Mar 11, 2014, 12:03 AM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2014 season. Next up: The Chicago Cubs.
The Big Question: Is the wait almost over?
It has been 105 long years since the north side of Chicago last celebrated a World Series title and in seven months that number will be pushed to 106.
Let’s get it out of the way: this 2014 edition of the Cubs is hopeless. There’s not enough firepower in the lineup, not enough shutdown stuff on the pitching staff, and they’ll play in a five-team division that features four much better squads. Bovada pegs the Cubs’ over-under win total for the 2014 season at 69.5 — same as the Marlins and well below the Brewers (79.5), Pirates (83.5), Reds (84.5), and Cardinals (90.5).
And it doesn’t take a casino odds-maker to figure out what’s wrong with the Northsiders’ roster.
The four-year, $52 million commitment made last winter to right-handed starter Edwin Jackson already looks like a bust. Travis Wood is very good but far from a typical ace, and Jeff Samardzija took a step back in 2013 after flashing front-line numbers in 2012. Some combination of Jason Hammel, Jake Arrieta, Chris Rusin, and James McDonald will fill out the final two spots of a thoroughly-unintimidating starting rotation.
The lineup isn’t any more formidable. Anthony Rizzo has promising upside at first base, but his park-adjusted batting numbers were nearly league-average for that premium offensive position during the 2013 season. Fifth-year shortstop Starlin Castro was a complete disaster last summer, hitting .245/.284/.347 for an OPS+ of just 72. Luis Valbuena (3B), Nate Schierholtz (RF), Junior Lake (LF), Ryan Sweeney (CF), Welington Castillo (C), and Darwin Barney (2B) make up the rest of the Cubs’ starting position player group.
So, is the wait almost over? It depends on whether you have a gracious definition of “almost.”
What else is going on?
- A total of seven Cubs prospects appeared in last month’s Baseball America Top 100, tied for the second-most of any organization. Javier Baez looks like a star in the making and will likely work his way into the major league infield mix by the end of this summer. He batted .282/.341/.578 with 37 home runs, 111 RBI, and 20 stolen bases in 130 games last year between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee. Kris Bryant, the second overall pick in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, could also become a starter — at third base — by the end of 2014. He tallied nine homers and 32 RBI in just 36 minor league games last season. Right-handed starter C.J. Edwards and Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler were among the other Cubs prospects named to Baseball America‘s list. Team president Theo Epstein is building a legitimate nucleus.
- Something to keep an eye on with this rising class of elite-level prospects: Javier Baez was drafted as a shortstop in 2011 (ninth overall) and has played nothing but shortstop in the Cubs’ minor league system. Starlin Castro signed a seven-year, $60 million contract extension with the Cubs in August 2012, but he might not finish out that deal in Chicago. Castro is young enough and has enough raw talent that he will presumably attract interest from other clubs even if he doesn’t bounce back right away in 2014.
- Darwin Barney won a Gold Glove for his outstanding defensive play at second base in 2012 and probably should have won it again in 2013, but he owns a hideous .246/.293/.336 career slash line in 1,799 plate appearances at the major league level and the situation only worsened last season. Emilio Bonifacio can probably steal that starting second base job away from Barney by early-to-mid summer.
- The Cubs fired Dale Sveum last September after just two years in the managerial post and officially selected Rick Renteria in early November to be his replacement. Renteria was the Padres’ bench coach when current Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer worked in the San Diego front office and is well-respected around the baseball world. Renteria is the 53rd manager in Cubs franchise history.
Predicton: A rough start but slightly-brighter finish yields 72 wins. Last place, NL Central.
Aug 4, 2015, 4:14 PM EDT
A shocking announcement from the Tigers today.
Aug 4, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
He has a strained forearm.
Aug 4, 2015, 3:12 PM EDT
No Royals were suspended.
Aug 4, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
He calls it a “hail Mary”
Aug 4, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT
In between the DL stints Freeman played just 10 games.
Aug 4, 2015, 1:19 PM EDT
He played two games for the Yankees.
Aug 4, 2015, 12:27 PM EDT
Incredible numbers for a 20-year-old shortstop.
Gregg Zaun to Yordano Ventura: “stop writing checks with your mouth that your skinny ass can’t cash”
Aug 4, 2015, 11:44 AM EDT
Gregg Zaun, as always, providing a voice of reason.
Aug 4, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
He’s pitcher number two they received in the David Price deal.
Aug 4, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
“I only have one head.”
Aug 4, 2015, 9:48 AM EDT
Not having access to athletes and coaches would be a bummer at first, but over time the press would do just fine with it.
Aug 4, 2015, 8:44 AM EDT
Congratulations to Mike Hessman. The greatest minor league lifer of them all.
Aug 4, 2015, 8:02 AM EDT
A.J. Pierzynski is a national freakin’ treasure.
Aug 4, 2015, 7:22 AM EDT
A few weeks ago I had no idea what an Adonis Garcia even was.
Aug 3, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT
Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre hit for the cycle tonight against the Astros. And he needed just five innings to do it.
Aug 3, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT
It’s August 3 and the Mets are all alone in first place in the National League East.
Aug 3, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT
Mike Hessman is the new minor league home run king.
Aug 3, 2015, 9:36 PM EDT
Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg has been sidelined since July 4 with a left oblique strain, but it sounds like he’s rounding into form for the stretch run.
Aug 3, 2015, 9:13 PM EDT
The Braves are calling him day-to-day, but these type of injuries are notoriously tricky.
Aug 3, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT
Clayton Richard tossed six innings of one-run ball in a win over the Padres on Sunday, but he was designated for assignment by the Cubs today for the second time in the past two weeks.
- Dave Dombrowski out as Tigers General Manager, team president, Al Avila takes over 0
- Blue Jays’ Aaron Sanchez, John Gibbons disciplined in the wake of Sunday’s plunkings 28
- Believe the hype: Carlos Correa is already a superstar 22
- Gregg Zaun to Yordano Ventura: “stop writing checks with your mouth that your skinny ass can’t cash” 89
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 55
- Adrian Beltre needs just five innings for the third cycle of his career 16
- Mets blow out Marlins, move past Nationals for first place in NL East 26
- Yordano Ventura calls Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accuses him of stealing signs 73
- The benches cleared in Friday’s Giants-Rangers game (208)
- Blue Jays acquire David Price from the Tigers (113)
- Rangers land ace left-hander Cole Hamels from Phillies (106)
- Royals make another big move, get Ben Zobrist from A’s (95)
- Report: Rockies trade Troy Tulowitzki to Blue Jays for Jose Reyes and prospects (92)