As things stand right now, fans of the Chicago Cubs are gearing up for another rough year on the North Side. While no marquee move was promised in any way, the Cubs did not make any sort of significant changes to a roster that was among the worst in the league last season. That fact alone has many pointing to another potential 100-loss season for the Cubs as the lengthy rebuild continues.
Yet, the Cubs may not be as bad in 2014 as they appear to be on paper. The issues with this team are many, but there is a clear focus on development throughout the organization. It does remain true that the bulk of the excitement coming from the Cubs will revolve around prospects like Javier Baez or Kris Bryant, but this team may not be quite as bad as many are projecting at this point.
The fact that the Cubs didn’t make the big move doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t committed to improving in any way; it moreso indicates the fact that they weren’t willing to spend the money on players like Shin-Soo Choo, who were overpaid by miles and miles. They are putting a ton of eggs in the prospect basket, but this team should at least show marginal improvement given the small changes they’ve made, both on the field and in regard to the coaching staff.
As things stand right now, this is the projected lineup for the Cubs in 2014:
- C – Welington Castillo
- 1B – Anthony Rizzo
- 2B – Darwin Barney
- SS – Starlin Castro
- 3B – Luis Valbuena
- LF – Junior Lake
- CF – Ryan Sweeney
- RF – Nate Schierholtz
There are obviously some questions here. Will Lake take over as a full-time player in 2014? Signs point to yes. Darwin Barney is a trade candidate, and in the event he’s moved, Mike Olt could slot in at third with Valbuena moving over to second. That’s an ideal situation for the Cubs because it’d mean two things: A – Mike Olt is ready to make an impact at the big league level and B – Valbuena is an offensive upgrade over Barney’s black hole of a bat. Donnie Murphy is still in the mix somewhere as well.
Sweeney was impressive in the time he did see in 2013 before he spent a good chunk of time injured and Schierholtz put together a career year in his first season with the club. It’s hard to imagine Castro regressing even further, and Rizzo wasn’t as bad as his numbers indicated. With Castillo behind the plate, this team will be improved offensively, as well as defensively.
It’s the pitching, though, that could have this team improving from last year’s abysmal campaign to 2014. Pending some sort of trade, the Cubs will feature a rotation that goes:
- Jeff Samardzija
- Edwin Jackson
- Travis Wood
- Jake Arrieta
- Chris Rusin/Brooks Raley/Justin Grimm/Carlos Villanueva
It’s tough to know what to make of the back end of that rotation. It clearly isn’t as deep as it was last year and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Cubs add at least one arm to their rotation before spring training rolls around. Nonetheless, Samardzija is a top of the rotation pitcher, Wood established himself as a legitimate starter, and it’d be difficult for Edwin Jackson to do anything but improve off of last year’s disappointment.
But it’s the bullpen that should show the most improvement of any aspect of this team. The Cubs had one of the worst relief corps in the league last year, coming in at no. 25 in bullpen ERA and 24th in reliever WHIP. They’ve added a few arms to the mix and it should go a long way toward helping this club win a few extra ballgames in 2014.
Jose Veras was added to close out games for the Cubs, but names like Pedro Strop could make some noise in the ninth at some point as well. James Russell is still around as the heavily-leaned-on left hander, while the host of bullpen arms could be stretched to include Hector Rondon, Alberto Cabrera, and whoever doesn’t make it into the starting rotation out of the names mentioned above. Signs point up for the Cubs in that respect.
The Cubs are not going to be a contender. It’ll be tough for them to even finish anywhere near .500 in 2014. But this is a team that should demonstrate improvement. With a few prospects potentially ready to make their debut, in addition to marginal improvement across the board, as well as a new coaching staff, 2014 won’t be all bad for the Cubs.