2011 wasn’t a great year for the Cubs by any stretch of the imagination, and as large market teams tend to do when they get into that situation, the Cubs retooled. A new manager in Dale Sveum, a new president in Theo Epstein, and a new general manager in Jed Hoyer are in the process of completely blowing up the Cubs and rebuilding them. It might take awhile, but the results will eventually be worth it.
Depth Chart (as of 3/19)
C: Geovany Soto
1B: Brian LaHair
2B: Darwin Barney
SS: Starlin Castro
3B: Ian Stewart
LF: Alfonso Soriano
CF: Marlon Byrd
RF: David DeJesus
SP: Matt Garza
SP: Ryan Dempster
SP: Paul Maholm
SP: Jeff Samardzija
SP: Chris Volstad
CL: Carlos Marmol
I already mentioned the new manager, GM, and president of the Cubs. Ian Stewart is the team’s new third baseman, coming over from the Rockies this offseason. The Cubs also have a new utility player in Adrian Cardenas, the former Athletics prospect. Chicago’s new right fielder is former Royals and A’s standout David DeJesus. They also have a pair of new starting pitchers, in Paul Maholm (last of the Pirates) and Chris Volstad (the former Marlin).
Let’s see here….hothead Carlos Zambrano was dealt to the Marlins for Volstad this offseason, with the Cubs picking up a huge chunk of his contract in the process. Reliever Andrew Cashner was dealt to San Diego for future first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Former first baseman Carlos Pena went back to Tampa after a year with the Cubs. Across the diamond, long-time third baseman Aramis Ramirez left town as well, going to to the division rival Brewers. Former outfielder Tyler Colvin was dealt to Colorado as part of the Stewart deal. The Cubs’ top reliever, Sean Marshall, was traded to the Reds before hitting free agency as well.
There’s Rizzo, who could push minor league veteran Brian LaHair for playing time at first base if he struggles. Rafael Dolis is seemingly destined for a slot in this year’s Cubs bullpen. If catcher Geovany Soto is dealt for some reason, Wellington Castillo could get a shot at a full-time job behind the plate.
LaHair was promised the first base position this offseason, but don’t be surprised when Rizzo wrests it from his grasp, possibly before we even get to the summer. If Jeff Samardzija struggles in his new role as a member of the Cubs rotation, former starter Randy Wells could switch spots with him and go back to starting every fifth day.
The Cubs are healthy right now. The team is probably wishing Alfonso Soriano would do something dumb and wouldn’t have to play every day, though.
Is the Cubs rotation solid enough to break .500 after Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster?
Soriano remembers he was once a 40/40 player, and plays like one. Maholm, Samardzija, and Volstad all post ERAs under 4.00. The rest of the Cubs offense comes into sync, and the team cracks .500 and contends for a wild card slot.
Soriano’s contract continues to sap the life out of the team. The rotation is dreadful. The Cubs “scrappy” young players play like they’re all David Eckstein, and the Cubs battle the Astros for the basement in the NL Central.
This is not a great team. I’m not even sure if it’s a good team. But there are some good players on this Cubs squad, and they could contend under the right circumstances. I don’t think that’s this year though, as this looks like a team with the ceiling of a fourth place team.