2012 Outlook: Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs are coming off of another disappointing season where they failed to make the playoffs. Offensively they got good production, but struggled mightily with their plate discipline. Their pitching as a staff was fairly decent, but their rotation faced a few problems. During the off-season they got former Red Sox General Manager, Theo Epstein. Epstein will take over as President of Baseball Operations. Former Padres GM Jed Hoyer also joined the Cubs at the same position. The Cubs didn’t stop there. Hoyer went out and ┬átraded for first baseman Anthony Rizzo. If everything goes right, Rizzo will be the Cubs first ┬ábaseman of the future.

Offensively their best player was Aramis Ramirez, but this off-season he signed a multi-year deal to join the Brewers. To replace Ramirez, the Cubs went out and traded for third baseman Ian Stewart of the Colorado Rockies. Stewart offers above average power. With that power though comes a high strikeout percentage. Bryan LaHair will at least start the season at first base, until Anthony Rizzo is ready to make his Cubs debut. The past three seasons in triple A, LaHair has posted huge power numbers. He hasn’t gotten the chance to show if he is the real deal or if he’s a quad A player. The Cubs seem to at least be willing to give him a shot. Geovany Soto has put together some decent seasons as the Cubs’ catcher. He has decent power, and if he can contribute 2.5 WAR then the Cubs have to be happy with that.

Starlin Castro has shown that he is the real deal at shortstop. After his two seasons as a pro, he’s posted a slash line of .304/.343/.422. A large part of that can be due to his extremely high BABIP of .345. In Castro’s place it may not be luck, since he is a ridiculously fast player. Darwin Barney will be playing second for the Cubs, and for the most part he isn’t terrible. Last year, in his first full season he posted 2.2 WAR. He doesn’t have a lot of power, nor does he walk alot, but the one positive thing he does do is that he limits strikeouts. Darwin probably isn’t the long-term solution, but he is a nice role player.

Their outfield is one of their weak spots. Alfonso Soriano turned in another mediocre season, and doesn’t look to improve much. The Cubs are stuck paying him $18m a year for the next three years as well, so he isn’t going anywhere. Marlon Byrd also posted a disappointing year. He did post 2 WAR though, so he has the potential to be at least serviceable. David DeJesus signed a two year deal to come to Chicago from Oakland. Throughout his career, DeJesus has been fairly underrated. He has the potential to give the Cubs between 4-5 WAR during his contract.

Matt Garza was one of the few bright spots for this team. He had 5 WAR, a 2.95 FIP and a 3.19 xFIP. There have been rumors of the Cubs attempting to trade him, and there have been rumors stating the exact opposite. For now I think it’s in Chicago’s best interest to keep him. Ryan Dempster was also a pitcher who was relatively good. He had 3 WAR and a FIP under 4. He definitely should be able to be a mainstay in the Cub’s rotation. The Cubs finally got rid of Zambrano, in return they received starting pitcher Chris Volstad. Volstad isn’t anything great, he may find his spot taken by Randy Wells down the road. They also swapped RP Sean Marshall with former Red SP, Travis Wood. Wood doesn’t have a lot of starts under his belt, but could turn into a decent number three or four pitcher. Finally, they went out and got Paul Maholm. Maholm isn’t a great pitcher, but he is one that can potentially eat up some innings.

With the loss of Sean Marshall, their bullpen is pretty thin. Carlos Marmol is coming off his worst season of his career. Once you get past him there isn’t much.

The Reds, Brewers, and Cardinals l will be fighting for a playoff spot, so this season may not be the best. The Cubs do have Theo Epstein though and he has given the Red Sox two titles in the last ten years. Given the payroll the Cubs have, it’s not too far-fetched to assume that the Cubs could be back in the playoffs in the near future.

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