Since the Cubs last World Series title in 1908 we have seen: 19 different US Presidents, 18 recessions, the conquering of human flight, the rise of the horseless motorcoach, Germany taking over Europe, then getting split in half, then reuniting, then becoming obsessed with David Hasselhoff, 4736 “Real Housewives” shows and 1 Honey Boo Boo.
Is 2013 the year the Cubs finally break the Bartman jinx? Maybe, if everyone on their team has a career year and they build a time machine to reclaim prime versions of Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks and Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. But with Theo Epstein running the show, all is not lost in the Windy City, so let’s take a look at what the Cubs might look like this coming season, and their chances at victory.
The Cubs have a good mix of youth and veteran star power. 1B Anthony Rizzo looks like a future all-star and SS Starlin Castro already is one. Darwin Barney is solid at second and Alfonso Soriano, despite being maligned as the poster boy for horrifically bad contracts, had a 30 HR/100 RBI season in 2012. Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer know they are building for the future, so they’re probably not going to overspend in free agency just to fill a hole. But they will still be active, most likely signing players looking to rebound to one year, “prove-it” deals.
They’ve already inked former all-star catcher Dioner Navarro and someone like OF Nate McLouth could fit the bill as well. It’s a good low risk/high reward strategy for the rebuilding Cubs. If the guys they sign perform well, they can be traded to contenders for prospects, if not, it will at least buy Chicago’s close-to-ready minor leaguers more seasoning time. Prospects like CF Brett Jackson and 3B Josh Vitters could start the season in Chicago, but would probably be better off in Triple A.
This is where the Cubs have some surprising strength. Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija are two power arms who can anchor the front of their rotation. Chicago has already added two back-end of the rotation guys in Scott Baker and Scott Feldman. Ideally, they’ll add another arm or two, just to have plenty of depth when injuries/bad performance inevitably occur. They won’t go after a Greinke-type and I can’t even see them making a run at Brandon McCarthy either (unless they somehow get him cheap). The Cubs have talked with Ryan Dempster about a possible return to Wrigley (along with his horrific Harry Caray impersonation) but someone like Joe Saunders makes even more sense. He’s a lefty, innings-eater and the Cubs could get him without breaking the bank.
As far as the bullpen goes, Shawn Camp is a solid set-up guy, and Travis Wood could also fill that role (if he doesn’t end up in the rotation.) The closer role is the biggest enigma. Carlos Marmol was traded for Dan Haren…until the trade was vetoed when doctors discovered Haren’s shoulder was being held together by kindergarten paste and used Big League Chew. The Cubs could go into 2013 with Marmol closing again but he’s likely trade bait. So look for Rafael Dolis to get the first shot at finishing games.
With all that said, I think the Cubs will be better than they were in 2012, but still far from contending. Maybe 70-75 wins. Here’s what their team could look like in 2013: