's the case yet and I don't think that 2014 is the year to bet against a return to form by both players. There's much more to lose in betting against them for next year than betting with them. If they flub next year as well, then you are still where everyone expected you to be anyway. 2015 may be the time to re-think that if they have another bad season.

    But if you stick with them one more year and they succeed, that makes moving forward a whole lot easier in 2015.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    To keep it in perspective, both guys are 3-4 years away from STARTING their peak years. Who knows what they will eventually become, but they are literally years away from the point that ML players start to really hit their prime seasons.

    Yeah, they've had bad years, which draws a lot more criticism because they did it at the same time, but plenty of players have sophomore slumps or down years. It doesn't mean they are washed up...

  • fb_avatar

    John,
    You don't have to go very far back to see exactly what you are talking about.
    1997 68-94 2000 65-97 2002 67-95 2006 66-96
    1998 90-73 2001 88-74 2003 88-74 2007 85-77
    2008 97-64

    If you even further back you can find even bigger swings in the
    W-L records.
    1962 59-103 1966 59-103
    1963 82-80 1967 87-74

    I'm not saying this will happen to the Cubs next year, but winning or losing is certainly not always linear from year to year. I also agree that the bullpen was atrocious for a good part of the season and the Cub's record could easily be 5-10 games better than it is currently.
    Entering next season with a solid starting staff, a much improved bullpen, a modest free agent acquisition or two and it is certainly possible to picture a .500 or better season. And with Baez, Bryant, etc. just around the corner, late 2014, or 2015. It appears the foundation will be set for continued success. It's good to have sweet dreams instead of nightmares for a change.

  • In reply to Dafoxx:

    Agreed and thanks for doing that research. That kind of turnaround happens every year -- and I don't think that in general, they happen by accident. The Cubs could be working to engineer that type of "unexpected" turnaround, but they are going to do it in a way that also makes sense for the long term.

  • In reply to Dafoxx:

    Exactly. Look at how the Orioles looked last year (93-69) and this year so far (70-60) compared to 2010 (66-96), and 2011 (69-93).

    All it takes is for a couple of pieces to fall correctly, and a couple of prospects to develop, and a couple of veterans to manage to stay healthy consistently.

    If Rizzo and Castro Progress, and if one of Vitters/Olt/Lake can fill in at 3B and produce at all, and if Schierholtz is kept and does what he did this season, and if Shark/Woods/Jackson/Arietta/Rusin,.... whomever can do what they have done most of this season,.... AND the bullpen is at least average next year,.... I don't see a playoff run, but we could fairly easily see a winning record.

  • Nice read John, thanks!

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks Toby.

  • I'm not going to predict the future, but it seems like the Cubs have traded all that they can for prospects.

    If Castro and Rizzo don't turn out to be part of the core, and either don't perform or just become more trade bait, it doesn't look good for the immediate future.

    Of course, it bothers me that most of baseball now consists of journeymen (such as the report that Marlon Byrd was traded again last night, or Adam Rosales was claimed back and forth from waivers 4 times this year.

  • This kind of optimism at this time of a difficult season is what makes me glad to be a Cubs fan and a Cubs den reader.

  • I hope you are right, and they make improvements in 2014, but I think that may be a bit optimistic. (not impossible). I, for one, would be upset if they traded good prospect(s) for a rental or older player in the middle of 2014 for a slight chance at a wildcard slot.
    I think 2014 pretty much goes like 2013, with a few more prospects getting experience. 2015 more of our young bucks (or the guys we trade some of our young bucks for) provide an entertaining team and they become real contenders in 2016.

  • In reply to djriz:

    I don't think the Cubs would trade good prospects if they were buyers. They'd be more likely to make a deal the way they did with the Red Sox, which was to give up a guy they didn't consider a part of their core moving forward (Julio Iglesias) for a guy with an extra year of control like Peavy. No matter what happens, I don't see them putting all their eggs in the 2014 basket.

  • John everything you've stated about next year being a "unexpected" year is right on.
    With the hopeful improvements from Rizzo & Castro should be enough to put us over .500.

    I think our main focus should be correcting the bullpen issues this off season. Spend some money to add in quality bullpen help to mix & match with Parker, Strop, Russell, & maybe Bowden.

    If Baker can be that veteran #5 starter and add Rusin (who quietly has become a nice shot in the arm) as an extra lefty in the pen to go with the tired Russell. We should be very competitive with our returning starters to keep us close throughout the 2014 season.

    Sweeney should be able to handle centerfield full time if he stays healthy, along with Lake, Shierholtz, & Bogosivic (sp??). This team could be a nice overachieving team with some great positives coming from everywhere.

  • In reply to Rusty Becker:

    I think that's the best case scenario -- and it's not altogether unrealistic. I think a one year turnaround does depend on Castro and Rizzo to a large extent, so I can understand why people would be skeptical, but if they do come back and the bullpen improves -- and everything else stays equal, then they have a shot, especially if they make a shrewd addition or three.

  • Love it, John!

    I'm really, really hoping 2014 will be the first year for big step forward. And I absolutely agree that it can happen!

    But, John, even if we're not above .500 on July 28, 2014, I sure hope that we can see Baez, Alcantara, Vizcaino and even Bryant up here next summer.

    Finally, Travis Wood out dueling Clayton Kershaw! Wow! What game! Love it!

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Thanks. We may see them anyway -- but it'd be nice if they're coming in as part of the puzzle rather than as a sign they've given up on the season -- and especially if they're seen as saviors for 2015. But, hey, if they're up by midseason, that means they're playing well and that can't really be a bad thing no matter what the reason for their call-up :)

  • John, what pitchers do you think will be available that the Cubs will look at? I'm all for going after an Anibal Sanchez type again.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I'd really like to go all out for the Japanese pitcher Tanaka. He's just 24, should make an impact next year and for the next 5-6 years if he stays healthy.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like that ideas.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I like that idea a lot. Seems we've been outbid on a few international prospects that have really worked out for other teams. Would be nice to see Theo and Jed go all out for a player they believe in.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    If we couldn't get Ryu, I have trouble seeing us win the bidding war on Tanaka.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    The team was in a much different spot when we were bidding on him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    They had the second best bid on Ryu and I have it on good info that the Cubs believed they had a realistic shot at winning it -- but LAD overwhelmed the market again.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I get that -- my concern is that the Dodgers could decide to overwhelm the market for that all important 5th starter, or the Rangers could get out their massive checkbook if Garza leaves. And that could lead to a crazy high offer the Cubs couldn't match given their current financial limitations.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Why are we taking these "financial limitations" as a given? Nothing to indicate that other than some speculation.

    As for Ryu, the Cubs could have bid higher, they just weren't willing to overbid. They bid what they thought was the upper limit where they would get the value they wanted. LAD could care less about value right now.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I take it as a given because Wittenmeyer's story makes sense to me. It also fits with the way things have gone down.

    I will admit that it isn't a sure thing and you probably have better info than I do.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I don't have any inside info on their finances, actually. I'm just not buying that they have no money to spend. They may not want to spend it, but I think they have the ability to do so if they choose. They were willing to give Sanchez 80M last year...now they shed all this payroll yet have no money? I'm skeptical.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John,

    I'm really in favor of that as well!

    On another note I saw somoeone mention Granderson the other day; after looking him up I'm liking that idea as well. He is still relatively young for a 2-3 year deal and is a year removed from a 40 hr season with good OF defenses especially at the corners and is a lefty power bat that can be used to balance out all the righties coming soon.

    What do you think it would take to get him? Would it be a buy low type of thing?

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm totally with you here. They've made big runs on these guys before, but I think it's time they get one. This is close enough to the time to make a BIG play here.

  • Agree that progress is often non linear.

    That being said, 2 things must improve:

    Bullpen effectiuveness

    Team wide on base percentage

    I have no concrete ideas as I dislike playing armchair GM, just global team wide concerns.

    If these 2 areas are not imprived upon in 2014, it will easily be another "losing" year, regardless of what else the new regime does to address the teams shortcomings.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    Agreed. From a larger perspective, those are the two biggest areas they need to improve for next season.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    JK,... those two things remain the two most glaring holes on this year's team.

    HRs and doubles are great things,.... and our Cubs have hit a ton of those. However - they are far better things if there is somebody on base already when your guys hit a HR or 2B.

    AND - if the bullpen had been even as good as what we have now (Gregg/Strop/Russell/Parker,...) instead of the train wreck that was Marmol/Fujikawa/Camp,Dolis....) to start the season - the Cubs could have been flirting with 0.500 ball at the All-Star break even with the pitiful offensive display they put on.

    Fix those two holes, and work to make sure that there is no further regression on the Starting pitching, defense, and offense - then they could field an interesting team next season.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    problem is, good relievers are fleeting things. This year's Strop/Russell/Parker/Gregg could easily be next year's Marmol/ Fujikawa/Camp/Dolis. Strop and gregg have had their ups and downs, Parker is still inexperienced, Russell has been overused and is tired - next year is another crapshoot.

  • Brett Anderson and Porcello seem like trade possibilities, though Porcello's name seems like it's been bounced around forever. What's the scouting report on Tanaka? Any sense of an all-in price tag range?

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I'll have more on Tanaka later. Anderson and Porcello would be interesting too. Tigers have asked a lot for him in the past, though.

  • Question(s) for John and anyone else: Would you trade Castro for David Price straight-up? Would you trade him for Stanton?

    Caveats:
    Assume we could extend Price to a deal that isn't team friendly (4/$60) but not Kershaw-like (8/160). Maybe 5/$100M.
    Assume Stanton wouldn't negotiate a team friendly extension right away (note that he is under club control for 3 more season).
    Perhaps assume that we might have to throw in a non-top 4 prospect (Vog, Alcantara, etc.)

    Would you do it?

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    I'd say that would be unlikely.
    -Castro would be selling low. Both teams would want a lot more than just Castro. They would want one of the 'Big 4' and maybe a few lower tier guys.
    -These teams are cash strapped/cheap. They won't want to take on Castro (or Soler's) contract.

    Add that to the fact that Price may not fit into our competitive window, and Boston is said to have interest in Stanton, so you'd have to figure neither player to the Cubs is likely.
    -

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    I think if the Cubs were going to make a deal for Price or Stanton, then Castro would almost have to be involved to lessen the hit on the farm system. It'd be tempting as part of a Stanton deal since the Cubs have a couple of guys who could play SS in the high minors.

  • No way would those deals happen. Cost for both players will be off the charts.

    That being said, I'd be interested to hear what the board thinks about Castro's trade value. I'm an advocate of staying he course with him but curious about his value, in light of this season's struggles.

  • The more I look at the free agent class, the more I think David Murphy is the guy the Cubs should target.

    He's coming off a down year in terms of traditional statistics but his peripherals are good. The thing that has plagued him is a BABIP of .226, about 75 points lower than where you would expect it. He's converted 3% of his line drives to fly balls this year, but otherwise his profile is essentially unchanged from 2012 when he slashed .304/.380/.479 for a wRC+ of 128. He's a good defender in left and is not a lefty that requires a platoon partner. At the same time, you could rest him against some lefties to give more ABs to the fourth OF (Ha? Szczur? Lake?).

    I doubt he receives a QO, so in terms of dollars, years, prospects, and production I don't think the Cubs could do better in a free agent outfielder. I think a reasonable projection would be .280/.340/.440 for the next couple seasons. If the Cubs got Murphy for three years, a couple starting pitchers for depth, and some of the young guys blossom then I could see the Cubs starting to really turn things around in 2014. 2015 is a lot more likely, given where the big wave of prospects is in the system, but 2014 is definitely not out of the picture.

  • In reply to StatHead:

    Like it.

  • Note that I didn't ask how likely do you think the deals are - rather, would you do them.

    Keep in mind that Stanton has been a bit injury prone and has regressed this year. I note that he has basically nobody around him in the lineup- and also note that the same can be said for Castro / Rizzo.

    I'd think that most team would want to negotiate an extension with either player upon a trade -which is why I included the caveats. The only real problem with Castro (or Soler's) contracts are that they are multiple years. In the grand scheme of things, they could turn out to be extremely team friendly.

    The Marlins aren't really cash strapped, they are just cheap and have an insanely low payroll. Stanton will likely cost more or the same as Castro next year...

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    Okay. Yes I would trade Castro for Stanton right now. No, not for Price.
    Would have traded him for J. Upton last year..

    Don't discount the contract thing. That is why both players will be traded at some point. Castro's contract is team friendly, just not to these two teams.

  • Edwin Jackson is demonstrating how bad FA signings can go an bite you in the backside...

    at this point, i wish Coleman/Germano/Berken etc would throw the ball for 1% of Jacksons salary, and they would use the cost saving to reduce ticket pricing.

    this is money down the drain.

  • In reply to Csanad:

    Since folks on this board already know what I think of the Jackson signing (and L/T free agent signings in general), I will not add to your comment about Mr Jackson.

  • In reply to Csanad:

    Disagree. Jackson has a 3.6 FIP and a 3.8 xFIP. He might be underperforming his salary a little bit but not nearly as badly as his ERA would indicate.

  • In reply to StatHead:

    well, i keep hearing that he has been unlucky in the beginning, but after the last padres game and todays performance, i have to call it like i see it: he is not worth 52mil

  • In reply to Csanad:

    Yes, he's very unlucky those pitches he throws down the middle get hit so hard.

  • In reply to Csanad:

    I tend to agree that he isn't worth 52M. I think he was probably worth 40-44M.

  • John, the team HAS made small steps. Just not enough of them. This could have been a near .5oo team if the bullpen had been reliable early in the year, even with the terrible offense and inability to beat left handed pitching. The Cubs have found out Nate Schierholz is a quality platoon OF, they have found out Beef can be an everyday catcher, they caught some lightning i the bottle with Pedro Strop, Save Bot and Daniel Murphy. As for 2014, Nate, Murphy, and Valbuenna are still useful bench pieces, but a RH power bat is an absolute necessity. So is a long term closer.

  • I don't want to trade for Stanton. I would rather trade for a blocked prospect that is a left handed hitter.

    The Dodgers Joc Pederson fits with .385 OBP and 20 HR and 30 stolen bases at AA.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=peders001joc

    Carl Crawford is signed through 2017
    Matt Kemp is signed through 2018
    Andre Ethier is signed through 2017
    Yasiel Puig signed through 2017

  • I think that the Cubs need to spend another year observing and evaluating before they jump into trades. Everybody should know more by this time next year. Of course the development people and FO May have reached conclusions on future personal that we would not be provided with.

  • Funny how 5-7 games could possibly turn a seller into a buyer. The thought crossed my mind they kept Marmol in closer role to ensure they would be sellers. Crazy I know.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    I've had similar crazy thoughts.

  • First let me say I think we can be much better next year, I was just wondering if maybe we could think about approaching it a little different. Let's start by saying I'm not a Castro hater but everyone thinks we won't move him due to selling low. What if however the only thing that he needs is a change of scenery and we move him this off season, it could be considered as moving him before he gets lower. At current Barney could do at short what Castro has given us just more solid and less flashy. We do have Watkins for second imo even if he doesn't hit he should still play good D. Castro Vogelbomb Alcantra and Pierce Johnson should be a good starting point for Price. Price/Shark/Woods/Arrieta/Jackson is a really good starting 5. Our bullpen will be better next year, Olt and Valbuena would be an awesome platoon at 3rd. Then with no signings this winter our D is way better and our whole staff would be way better. Pitching and D can win in this league. We then have no one blocked and haven't spent any money. At the break maybe Baez and or Bryant can be our offensive upgrades also giving us some trade chips with who there replacing. All i'm really saying is we don't have to spend mad money or block anyone to be much improved and could even have a few guys build some value.

  • Great write up, John. Like most of us I think about 2014 every day. Sitting on my couch during games (like right now listening to Vin Scully...just learned that Starlin's nickname in the minor leagues was 'Zancudo' which means Mosquito...Oh, Vin) jotting down future line ups and potential acquisitions.

    I have to admit that I'm not crazy about giving Choo or Ellsbury a 4 or 5 year deal, especially given the talented OF's in the system. BUT...as far as I'm concerned goal #1 is to be good in 2014 and then go from there. I wouldn't hate either of those signings. For the sake of this post I'm going to assume those two guys sign elsewhere. I think one will be a Ranger in 2014.

    As of this second, and I'm sure this will change as the hot stove heats up, I have a few guys that will be in the Cubs' wheelhouse that I think should make them a better team.

    The first guy would be Bronson Arroyo. He's the kind of pitcher that is aging very well. He's a great clubhouse guy and he'd be a guy that would most likely be ok with a move to the bullpen if other guys emerge. I know he's "old" but he'd be a really nice get IMO. Its always nice to have a pitcher or two on your staff who will make other younger pitchers better just by sitting in the dugout and shooting the shit while shagging balls in BP.

    The second guy would be Boone Logan. He should be relatively expensive due to his age (29 in 2014) and really good numbers over the past 4 seasons. I realize that relievers are volatile so any bullpen move could backfire. This will be his first time through free agency and he may seek a 3 year deal. Hope he signs a two year pact instead.

    The third guy would be Curtis Granderson. He wouldn't be my first choice of OF's but again, I'm assuming Choo and Ellsbury are off the board. Not on more than a 2 year deal and hopefully a one year deal with an option. He may want to rebuild value for one more potential multi year deal. He's a Chicago guy, excellent clubhouse guy/role model, athletic player. To me, he's basically a David DeJesus who's got a chance to hit you 30 bombs. He won't hit 40, he may hit 22, but he's not going to make the Cubs worse. He'd be a terrific guy to have hanging around when the young guys get there. Similar to Arroyo, I don't see him as an ego guy who would refuse to step aside when better talent arrives.

    There is one other guy out there as far as trade possibilities go and that's Brett Anderson. He'll be able to be had this off season and if he's healthy in 2014 could be a really nice pitcher.

    I'm going to assume Castro, Rizzo, and Samardzija have better years next year. Also, after seeing a season's worth of Welly Castillo, he's a sleeper to have a really, really nice year next year.

    The Cubs just have to find some career years from some guys. To have a playoff team you simply have to have guys exceed their expectations. More than one guy. I like the Cubs' chances of having that kind of year in 2014.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Hadn't thought much about Granderson one way or the other - but if the price were right - they could do worse.

    Incentive-laden 1 year contract with a decent club option and/or buyout,.... assuming that they don't try and go with a set of swing-men and waiver-wire guys again like this year.

    I wouldn't mind seeing an opening-day lineup next year in the OF of Scheirholtz in RF, Granderson in LF, Sweeney and/or Lake in CF, with Bogusovic (sp.) as a 4th OFgetting regular ABs - especially if one of these guys can fill in behind Rizzo now and again.

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    Of course they would do it. Problem is the Rays and Marlins will want much more then just Castro and a B B+ prospect.

  • i like your way of thinking john. keep up the good work!

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    John, great article as usual,

    I've been thinking about the Cubs pitching staff for next year and these are some of my thoughts and assumptions along with a few questions.

    Arrieta and Cabrera will both be out of options and therefore both will hopefully be with the big league club correct?

    I imagine the starters would be Samardzja, Wood, Jackson, Arrieta and I would like to see the 5th spot go to Villnueva or Cabrera with the other going to the bullpen and then adding Rusin to the bullpen as a second lefty to relieve Russell of some many appearances.

    The bullpen should have Parker, Strop, Russell, Viill/Cabrara, along with Rusin.

    That leaves about two spots will Vizciano be ready to start the season or will he need some time in the minors, he'll pitching in the AFL so I assume he is healthy. What about Lim? He has been pitching really well in the minors and seems ready for a Sept call up. Has Rondon or Bowden done anything to prove they are MLB ready?

  • In reply to Kevin:

    I agree I don't want to see Rondon or Bowden in the bullpen next year. I also think Rusin should be in the pen next year too. I like how he's been throwing lately but I just really don't see him turning into another Travis Wood and fitting in the rotation. Bullpen looks much more promising. An addition of a solid outfielder (Morse, Murphy, Choo, Granderson, Ellsbury) and possibly another reliever or cheap starter? This team could play hard and at least be relevent this time of year.

  • Ben 20, I've been very hot on the Brett Anderson idea, of late. Does anyone know how his contract works? If OAK doesn't pick up their options is it like non-tendering him or do they have option of resigning him at lower price? Either way, guessing he can be had by trade or open mkt.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    According to MLB Trade Rumors, he has a 12MM option for 2015 with a 1.5 MM buyout. Not sure about 2014. I like him a lot too, Carl9730! Hes' plenty young enough to have a really nice career if he can take the ball.

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    Isn't ironic that most fans were totally on board with trading the aging vets for prospects. And now two years into this plan they are abandoning ship in hopes that the Cubs sign some more aging FA's to get the Cubs to win a few more games?

    It's not about the payroll people! It's all about the talent. So why sign an Ellsbury and/or Choo? Are these two players the ones that bring the ring? Not by themselves they don't. But the will sure as heck block the young guys from playing and take away from roster flexibility they Cubs would have when they time is right for the push for a ring.

    And I hear ya, who knows if the prospects will pan out or not. Yet some here are ready to throw out Castro in favor of Baez at SS. So I guess we can all look in that crystal ball and know without a doubt which prospects will or will not be the difference maker for the future Cubs.

    Funny how after Castro had his 200 hit season he was proclaimed to be that very same difference maker for the Cubs future. Now he is proclaimed to be the stuff I wipe off my shoes after taking my dog to the doggie park.

    I said it before and I'll say it again. Sure glad this FO doesn't really care what the fans want. They have a plan in place that works and are following it pretty strictly. And imo, we need at least one more season of these prospects to develop before we just start combing the FA markets for quick fixes.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bocabobby:

    I disagree here. Choo could be part of the next winning team and doesn't really block anyone significantly because we need 3 outfielders. And, even in the extremely unlikely scenario that Bryant, Almora, and Soler all make it, we would still need a lefty.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Choo will not bring us the ring alone. And realistically the Cubs probably wouldn't be a serious push for such a lofty goal for 2 or 3 years at the earliest. So do we pay up for Choo for the next 3 years for what we could get from others currently on the roster like Sweeny, Bogusevic, Lake, Szcur, Jackson, etc. All of these other players are currently on the 40 man roster.

    Any any way you slice it, are just place holders for Almora if I'm reading this crystal ball correctly. Choo is nothing more than an expense to the Cubs to appease impatient fans, imo.....

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    All of those guys combined don't compare to Choo.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bocabobby:

    He's a legit lead off guy with pop and he hits lefty. We don't have anything like that in our system right now.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bocabobby:

    And if Choo is the player you want mainly for his on base skills, why not inject Alcantara at 2B to get the party started. He'll be extremely close to ready next season. My point is we have options. It's not as bad as some want to believe would rather not get bogged down with a guy that will tie up big money with at least a 4 year contract. We just cleaned up this type of move.....

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I'll take the proven major leaguer, over the guy who has never played in the major leagues, that's just me.

    I don't feel comfortable counting on a guy to hit lead off who has not even played a game at AAA.

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    He doesn't figure to be as good as Choo -- his AA stats aren't quite as good as Choo's major league stats. And, even if Alcantara makes it, I don't see the harm in having two guys with pop, OBP, and speed at the top of the order.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I'm not advocating signing Choo in particular (if they even can) but if they do its not going to be an 8/136 deal. If its 4/65 and 2 1/2 years into it its not working out, then just clean it up. There aren't any guys in the Cubs' wheelhouse that will command a deal that could sink a franchise. Thanks to the FO there are options, as you said, which is new territory for Cub fans. The depth of impact talent provides a lot more latitude with free agents. The best case scenario is one or more of the big dogs comes up and has a Braun-ish impact right away and renders a good player expendable or reduces a good player's role.

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    In reply to bocabobby:

    your acting like the cubs are spending your money, and any money they spend is going into your bank account or lower ticket prices and concessions.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    So do you think the FO is going to run the same guys out there in 2014 without signing/promoting anyone? If your answer is no, which I'm sure it is because you clearly know your shit, then why not sign a guy or two that makes the team better in 2014? Since when is it in this FO's best interest to not be a better team next year? The same applies to any year. They'll want to be better in 2018 than they were in 2017. Also, the better player generally want to go to the better teams so they can win rings. The better the team does in 2014, the more it bodes well for guys wanting to sign in 2015. Its not as if there's one guy on the market who will turn it around. I guess my point is why would any fan want to be as good as possible in 2015 instead of 2014 AND 2015?

  • In reply to Ben20:

    Good point, plus next years free agent class is awful.

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    In reply to Ben20:

    I agree that this FO's job is to make the team better each year and each day for that matter. But does spending big money on Choo put us over the top? If not he just isn't the FA type of signing we need at this time.

    The point is, after next season, the first waves should start making themselves known in Chicago. So Choo or Ellsbury for that matter are for all intents and purposes a 1 year need that could possibly be a fly in the ointment after the 2014 season.

    I never said that the guys on the 40 man roster would be better than Choo or Ellsbury. But they could hold the fort down for one more year adequately. And I go back to my original post that said,

    "Isn't ironic that most fans were totally on board with trading the aging vets for prospects. And now two years into this plan they are abandoning ship in hopes that the Cubs sign some more aging FA's to get the Cubs to win a few more games?"

    This FO had a plan from day one that they arrived in Chicago. They have shown no indication to acquire a big name FA to quiet fans. Quite the contrary, they have rid themselves of these over-priced vets for prospects. Sooner or later you will need to start inserting these guys into your lineup.

    Choo or Ellsbury just gum up the works. So just looking at what plan they have told us would transpire, why would they just change directions now? Did the fans wants somehow change what the long term health of this organization change?

    Listen, I'm as frustrated as all other Cubs fans. But I fear that changing course now just would say that this FO is completely wishy-washy and has no backbone. If so, time to run the FO out of town.

    We could always just try spending a lot of cash once again and trade all our prospects..... oh wait.....we tried that already

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    When did we trade all of our prospects?

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    If Choo were to get signed and start out 2014 the way he started out 2013, and the Cubs were playing good baseball, would you still consider him a "fly in the ointment"? It seems you're operating under the assumption that a FA signing would be a disappointment. What if they sign a guy and he has a great year a la Dawson in '87? The FO isn't going to go after and/or sign a guy who they feel will disappoint them! If they sign Choo (who to me is not a "big name FA" or an "overpriced vet") it will be to help the club win ballgames, not to appease or quiet the fan base. If they signed Cano to a 11 year 215MM contract, THAT would be one of those kind of moves. Shin Soo Choo on a four year contract is not that big of a deal. I think we all agree that Choo and Ellsbury are good players. I think we all agree that Bryant/Baez/Soler/Almora/Alcantara will be good players. Since when is it a bad thing to have 5 good outfielders on the same team? Since when is it a bad thing to have two good young shortstops? I think they call that a "good problem to have" rather than muddied waters. Finally, if they sign one of those guys, it will be to play the outfield in Chicago. They won't take anyone's spot in Iowa or Tennessee in 2014. Nobody's development will be impeded. When those guys are ready, they will find a spot for them. Guys get hurt all the time and it sure is going to be nice when a guy goes down and they can bring a blue chipper up to take his place rather than Dave Sappelt, Darnell McDonald, Julio Borbon, Donnie Murphy, etc.

    I hope you don't think I'm attacking you or anything like that, Bobby. I know you know the Cubs. Personally, I hope Baez is in the big leagues by June. If Machado, Trout, Harper, Profar, Fernandez, and others can have success in the show nowadays at 20 or 21, Javy can too. But, I don't think a signing of Choo or anyone else on a reasonable deal goes against the plan. Maybe I should capitalize that? The Plan. It gets talked about as if its etched in stone and sealed with blood somewhere. The plan is to get the best talent you can, when you need it, as cheaply as you can. Lastly, when it comes to "spending a lot of cash" as you say, there really is no "We" if you think about it. Its not our money. Seriously, would you REALLY care if the Cubs had the highest payroll in baseball if we were perennial contenders? Come on now.

  • In reply to Ben20:

    I agree, his thinking seems to be no need to get players until the prospects are here.

    I counter with, lets get players just in case the prospects don't pan out, and even if they do who's to say there's going to be good pieces available when the prospects do come.

    Lets say we have Choo and Almora, oh no, we have a lot of talent, what an awful problem to have!

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    In reply to Ben20:

    EXACTLY

    There is no such thing as having too many good players with injuries, regressions, not living up to projections.

    Plus who says the young guys won't need a cagy vet to show them the ropes. Look at Puig, imagine if he was on the cubs running wild on this young team w little to no direction.

  • let me quickly reply as I just wrote a reply regarding Castro. I don't believe that Castro is a wash I actually think he will have a great career. What I was personally was getting at was infield wise we have many very good prospects which hopefully a few of work out. Actually when I look at our system I see everything needed to really start turning this thing around for a long time to come. The only thing I'm not seeing however is a true ace. We also must face the fact that's the hardest thing in baseball to come by. So for Castro's sake and the cub's sake let's give him a change of scenery while at the same time get what we need most a true ace. If we had a system that had Archie Bradley's and Tyler Skaggs no way would I trade Castro unfortunately we don't have those players. Isn't that what rebuilds do is take positions of strength and acquire positions of need well thats what I'm saying use our middle infield strength and get a true ace. Only reason I was saying maybe we should do that now is who knows when it will be that an opportunity like this will arise again because let's be honest only so many teams that have true ace's will ever let one hit fa, it just so happens the Ray's have Price and are going to trade him instead of resigning due to money constraints. The added bonus here is that Derek Johnson made Price the player he is and just happens to work for the cubs.

  • In reply to bigbluebear2929:

    I understand your reasoning but I would not trade for price. He just worries me sometimes, but as a front office it is there responsibility to do whats best for the organization so they have to listen on everyone.

  • What in Rizzo's past makes us believe he will ever be an impact player?

  • In reply to Oneear:

    That's easy. A 20 and counting HR season in his age 23/24 season. You don't just shake a tree and find a 23 year old hitting 20 plus in the big leagues. Bryce Harper, for instance hit 22 last year and 18 so far this year. Would you consider him an impact player? I'm guessing yes. While Harper is the better player with the brighter future, their power numbers are very comparable. Plenty of evidence to support the fact that Rizzo will be an impact player.

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    Even with the addition of Choo for 3-4 years (if we're lucky.), I don't see us as a .500 team. We still need another FoTR caliber pitcher before we can even get away with the slightest lackluster offense.

    Even IF(big if) Rizzo and Castro bounce back- We still have a black-hole at 2nd until Baez/Alcantara is ready.(hopefully, 2014.) We have to reallllly hope that Olt doesn't continue his Brett Jackson impression. Or that Vitters isn't a complete bust. I like Valbuena. But he's not a starter on a winning team. And I sure as hell don't rush Bryant if he struggles in A/AA.
    We have a really good platoon player in Shierholtz. And whatever we get from mysteries Junior Lake/ Ryan Sweeney. Maybe Choo/Ellsbury.
    Hardly the talent to compete with a contender in a deep Central divison.

    Optimistically, I'd like to see Baez next year. Maaaaybe Bryant if he absolutely rakes.
    And the rotation:
    Samardzjia still has that potential. But he's still inconsistent. I like Travis Wood and his middle of the road stuff. But he could still very well turn out to be a left handed Randy Wells. (Although I do think Travis is a pretty good #4 on a decent team) Jackson may bounce back, or he continues to regress. Who knows?
    And Arrieta is an enigma.
    We'll have to strike gold with a reclamation project like Baker or Josh Johnson to have a half-way formidable rotation.

    Maybe Cabrera makes it as a starter? Or even better, Vizcaino!
    Does Hendricks feel for pitching translate into success?
    Maybe we deal from a surplus and send Alcantara and a bullpen arm to a pitching-heavy system for a really good AA starter?

    I feel like next year is the final 'down' year before our position talent, a free agent signing and maybe some smart trades turn the ship around.
    ...Although, a big year from Olt, the addition of Baez/Alcantara. Arrieta finding some consistency- Rizzo/Castro taking steps in the right direction. Homegrown power-arm bullpen? Choo teaches the kids patience at the plate, and the team actually succeeds in RISP?!
    And we COULD be a winning ballclub, even before the wave of Soler/Almora/Johnson/Edwards/Vogelbach.

    Trying to remain optimistic....But I'm not excited for 2014...
    I'm super excited for 2016.
    Feel free to disagree.

  • In reply to Eric Foster:

    I'm excited for 2014 simply for the guys that may get to Chicago. Any team with a really good bullpen can have a winning record. If they can find enough guys and get lucky with some guys in the pen, I think they'll be competitive. The bar is so high in the Central. That's one thing that I am not excited about! To me its all about the bull pen, not necessarily through acquisitions but more about luck. Strop, Parker, Russell...that's 3/7 of a good bullpen. The luck part is Cabrera, Vizcaino, Rivero, Dolis, Rosscup, Rusin, Hatley, fill in the blank. A couple of those guys need to emerge and be better than this year's mop up men (Bowden, Camp, Rondon, Sanchez, Loe). Too many scrubs in there. Maybe add a Boone Logan or Javier Lopez from the left side. Scott Downs maybe. Also need to get lucky and see Chang-Yon Lim be really effective. That will really narrow the gap in the division. If we get lucky and the baseball gods decide it's our turn to have a great pen, we will compete!

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    In reply to Ben20:

    You hit the nail on the head-
    We have a lot more excitement in the organization than we've had in the last 10 years. And much more depth than we had 10 years ago.
    I'm excited to see an improved major league bullpen, and how the prospects handle AA.

  • OK - I've read this entire thread and all the debating about whom to get when, etc. Great thoughts, btw. What I'm garnering from the thread, however, is that we have more positives than negatives, whatever one's position might be. More possibilities than non-possibilities. And it all starts with the influx of talent at the minors level. That is the real basis by which we can debate the next step, the next FO move via trade, free agency, etc. I think we have the right FO in place and I'm putting a bunch of trust in its decision making (hopefully not just blue Kool-Aid), just because of how they're adding talent. I honestly don't know when we'll compete for the division title - far too many factors associated, but at least I believe we will sometime in the near future. We couldn't say that two and 1/2 years ago. Having said all that, I would favor adding a position player like Choo, if for no other reason than to set a strong example of how to play the game. We're still way too young to ignore that need, including Castro and Rizzo.

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    Great article, John!

    I've been one of the loudest advocates I know for them losing 90+ games in both 2012 and 2013.

    However, I, too, think they can compete in 2014, and if so, then I'm all for it. Combine a couple more savvy off-season acquisitions (e.g., DeJesus/Maholm/Feldman/Schierholtz/Navarro types) with improved performance from both our MLB and MiLB core, the Cubs can certainly be, at the very least, a wild card contender next season.

    ...that being said, contending is one thing. Actually making the playoffs in 2014 (while being in the same division as the Cards, Reds, and Pirates) is a whole other realm of likelihood.

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