Tagged: Giants

Cubs Struggles Not All That Surprising

On July 29th, the Cubs returned home for the first time since the All-Star Break, seven games under .500, and without Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano, who’d both been dealt on the west coast road trip.  Things looked good.  They’d won the trip against the Rockies, DBacks, and Giants, in spite of moving Garza and Soriano.  But some warning signs were there…

First, they weren’t scoring all that much in San Francisco.  They scored six runs in the series.  It’s not like they were lighting the world on fire.  They were just less futile than the Giants that particular weekend.  And the Giants hadn’t been playing all that well, anyway.  The Cubs were playing an equal, in spite of what that banner from last October might have said.  The Giants simply aren’t all that good this season.

Coming home, they got a series with the lowly Brewers.  Who are in the division.  Which, this season, automatically means inexplicably losing at least two of the games.  Lo and behold, they drop three of the four, all of which were in typical 2013 Cubs fashion.  Pedro Strop gave up the only five runs he’s allowed as a Cub in the first game.  They dropped both games of a doubleheader, blowing leads on a James Russell home run allowed in the first game and a Kevin Gregg blown save in the second, with a third strike call that wasn’t and a soft line out to short that wasn’t helping them blow the lead in the ninth inning.

After the Brewers, they got the Dodgers for four.  As of today, the Dodgers have won 40 out of their last 48.  In case you weren’t sure, an .833 winning percentage is freakin good.  They’ve been killing everybody lately.  It would have been a surprise if the Cubs won more than once in the series, and it doesn’t come as any surprise that they didn’t win at all.  The Dodgers are a buzz saw right now, and the Cubs were a thin sheet of plywood at that point.  Sure, they could have scored some runs in the last two, but it’s not earth shattering news that they didn’t…they haven’t been scoring all that much all season long.

The road is a little more kind to the Cubs.  Splitting six games with the Phillies and Cardinals is a good result.  In spite of their record, the Phillies still have some talent on their roster, and the Cardinals have been toward the top of the standings in all of baseball since Opening Day.  Winning half of your road games is a good thing, so no complaints there.

Getting the Reds, and Mat Latos when you get back home isn’t the house warming gift a struggling offense wants or needs.  And Latos was nasty on Monday night.  So they got shut out again by another good pitcher.  They got to Homer Bailey a little bit, which was nice to see, but Bronson Arroyo, who’s pretty solid, and loves to stick it to the Cubs for whatever reason, shut them down again.

I give you that nice summary of the painful last two and a half weeks to tell you this…all of those (with the exception of the Brewers) are pretty decent teams.  The Cubs just aren’t.  Not after trading away another 40% of the rotation and the clean-up hitter.

Let’s go back to spring, with a refresher of what Theo said…

“What I want to avoid is the middle ground.  It’d be nice to make the playoffs or get a protected draft pick. We’re not hiding that. There’s no glory in 78 wins instead of 73. Who cares?

We’re going to see where we are and take a real cold assessment in the middle of the season. If we have a legitimate chance to push for a playoff spot then 2013 can become our primary focus. If we think a playoff spot’s not in the cards, there will be no concern for appearances or cosmetics whatsoever. We’ll continue to address our future and trade off some pieces that would keep us respectable.’

And presto…the team who didn’t have a chance for the playoffs this season made their cold assessment, looked to the future, moved some parts that could keep it respectable, and it’s gotten ugly against some better than average competition.  And we’re bitching about not scoring any runs?  WE WERE TOLD THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN SIX MONTHS AGO!  If you thought the Cubs had a chance to win the division or compete for a playoff spot, you were one of three things: on the team and have to believe you’re not going to suck just to keep your own sanity, a big time optimist, or delusional.  I had the Cubs, as they arrived at camp, hanging around .500.  (I also had the Pirates finishing dead last in the division, so take it for what you will)  I made that prediction early because nobody for sure can never tell who’s going to stay or go, or get hurt.  And, the team that broke camp, actually played well enough to be near .500 every month except for April (10-16) and thus far in August.

The moral of the story here is simple…It is ridiculous to be on board with the rebuild and bemoan that the team isn’t all that good during the middle of it.  It’s even more ridiculous to be critical of how ugly it is when we were told explicitly by the guy who was going to decide on who to move and when to move them that it was probably going to happen.  None of this is a surprise.  If it is, you haven’t been paying attention.

I now return you to waiting for Javier Baez to hit another home run in AA.

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Cubs Will Have Competition When Selling Off Pieces

With the news that the Cubs are now “Open For Business,” it is apparent that the “cold assessment” of where the Cubs are is complete, and the plug is being pulled.  In reality, it isn’t any big secret that the Cubs were going to sell off pieces this summer, as the rebuild continues.

The timing couldn’t be better.  While other teams are deciding whether or not to get into the market and start moving anything that isn’t bolted down, the Cubs should start making moves now.  The reason is simple: they have a lot of pieces that can be had from other teams if and when they get into the fray.

Starting pitching is going to be heavily available this summer.  The Phillies have denied that Cliff Lee is going to be available, but that is far from definite.  The Phillies could cure a lot of ailments with that arm, and if they decide to move players, Lee is the biggest and best chip they have to push into the center of the table.  His presence would put a major damper on the market for Matt Garza.  If a team like the Giants or the Rangers is looking for an arm to push them back into the Fall Classic, Lee is going to be sought before Garza.  He comes with more control and he’s a better pitcher.  His price will be bigger, but his reward will match.

Trading Garza will also be met by the resistance of the potential for the Brewers to put Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse on the market, the Blue Jays to seek to move Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, or the White Sox trying to trade Jake Peavy.  All would be nice acquisitions that could be thrown into the middle of someone’s rotation for a run to October.  At this early stage, it would appear to be a buyers’ market for mid-rotation starting pitching as the deadline draws closer.

The same can be said about a player like Scott Feldman, who can start at the back of a rotation until the playoffs and become a contributor out of the bullpen in October.  The Twins can move Kevin Correia, the Marlins will likely move Ricky Nolasco, and the Astros are going to try to unload Bud Norris, so the market for a piece to add to the back of a rotation could also get to be a little crowded.

Yet another problem the Cubs face is the marked improvement of their farm system.  The Cubs are not in a position where they have to take on as much talent as they can get because the system is so depleted that it needs as many good bodies as it can take on.  The major area of weakness for the Cubs is in the pitching department.  The front office acknowledged that the pitching is going to come from international signings and from the trade deadline.  The problem with that strategy is simple: the teams who are going to look at adding pieces aren’t rich in pitching prospects.  The Giants and Rangers don’t have a lot of pitching depth in their systems.  Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn are the Giants’ top two prospects, and both are in the bottom quarter of Keith Law’s top 100 prospects this season.

What has been said repeatedly still holds true.  If the Cubs can find a team who needs multiple pieces that the Cubs can provide, they have their best opportunity to maximize their return.  What has not been said, though, is that the Cubs face a lot of competition for the players they have to offer, especially the pitching.  It would be doubtful to see the extensive sell-off this season for that reason.  There will be more teams offering similar pieces, and the other teams offering their veteran players need a lot more for their depleted farm systems, which make it much easier to make a deal.

 

The Cubs Can’t (And Shouldn’t) Try to Win Now

In 2011, the Cubs and Cardinals shared something in common.  Both dreamed of 2012 with Albert Pujols in the line-up.  Jerseys,

shirsies, and Cubs’ gear with the signature 5 on the back started appearing.  And then Jim Hendry gave him a hug.  And we all leaned forward.  And then Hendry got fired and Theo Epstein got the job to lead the front office after spending mega-dollars in Boston.  We all thought it was a sure thing that the Cubs would sign Pujols or former Brewer, Prince Fielder.  And then the Cubs traded for Anthony Rizzo.  And the dreaming was over.

The start of a rebuild was upon us.  None of us thought it was 101 losses bad.  We didn’t think we would be waiting until 2015 to be realistic contenders.  That is, however, where we are.  And it is exactly where we should be.

My favorite conversations are with the people who talk about “winning now.”  We should buy free agents to win now while prospects develop so that we have a good major league product while we develop a minor league product.  The reality, though, is that logic is flawed.  Because the evidence suggests that it fails just about 100% of the time.

The New York Yankees are the poster-children for throwing money at flaws.  In fact, the Yankees have spent, since 2001, roughly $2.375 BILLION on payroll.  They have appeared in the World Series only three times (2001, 2003, and 2009), and have only won once (2009).  They spent about $792 million per World Series appearance.  Meanwhile, the Cubs have spent about $1.294 billion on payroll for three PLAYOFF appearances, and no World Series berths in the same time frame.  Every year, the Cubs are in the top half (even now) in total payroll and have had among the highest in the National League over the last 13 years.

The teams who are winning are those who draft their players, develop them, bring them up, and learn to win at the MLB level.  There is a reason the Rays are one of the most stable franchises in baseball now, in spite of having to let players like Matt Garza, Carl Crawford, James Shields, and likely soon will let David Price walk out the door.  They do their work on the draft and turn their talent into contending quality major league teams.  The Giants have done the same thing with home grown Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Buster Posey, et al winning two of the last three championships.  The Cardinals refused to pay Albert Pujols more than he was worth.  They set a number and a length for him, and refused to budge.  He went to the Angels, and his legs stayed in St. Louis.  Meanwhile, he has eight years left on his contract.  He’ll be a player who can’t run, can’t be traded, and has to be paid until 2021.  Sound familiar?  A certain left fielder has drawn the ire of Cubs fans for failing to live up to his deal, and Pujols has an even worse contract.

Like it did with the Rays, the Phillies when they won with a core of Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins (all home grown), and the Giants, it will take time for the Cubs to roll the snowball of building talent into a top down organizational juggernaut like the current Cardinals (who have the best record in baseball and one of  the best farm systems to pair with it), but it is the right direction.

In the coming free agent class, there are no game changers to make the Cubs instant contenders.  That is just another flaw in a completely unsustainable plan.  Robinson Cano is the only potential free agent who could make an impact on a line up, and it is highly unlikely that he leaves New York.  Shin Soo Choo is a nice piece, but he isn’t pushing the Cubs into the category of making a deep October run.  Jacoby Ellsbury is a good player who may finally be healthy, but he is nearing the wrong side of 30, and has an injury history that makes him a salary liability.  And if/ when the Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Brett Jackson, Kris Bryant group gets to Chicago, they have an old player with a big contract blocking them.  The pitching isn’t much better in the coming off-season.  The most accomplished free agent pitcher to be is already on the Cubs’ roster in Matt Garza.

Losing games isn’t any fun.  It’s easy to understand the frustration of watching the team lose games they could win, sink to the bottom of the division in May, and sell off veteran pieces for players who may turn into nothing.  But throwing money at free agents and trading every nice piece in the farm for a chance at one year is how the Cubs got to this point in the first place.  They are much better served developing their players, bringing them to the big league level, and trading prospects only when the return is a player who can be useful for sustained success.  Money is best spent in the manner the front office has shown that it is going to spend it…on its own core pieces.  Keeping young talent in-house for mutually beneficial deals is a very good way to spend money, and the Cubs’ position as a big market team should be able to allow them to hang on to their players, and not have to purge them when they have out-performed their contracts.

An unfortunate side effect to doing it the right way is that it takes time.  And it will.  Anything worth doing, though, is worth doing right.  Doing it right takes time, and good things come to those who wait, and all those other things we were told when we were kids.  They’re all true.

Early Season Thoughts

Sometimes, things aren’t as bad as they seem.

The 2013 Cubs are a pretty good example of that.  They’ve had no offense to speak of.  The back end of the bullpen was an unmitigated disaster for the first two weeks.  The defense let the Cubs down on a number of occasions; yet the Cubs are 10-15, and have won five out of seven.

Record wise, the team isn’t far off of expectations.  We knew this team was not going to compete with the Reds and Cardinals this season.  We knew the offense was going to struggle at times.  And we knew the early season was going to be a strong test because of the good teams the Cubs were going to play.  The results of the test are in, and the Cubs passed.  They may have only passed with a 65, but they passed.  And they missed a lot of opportunities to really improve on that grade.

It isn’t all that difficult to understand why we, as fans, are so disappointed, though.  The interaction in Twitter is a good indication of what most of us are feeling.  It could be so much better.  The Cubs played well enough to win three of the games with the Giants.  They shouldn’t have been swept by the Braves.  Or the Brewers in Miller Park.  They’ve shot themselves in the foot more times that we should have expected, especially after the steps forward in fundamental baseball that the team took last season.

That’s what young teams do.  I’ve said this a number of times to folks on Twitter.  Winning is a learned behavior.  There aren’t many players on this team who have a lot of experience with winning.  There’s Alfonso Soriano from his days with the Yankees and first couple of years with the Cubs.  Nate Schierholtz was with the Giants when they won the World Series in 2010.  Scott Feldman was with the Rangers the last couple of years.  Carlos Villanueva went to the playoffs with the Brewers in 2008.  Edwin Jackson’s been on his share of winners.  So, two position players, who play on a regular basis, and three starting pitchers.  That’s not a whole lot.

Here’s my point.  There is a time coming for winning.  It’s not here, yet, but it’s coming.  Teams like the Braves, Rangers, Brewers and Giants all know how to finish games at this point.  There are veteran players on those teams who have tasted success at the major league level.  They know how to take advantage of young, impressionable teams like the Cubs.  And they take those advantages.  In the end, the fans feel violated.  But the team grows up, figures out how to avoid the killer mistake, and hangs on.

Nights like last night, where the bullpen is good and the defense makes some plays to hold on to the game, become more prevalent when a team is good.  The value of last night’s game is huge.  Because unlike the standard for the early season, the Cubs found a way to win.  It was only 1/162 of the season, but that was the most valuable win of the season, thus far.  This time, when the Cubs closed the door, they kept it closed.  And that is a big step in the right direction.

We can’t hang onto games past.  First, because our hearts can’t take the stress.  But mostly, because with this team in its current form, everything is a day to day process.  After every game, lets move on to the next one.  That’s the great thing about baseball.  All summer long, there’s always tomorrow to try again, regardless of today’s result.

Errors In Judgement

There is no denying that it’s been tough to watch at times in the early going.  The errors, the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position, the lack of patience at the plate, the base running blunders…it’s all been quite frustrating.  There is a bright side, though.  It can’t get any worse.

In my Central Division Preview, I called the Cubs an 80 win team.  I made my predictions, intentionally early, based on the on-paper roster.  It actually looks pretty good right now.  *Hold on, meatball…before you call me a moron and tell me to watch the games, you’re right.*  But hear me out.  The Cubs are losing games, which is to say they are not being beaten by the other teams, but by themselves.  We can agree they played well enough to win one against the Braves, two more than they did against the Giants, and probably the first two of this series against the Brewers without the mistakes which have cost them early.  There are five wins in there the Cubs don’t have, that they could have.  And really, if they win two or three of those five games, nobody’s saying anything about the errors or struggles with runners in scoring position because an 8-8 or a 7-9 record would be acceptable based on what we were expecting this season.

More silver lining:  the mistakes are inexcusable.  They are not, however, uncorrectable.  Change can happen with the defense, especially when the vast majority are effort mistakes.  Anthony Rizzo is a very good defensive first baseman, and has made two uncharacteristic plays in the last two nights.  Both of them were because he was trying to rush.  Friday, on a play against a speedy Nori Aoki, and last night trying to get an out and throw home on a play he wasn’t going to make.  Ultimately, the play last night didn’t matter.  Sure, he bobbled the ball, but they still got the out at first base, and he wasn’t going to hold Logan Schafer at third anyway.  That’s a “no harm, no foul” play.  The misplay was not relevant to the outcome of the play.  Starlin Castro is our favorite whipping boy, and it probably has a lot to do with his off the charts talent.  His issues have not been concentration related, either as much as they’re publicized as.  Say what you will about an error with the pitcher running, but that was a physical mistake, not taking his time and making the play.  Stop with the garbage “you have to be aware of who’s running” stuff.  Last night was no different.  Actually, it was the same play.  Two outs, and making the play ends the innings and ends the scoring threat.

Photo: Jeffrey Phelps/ AP

Photo: Jeffrey Phelps/ AP

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be disappointed or frustrated or cover our eyes while we watch yet another defeat being snatched out of the jaws of victory.  At the end of the day, though, who cares?  The front office, and Theo Epstein, in particular make no qualms about “playoffs or protected pick.”  He said that they’re going to take the “cold assessment” in the middle of the season.  There is no valor in winning 78 vs 73.  He’s absolutely right, too.  Hell, I’ll take it a step further.  When you watch the game today, look across the field at the other dugout.  They won 83 last season.  Our guys got 61.  Everybody finished on the same day.  Their fans get to talk about the magical “winning season” and we get mocked for “101 losses.”  But in June, the Cubs get a prize.  They get Mark Appel or Jonathan Gray.  They get a chance at a college arm who can be teamed with Jeff Samardzija for years to come.  The Brewers coughed up a first round pick for three years of Kyle Lohse, and with it, stay stuck in mediocrity.  They can have their 75-84 wins each year.  If the Cubs go down with another 100+ losses this season, that’s alright. *Cue Meatball fan throwing closing the browser window…NOW*  It’s not like tthe Cubs have had a difficult time attracting free agents.  Edwin Jackson was one of the prizes of last winter’s class, and he came.

The Cubs are in the midst of culture change.  A welcome one.  Look across the field at the Brewers, again.  Now think back to 2011 and what the Cubs were.  In 2011, the Cubs didn’t have anybody but Starlin Castro who would actually be improving over the course of the next 4-5 years.  Everyone on the roster was either in or past their prime.  They won 71 games.  It was miserable.  It was worse than we have now because it was hopeless.  We wanted to think adding Carlos Pena and trading the farm for Matt Garza would be enough to have another magical winning season.  We hoped Carlos Zambrano wouldn’t be a complete headcase, and with him, Garza, and Ryan Dempster, there would be a rotation worth running out each day.  We had Kerry Wood and Sean Marshall setting up for Carlos Marmol, which turned out to be a decent pen when the Cubs actually led.  Aramis Ramirez was still at third and it didn’t look like an endless abyss of suck.  The reality of that team, though, is that the only player who played any considerable amount of time with any potential to grow was Starlin Castro.  *Meatball, if you’re still with me,  I’m talking to you again…yes, Starlin is getting better.  No, we shouldn’t trade him unless we get a lot in return, and yes, his defense is above league average.*  Now, look at the Brewers.  Lucroy is pretty good, but at 26 is probably not going to get much better, if at all.  Ryan Braun is in the twilight of his 20s, and is in his prime.  Jean Segura is a young and talented player who will improve.  But apart from that, who else is there?  Their minor league organization is bare, and Aramis Ramirez is two years older than the past his prime Rami we saw a couple of years ago.  Corey Hart can’t stay healthy, and is starting to get to the point of decline.  Rickie Weeks is a laughable shell of his former self.  It all looks very familiar to our situation a couple of years ago.

The point of all of this is that, like Wrigley Field, the product on the field was a real mess a couple of years ago.  That’s why Jim Hendry was fired, that’s why Theo Epstein was given the reigns, and that’s why we are where we are.  It needed to be done.  Like any massive renovation, some things are going to be broken down, some things are going to be ugly and tough to handle, but in the end, the foundation will be stronger and the finished product will look better.  If you take anything from this series, take it as progress.  Two short years ago, the Cubs may have won some games because a less talented team made some silly mistakes against a team of aging veterans who weren’t going to be better than 71 wins, but wouldn’t beat themselves as often.  Honestly, I would rather the Cubs throw the ball around the diamond and beat themselves than get run day after day.  That’s not happening.  What is happening is a young team learning to play together, and learning to win together.  It’s hard to watch.  It may result in being swept out of Milwaukee.

We knew what 2013 was coming in.  It still is.  A bridge to next year.

Rainy Day Theater

For a day without a game, there sure is a lot of drama surrounding the Cubs today…

  • For starters, David Kaplan has an interview posted on CSN with Theo Epstein that will air tonight at 10 PM.  For those that don’t live in Chicago or don’t get CSN or don’t want to click the link, the short of it is: they’re sticking to the plan.  Bleacher Nation has a number of great quotes posted from the interview if you want a little more depth.  My two cents remain the same.  This is the right way to do it.  In an era with free agency yielding weaker classes, draft slotting, international spending limits, etc, it’s going to be tougher to get good overnight, so trading veterans when the team is out of it, developing a stockpile of talent, and making them a cohesive team that grows together and learns to win together is the best way to be a contender for a long time.  There was some great action on Twitter and the linked BN post’s comment section from people who want the checkbook to flop open, but none of it is realistic.  The good news is that as this season wears on, we should see improvement, and going into next season, the team could play winning baseball.  I’ve said before that last season was as much fun watching the Cubs as I’ve had since 2008…because we could see players get better and what was building.  The last two months were brutal by design.  The long term value of getting Jackson, Vitters, Rusin, and the
    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    Brian Kersey/Getty Images

    other youngsters up was off the charts, though.

  • I Tweeted a few moments ago that I hope the goat’s head that was sent to Wrigley today was actually allowed in the park.  It would be silly to renew the curse on a rain day.
  • Patrick Mooney and Bruce Levine both have posts about Starlin Castro out today.  I keep saying when that kid grows up, he’s going to be really good at baseball.  It’s still true.  The best part of both stories is that it seems like Castro himself wants to meet his off the charts potential.  There is no debate about how good he can be.  For those who forget, he’s 23.  He is a week YOUNGER than Jean Segura, who was in town with the Brewers this week, and Segura didn’t make his way to the majors until the Brewers got him in the Zack Greinke deal and they were basically giving up on the season.  Castro, in his fourth season, is a legitimate 20/20 threat with great range (ask Carlos Marmol about this), and want to.  Not a bad deal.
  • Hooray for not having a deal!  Sort of.  Lots of sources for the information from last night’s meeting about the renovation that was closed to media, but Bleed Cubbie Blue does the math for the alderman.  I’ve said all along that the Cubs should explore the suburbs.  A number of different stories have said Tom Ricketts’ siblings agree.  I think if the city had a credible reason to believe the Cubs would pack their balls and bats and go to Rosemont, they’d be a lot more willing to cough up some night games.  It’s good to know the Cubs and the city have some agreement on 40 games and four concerts.  I’m with the crowd that says the Cubs should get the six flexible dates for TV on top of the 44 night events that have been agreed to.  Mostly because the Cubs are willing to pay for all of this themselves.  At some point, the neighbors need to suck it up and know who butters their bread…and it’s not the alderman or the mayor, in spite of what those individuals think.
  • Last night, I had a tweet (among the others with his truly not good stats) that I think David DeJesus saw, “.@David_DeJesus3 needs to go. Bottom of the order. Bench. Somewhere. He’s awful. #Cubs  After that point, he went 3-3, which caused me to say, “Remember all that stuff I said about @David_DeJesus3 earlier tonight? David, I’m so, so, so sorry. Seriously. My bad. Do you need a maid?”  While I am not easily swayed, DDJ was terrific last night in the clutch.  And I’m sorry I doubted him.  Until the next time I do it.

The Giants are in tomorrow afternoon to start a four game series after smacking the Rockies around a little bit.  Let’s hope they got all that hitting out of their system and Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner miss the plane to Chicago and can’t get flights to anywhere but Milwaukee (which is where they play starting on Monday).  Hopefully, the Cubs can manage to win their now nine game homestand, but that won’t be easy with the Rangers following the Giants.

 

 

2013 Positional Preview: The Outfield

Starting with the outfield in breaking down the season seems to be pretty easy.  There are no spots up in the air at this point, as all three spots are filled.  Actually, the only question in the outfield is who the fifth and final outfielder on the roster is going to be.

Right Field:  Nate Schierholtz/ Scott Hairston
The most interesting spot in the outfield is the one with the platoon.  Newcomers Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston offer a little bit more of what a corner outfielder should be in their ability to hit for power than David DeJesus did for much of last season, but neither of them is a long term solution to the side that has been most problematic since the departure of Sammy Sosa.  They are mere placeholders for top prospect, Jorge Soler, who figures to be the long term solution to what has been a revolving door for eight seasons.
Nate Schierholtz was signed to a one year deal, and is finally getting the chance to be an everyday player (for the most part).  As a former top prospect in the Giants’ system, he sports 24 career home runs, which is a season’s worth for a player you’d want starting in a corner outfield position.  Nate’s defense has never been at issue.  The biggest factor for him coming to Wrigley may be the most challenging RF corner in the game, where the summer sun can make routine fly balls a little more adventuresome than they should be.
Scott Hairston is another player who has not been the everyday player over the course of his nine years, but did show some pop in his bat, hitting 25 long balls last season.  Brother of former Cub, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Scott has the bloodlines to be a good player, but hasn’t gotten the opportunity to be one on an everyday basis.  Considering how long he’s been around, there is likely a reason for that.  There is no reason to think he won’t be productive this year, but a 32 year old on a two year contract makes him a placeholder for Soler.

Center Field: David DeJesus

DeJesus is a little more suited to play center with the numbers he puts up and his defensive ability.  His willingness to work counts and take a walk makes him a favorite of Dale Sveum and the front office, as his approach is the one the organization is working to install into all of its hitters.  As a fan of the game, I admire what DDJ does for the team.  He’s a veteran leader who will give the team four professional at-bats each day.  As an objective (as much as possible) observer, I would prefer to see someone like DeJesus hitting seventh.  The fact that this is the lead-off hitter speaks to how incomplete the rebuilding process is.  David DeJesus could very well find himself on another roster at the deadline this year if Brett Jackson’s progress with his swing continues at the pace it seems to have been.  He could end up being this season’s Bryan LaHair…displaced by one of the up and coming prospects, and my feeling is, if Jackson gets to Chicago this season (likely), he will be there to play, and he will be there to play everyday.

Left Field: Alfonso Soriano

If Fonsi can repeat what he did last season, he’s going to command a high price at the deadline.  I do not see Soriano going anywhere.  Either the coaching staff and front office mean what they say about him and his value to the team as a player and a leader for young players, and truly believe he is a valuable piece of the immediate process of building toward the future by teaching young players like Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler to be professionals and how to deal with being highly touted prospects, or their words are pricing any potential suitors for him out of the market.  I think the team believes the former, but the latter is probably a bi-product of it.  As such, I am pretty confident that Soriano is going to be the left fielder for the Chicago Cubs through the 2014 season.  And I am confident that he will hit 20+ HRs and drive in 85+ runs each of the next two seasons.  If he is able to play at the defensive level that he did last season, I don’t have any problem with it.

Reserves: Dave Sappelt

I am projecting Sappelt to win this last outfield spot.  He can play all three positions and his bat is not a liability.  He stands to be the front-runner to lock up the last spot in a crowded outfield.

Final Analysis:

Quantity and quality are not the same thing.  The Cubs’ outfield is a prime example of that.  Soriano is the best of them, and his numbers say he’s a solid player out there.  David DeJesus is best suited as a fourth outfielder, given his versatility, defensive prowess, and his mediocre bat.  Neither of the right fielders in the platoon sparks much confidence in big numbers, which is exactly why they are in a platoon to begin with.  The outfield is very obviously waiting for the arrivals of Brett Jackson on a permanent basis, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora.  Until that time, there are going to be stop gap players and guys playing above their ability.  The production should improve in the outfield this season from right field, which is to say there should be some.  The defense should be strong.  But don’t bother buying any of their jerseys…they won’t be around long.