by Matt Eurich
Rebuilding, the word has been thrown around since the moment Theo Epstein was hired by the Chicago Cubs to be the President of Baseball Operations last October.
Most level headed Cubs fans were accepting of the new plan and understanding that the system needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. Theo brought in Jed Hoyer to be his general manager and Jason McLeod as director of scouting and player development and they set out in their mission to improve the Cubs from the ground up.
Money was spent internationally on players with their biggest prize being the signing of Cuban defector, Jorge Soler, in June. They also drafted Albert Almora in the amateur draft and in the process selected 22 pitchers in their 40 selections.
Soler has been impressive since his debut in the Arizona league in July before his call-up to Single-A Peoria. Between his two stops, Soler had a line of .299/.369/.463, crushing five homeruns while accumulating 25 RBI. It is plausible for Soler to make his debut sometime next season with the big league club but they may feel another season in the minors will help him become more accustomed to American baseball.
Almora is more of a long term project compared to Soler but between his two stops in the Arizona League and Class-A short season Boise he has a line of .321/.331/.464 with two homeruns and 19 RBI. At just 18 years of age, Almora has plenty of room to grow and the Cubs will be in no rush to advance him but his upside should give Cubs hope for the future.
The front office wasn’t done acquiring talent after the draft and international signings. Gone in trades were Ryan Dempster, Geovany Soto, and Paul Maholm with Maholm bringing back Arodys Vizcaino, who was once a top arm in the Braves system before requiring Tommy John surgery in the spring. Vizcaino’s impact for the future is a bit of a question mark coming off of surgery, but Vizcaino has all the tools to become a number two starter in the league when healthy.
Despite the moves that Epstein has made that should improve the future, the present is remarkably bleak. The Cubs sit at 54-86 heading in to Monday night’s game against the equally terrible Astros who sit with a record of:
As fans of the big league team we have had very little to root for on the field. One bright spot of the season has been the call-up of Anthony Rizzo, who has had a solid rookie campaign with a line of .298/.350/.476 with 12 homeruns and 34 RBI. Jeff Samardzija could also be looked at as a bright spot this season after making the move from the bullpen to the rotation. Samardzija will be shut down for the rest of the season following his start on Saturday against the Pirates and finishes the year with a record of 9-13, an ERA of 3.81, and 180 strikeouts. While not exactly ace numbers, Samardzija proved that he can become a solid contributor to the rotation in the years to come.
Despite a decrease in production from his previous two seasons, Starlin Castro is still a reason to be hopeful for the future. Castro is only batting .281 this season but at just 22 years old there is still a lot of room for growth. Castro has been working with hitting coach James Rowson to become more selective at the plate and to improve on his walks and has found more power with his swing having hit a career high 11 homeruns so far this season.
Players like Castro, Rizzo, and Samardzija gives fans hope for the present moving into the future and Soler, Vizcaino, and Almora give hope for the years to come. Despite the 2012 season being one of the worst seasons in the franchise’s history, fans may ultimately be able to look back and realize that 2012 was the season that the building blocks for the future were finally put into place.