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Chicago Cubs: 2013 Season in Review

96 losses wasn’t what was expected when 2013 began, was it?

For the fourth straight season, the Chicago Cubs finished with a record below .500. Over the last three, they have dropped more than 90 games in each of those seasons. Dale Sveum lost his job after only two seasons…while he racked up a record of 127-197. But he didn’t see it coming?

President of Baseball Ops Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have brought in Rick Renteria in the hopes he can revitalize the big league club.

Some Positives

If you’re only taking 2013 into consideration, no question that the Cubs bested the Cincinnati Reds in the trade that brought them Travis Wood. Wood earned his first All-Star Game selection and led all Cubs starters in ERA+ (127). No question his first season as a Cub was not an eye-opener. Last season was a trend toward the positive.

Wood made 32 starts and hurled 200 innings. Here’s a brief glimpse into his 2013 as compared to his 2012:

Triple-slash against: 2013 – .222/.292/.351; 2012 – .232/.305/.441
Hits/9 innings: 2013 – 7.3; 2012 – 7.7
HR/9 innings: 2013 – 0.8; 2012 – 1.2
FIP: 2013 – 3.89; 2012 – 4.84
LOB%: 2013 – 77.4%; 2012 – 71.9%

Seems like the catching duo of Welington Castillo and Dioner Navarro received little accolades. These guys provided good offense for a team that lacked offense (more on that in a bit). As compared to the other NL teams, Cubs’ catchers were second in batting average (.281), first in OBP (.353), and third in SLG (.425).

Worth noting is that those stats include a whole 8 PA from J.C. Boscan, so the Castillo/Navarro tandem supplied an overwhelming majority of the offense from the catching position.

Some Negatives

Where to start?

One issue that surrounded the firing of Sveum was the regression of “cornerstones” such as Starlin Castro, Jeff Samardzija and Anthony Rizzo. Having that trio taking a step back was a step back for the entire club.

Remember earlier when I mentioned offense? Well, it wasn’t exactly potent scoring only 602 runs for the 2013 season, Only the Miami Marlins scored less (513). A reason they scored so few as comapred to the rest of the league could be tied into their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Once again, only the Marlins scored fewer runs (389) than the Cubs (405) under these situations. And the Cubs were last in the NL in batting (.218) with runners in scoring position.

Last offseason, the Cubs plopped down a four-year, $52MM deal to snare Edwin Jackson. Thought was that EJax would provide the Cubs with a stout #3 starter behind Matt Garza (who has obviously since departed) and Samardzija. Didn’t quite go that way. His ERA+ of 79 was his lowest since 2007 when Jackson was a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Yes, the last season they were called Devil Rays.

What made matters worse was Jackson’s contact rate of 80.4% was its highest since ’08 and his strand rate of 63.3% was his lowest since ’06.

Hot Stove

Yep, got all the Samardzija rumors and they’ll continue to linger, but what about Castro? Granted, many teams may be unwilling to take on the guy coming off a season in which he was dreadful, but he is locked up through 2019…at least (and some $55MM). Plus, there’s this guy, Javier Baez. And don’t forget Arismendy Alcantara either. Theo and Jed have some wiggle room here.

Yes, the Cubs have a nice top-end of their prospect list and have that pair that are shortstops. Could make the chances for trading Castro a little more likely unless the FO wants to give Renteria the opportunity to turn things around.

Now I’m wondering what the legit ETA is for Kris Bryant. MLB Pipeline has it at 2016.

Oh, the Cubs will be willing to deal, but they won’t risk the farm in order to do so.

The Cubbies have a number of needs, too numerous to list. While the FO will resist the urge to deal a top-rated prospect, they may be left with no other choice. Rest assured, rival GMs are aware of that.

One last thing to add. If the Cubs, or any other MLB team, are to go after Masahiro Tanaka, they’re all still awaiting the new posting rules.

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