Anno wrote a blog on our mother ship today that was thought-provoking. That's kind of a nice way for me to say he's a bit nuts without getting fired, but there's a rational explanation for his madness too. Now I know that it is premature to put all our hopes in the Cubs' farmhands, but they're pretty good and it's hard to not be optimistic. And I've already outlined the Cubs' budget situation and the likely free agents they'll target. I can't guarantee anything (there are no guarantees in baseball) but I don't think it's out there to suggest that the Cubs could contend for at least a wild card spot next season.
Take Jon Lester, for example. He's having a good year and was recently traded to Oakland, which means that all it will cost the Cubs now is some money. The Cubs seem to be okay with taking on money which is why, if the rumors are true, they decided to put a claim in on Cole Hamels. I am not as confident as Anno that a trade makes sense now, but with the aforementioned awesome farm full of awesome, there could be some exciting movement this offseason, depending on whether the Cubs want to part with their guys for Hamels' (or some other ace-level pitcher with cost certainty and/or club control). After all, there were various reasons NOT to try to trade for David Price, who eventually went to the Tigers for a return that wasn't exactly spectacular. So we could be looking at a rotation headlined by Lester, Hamels (or equivalent), Jake Arrieta and with a large number of option to bring up the rear including Kyle Hendricks plus the claim of Jacob Turner if that trade/claim is finalized. Even if the Cubs don't trade for Hamels (or similar), the rotation still looks solid.
The call-up of Javier Baez signaled a big change in the organizational philosophy from "acquire all the talent" to "let's see what we got" as they continue the transition towards contention. The idea seems to be to let Javy (and Arismendy Alcantara) take their lumps in a year that no longer matters from a contention standpoint, but this will be important for their development and you'd rather they slump and learn without as much pressure. We're also waiting on the expected September call-up of Jorge Soler, and probably Kris Bryant's debut in late-April next year. The Cubs also seem very interested in a potentially MLB ready Cuban outfielder that they have the money to sign, an option that only costs money and not a draft pick.
Let's play armchair GM and fantasize about a roster next year:
1B - Anthony Rizzo
2B - Javier Baez
SS - Starlin Castro
3B - Luis Valbuena (until end of April)/Kris Bryant (upon debut)
CF - Arismendy Alcantara or Rusney Castillo (Alcantara can also be 2B or utility guy)
RF - Jorge Soler
Cole Hamels (or equivalent)
Power arm after power arm after power arm...
I mean, it does look good, doesn't it? This hypothetical roster needs to be filled out some more but even with some bumps and stumbles along the way, it seems competitive to me. Maybe they even make it into the postseason a year or two earlier than expected. Maybe we'll get to strut a little earlier. It's fun to dream.