Cubs see pieces in place for 2013
As they enter Year Two under Theo Epstein’s management regime,
the Chicago Cubs insist the pieces are falling into place and that
they’re poised to make a jump.
Never mind all the talk about the long haul. They believe the
rebuilding process is in high gear.
”I think we can challenge for the division and compete with
anyone,” slugger Anthony Rizzo said.
That’s a big statement considering the Cubs are coming off a
101-loss season and the focus still remains more on the future as
they try to end a championship drought that dates to 1908. They’ve
been busy overhauling the roster and beefing up the infrastructure
ever since Epstein took over as president of baseball operations
before last season, hoping to build a foundation to contend on a
They see new facilities in the Dominican Republic and in their
spring home of Mesa, Ariz., along with a commitment to developing
the minor league system – not to mention renovations to Wrigley
Field that they’re trying to get approved – paying big dividends
down the road.
They believe they will cash in on top prospects such as
shortstop Javier Baez and Jorge Soler at some point, too. But while
keeping their eyes on the future, Epstein and general manager Jed
Hoyer made it clear they’re looking for improvement now.
They don’t want to relive last season, when the Cubs parted with
high-priced veterans such as Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez and
Ryan Dempster on the way to a fifth-place finish in the NL League
Central. After watching Chicago drop 100 games for the first time
since 1966 and the third time in franchise history, management
veered slightly from its course and dug into the wallets a bit.
Besides bringing in low-priced players they hoped would
contribute, the Cubs made a big play for starter Anibal Sanchez.
When he re-signed with Detroit, they brought in Edwin Jackson on a
four-year, $52 million deal, adding a pitcher they believe will
still be a contributor when they’re ready to make a big run in a
That’s assuming it doesn’t come sooner.
”We’ve put ourselves in position to succeed,” said manager
Dale Sveum, in his second season. ”We have enough starting
pitching and we have a solid bullpen. And, if you look at offenses
on playoff teams, most guys had a career year or at least lived up
to their media guide. That’s what you need to have to score
consistent runs and compete.”
The Cubs believe they have enough arms with Jeff Samardzija,
Jackson and Matt Garza leading the rotation. They also have a young
All-Star shortstop in Starlin Castro and Gold Glove second baseman
in Darwin Barney.
Rizzo showed promise, too, batting .285 with 15 homers and 48
RBIs in just 87 games last season.
”If he gets 500-600 plate appearances, he’s going to put up
numbers worthy of being in the middle of the lineup,” Sveum said.
”That doesn’t necessarily mean we he needs to hit a ton of home
runs. We want RBI guys, and Anthony can be a good one. He did a
great job of hitting in clutch situations, and we want him to
But there are some issues lingering over this team.
Garza is expected to be sidelined until early to mid-May because
of a strained left lat, a blow to the Cubs on two fronts. Besides
being a top starter, he’s also one of their most valuable trade
Alfonso Soriano’s name remains a regular on the trade rumor mill
and figures to stay there unless he gets dealt.
Then, there’s Carlos Marmol. It’s fair to say his status as the
closer is shaky, considering the trade with the Los Angeles for Dan
Haren that fell through and the arrival of Kyuji Fujikawa from
”We can win a lot more games than we did last year,” said
Marmol, who finished with 20 saves in 23 chances but also walked 45
in 55 1-3 innings last season. ”Last season was such a grind for
everyone, but there’s a lot of positivity in the clubhouse. We’re
making progress. We’re taking steps in the right direction. We
believe in each other.”