COMMENTARY | The term "core player" is being used frequently when discussing the Chicago Cubs' rebuilding plans.
It's a term that can be interpreted any number of ways, but one I simply view as a player the Cubs will count on as a long-term solution to assembling a championship-caliber team.
Anthony Rizzo, for example, is one such player. He's young (23), affordable, super-talented, and shows all the characteristics of a winning player. He's unquestionably a core player of the Cubs' rebuild.
However, it takes more than one cornerstone player to build a winner. Ideally, Chicago needs at least four positional core players and two or three pitching core players to set a strong foundation for its rebuilding plans.
DON'T WE ALREADY KNOW THE CUBS' CORE PLAYERS?
It turns out pegging the other core players aside from Rizzo isn't so easy. The Cubs' roster is chalked full of uncertainties heading into the 2013 season.
Veterans such as Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and Darwin Barney have the talents to qualify as core players, but they have yet to receive a long-term contractual commitment from the Cubs.
Meanwhile, plenty of questions surround the rest of the Cubs' potential core players, even including those who have already been awarded longer-term commitments.
Starlin Castro accepted a 7-year, $60-million extension in August, but he still needs to prove his questionable mental game will improve. Outfielder Jorge Soler, 20, is signed to a 9-year, $30-million deal, but he has yet to play a single game in the majors.
Catcher Welington Castillo, 25, has shown promise but his sample size is too small to determine with certainty if he's a core piece; he's played just 63 games over parts of three seasons with Chicago.
Center fielder Brett Jackson (.175) and third baseman Josh Vitters (.121) both struggled mightily after making their big-league debuts last September.
The questions go on and on, making it challenging to separate the Cubs' core players from their interchangeable ones.
HOW MANY CORE PLAYERS DO THE CUBS HAVE ALREADY?
By my estimation, the Cubs currently have seven total core players: two position players (Rizzo, Castro), two starting pitchers (Samardzija, Travis Wood), and three top prospects (Soler, SS Javier Baez, OF and Albert Almora).
A case can be made for including the aforementioned Garza, Barney and Castillo. But until each of their long-term standings with the organization are made more clear they're still unofficially core players.
The one thing we can be sure of is the Cubs' list of core players will stay in flux through the remainder of the offseason and into the 2013 regular season. However, that's to be expected from the organization in just its second season rebuilding under Theo Epstein.
Finding the right players to build around takes time. Players evolve, injuries occur and trades develop. But once the Cubs establish their core group of players, the rebuild will at last come into better focus.
As it stands right now, naming the Cubs' core group of players is still largely a matter of debate.
Brian Corbin is a Chicago-based sports blogger and passionate Chicago Cubs fan. He's covered the Cubs year-round since 2007 on his blog BullpenBrian.com. His posts have been published on the Chicago Sun-Times News Group web sites and numerous baseball blogs.
You can follow Brian on Twitter @bullpenbrian.
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