Continuing the NL Central Preview series, I am taking a look at each of the NL Central clubs and looking at their additions and figuring out what I project they could do in 2014.
2013 Results: 66-96, 31 games back
Key Arrivals: C George Kottaras, CF Justin Ruggiano, LHP Wesley Wright, RHP Jose Veras, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP James McDonald, 2B Emilio Bonifacio
Key Departures: RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Scott Baker, RHP Daniel Bard, 1B Mat Gamel, LF Brian Bogusevic
For the Cubs, 2014 looks like it’ll be another rebuilding season. “Just wait until next year,” continues to be the Cubs’ rallying cry as fans joked that their biggest offseason addition was Clark the Cub, the team’s new official mascot.
After two years as the manager of the Cubs where a team with an incredibly bare cupboard lost, Dale Sveum was let go as manager. The team brought in a first time manager in Rick Renteria. It wasn’t a move I thought highly of. I like Sveum as a manager and it wasn’t his fault that the team was losing. I don’t think there was a person in the world who expected the Cubs to do any better than they did.
Their only major offseason acquisition was RP Jose Veras who will be the team’s new closer. Veras finished with a 3.02 ERA and 21 saves between his time with the Houston Astros and the Detroit Tigers. The rest of their additions were bit pieces. George Kottaras is a well regarded defensive catcher. Justin Ruggiano is a solid fourth outfielder. Meanwhile Jason Hammel and James McDonald get an opportunity to catch on with the Cubs in their rotation.
There is a light on the horizon, as the Cubs do have several well regarded prospects. Their problem is that most of them are on the offensive side of the ball. While Theo Epstein does say that he feels they underrate their pitching prospects, that’s his job to say that. Overall, I do like what Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have done in Chicago, starting to rebuild the foundation, something the Cubs have lacked for over a decade.
Their big question to answer this year seems to be what kind of player is Starlin Castro? He took the big leagues by storm in his first two seasons, hitting over .300, but his OBP last season was just .284, less than his batting average in any of his other three seasons. His batting average and OBP have dropped in each of his three complete seasons in Chicago while the Cubs are on the hook for another six years due to an extension they signed with him through 2019. Will he rebound or has the league caught up to him and figured him out?
2014 Verdict: Not much improvement in Chicago, I see them ending up between 65 and 70 wins again.