In the This Is My Nightmare series, we'll take a look at what the absolute worst case scenario for each team would be in 2013. Think of it as the negative complement to our You May Say I'm A Dreamer series that we'll be running during our preview series.
The nightmare has already begun for the Cubs with the news that Matt Garza will start the year on the DL. Oh but wait, there's much more.
Edwin Jackson, Chicago's prime offseason acquisition, has bounced around from team to team due to his maddening inconsistency but solid overall repertoire. What if Jackson, finally locked into a long-term contract, gets complacent knowing he won't be dealt for at least two seasons and his performance suffers as a result? That would be a major blow to the rebuilding efforts of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, especially after the team whiffed on Anibal Sanchez.
Another nightmare would involve Alfonso Soriano refusing to waive his no-trade clause and sticking with the Cubs to finish his contract, their place in the NL Central standings notwithstanding. Soriano had a great year for the Cubs in 2012, but was pretty pitiful in 2011 and is now 36. There's definite potential for him to fall off a cliff with no rope this year.
More nightmares with the Cubs would involve players that actually could be part of their future, specifically shortstop Starlin Castro and center fielder Brett Jackson. Jackson was terrible in a 44 game trial in the majors last season, striking out 59 times in 142 plate appearances, and there are questions about whether or not he'll actually be able to start full-time in the majors. As for Castro, he got a nice long-term deal last year and has steadily been improving during his three years in the majors. But what if the soon to be 23-year old takes a step backwards defensively and fails to grow offensively, essentially turning him into a barely above replacement level player locked up for seven years? That wouldn't be good either for the Cubs.
Maybe Jeff Samardzija's breakout season in 2012 was really just a fluke, and Shark starts showing the command issues that plagued him throughout his career as a reliever. Maybe Scott Baker and Scott Feldman, both signed to one-year deals with the potential expectation of dealing them in July, both struggle in their return from injury and are essentially sunk costs for Chicago. Maybe Japanese Kyuji Fujikawa struggles in his MLB rookie season, and can't even wrestle the closer's job away from the erratic Carlos Marmol. There's a lot of bad things that can happen on Chicago's pitching staff aside from what's already happened with Garza.
When it comes down to it, none of that really matters aside from Castro struggling. The Cubs are building for the future, and a nightmare would involve any of Javier Baez, Albert Almora, or Jorge Soler having a bad 2013 season that results in steps going backward instead of forward. Those three are the top prospects in the organization (in whatever order), and all are expected to be huge parts of Chicago's long-term future. Most of the attention on the North Side this year will be focused on their minor league affiliates as opposed to Wrigley Field, and if those three have bad years, there could be even more self-loathing going on among Cubs fans.