Theo Epstein: Chicago Cubs plan to contend in 2015


Theo Epstein knows a thing or two about breaking curses. As general manager of the Boston Red Sox from 2002 to 2011, Epstein helped deliver three championships to a Boston fan base that was previously scarred with the mystical “Curse of the Bambino.”

Now, Epstein has a similar challenge on his hands, but this time it involves the “Curse of the Billy Goat” and a fan base without a championship since 1908.

In an ESPNChicago report, Epstein talked about expectations for the Cubs in 2015:

"“Overall, for the organization, I think 2015 will be a little bit different than the previous three seasons in that we now think we have the talent to compete and any time you have enough talent to compete you want to set your sights high. We proved we can be very competitive within this division and when you have a chance to compete you should set your sights high and that means our goal is the NL Central title next year.”"

After a last place finish in the National League Central with a record of 73-89, Epstein and the Cubs face an uphill battle to reach the promised land. Fans were eager to catch a glimpse of the renowned crop of young players Epstein was stashing in his farm system and luckily they were able to this season. Javier Baez and Jorge Soler made the strongest impression, while the 2014 Minor League Player of the Year Kris Bryant should not be too far behind them.

The main factor in a potential Cubs postseason party will be whether or not the club with be able to find more reliable starting pitching. At the conclusion of the 2014 season, Cubs starters were ranked 23rd in the majors allowing 4.36 runs per game. That number will need to improve next season.

One way Epstein can choose to improve the rotation is by way of free agency where he will have the chance to bid on studs like Max Scherzer and James Shields this winter. The Cubbies will certainly have enough money to dish considering they rank sixth in revenue at $266 million, according to Forbes.

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The tricky part about this is that although the Cubs young prospects are intriguing and provide many instances of supreme joy, they are all still young and may not be ready to contend for the postseason any time soon. I know Theo has been gung-ho about the whole youth movement, but it would not surprise me if he traded a few of his young studs for some established veterans.

Remember, Starlin Castro is still on this team (and locked up in a cheap contract) and with Javier Baez and Addison Russell breathing down his neck, something has to give. Maybe the Cubs will choose to go the trade route to acquire more starting pitching.

Either way, Epstein has an assortment of riches when it comes to his young prospects, which is a great place to start. General managers love to have two things: a ton of options and hope for their fan base. Epstein is fortunate to have both.

It will be interesting to see what he chooses to do this winter and beyond to position his Cubs for a potential postseason appearance.