COMMENTARY | Let's be honest, it's pretty hard to make the argument that your season was a success when you're currently rounding out the bottom of your division, no matter how mired in a rebuilding process you may be.
But considering where they are in that rebuilding process, it's equally difficult to say Chicago Cubs haven't managed a successful 2013 season.
The Cubs have more wins than they did in 2012
With five games to go, the Cubs have won four more games than they did in 2012. While the total number might be a little lower than it appeared it would be earlier in the season (they were only eight games under .500 as late as July 20), it's a basic imperative that the team should be improving every season record wise. And the Cubs have.
The Cubs continued to bring in high-end prospects
Since Theo Epstein took over prior to the 2012 season, the Cubs have brought in a number of high-end prospects. And through the draft and a few trades, 2013 has been no different.
After selecting Kris Bryant with the second-overall pick, the Cubs got Pedro Strop (who looks more like the Cubs' future closer every week) in the trade of Scott Feldman, and acquired Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, and C.J Edwards in the Matt Garza trade. These acquisitions are in addition to the already-present talent -- Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo
Travis Wood and Nate Schierholtz have been genuine, much-needed surprises
It's no secret the Cubs need long-term answers in the starting pitcher department. And with Garza gone via trade and Jeff Samardzija frustratingly inconsistent, the Cubs were getting pretty thin with their in-house options.
Enter Travis Wood. Wood has maintained an ERA under 3.00 (2.98) and has surrendered only 159 hits in 199 innings. At only 26, Wood has established himself as a pitcher the Cubs can move forward with -- something they desperately needed.
Nate Schierholtz has rewarded the Cubs' decision of not trading him -- .252 AVG, 21 HRs, 68 RBIs. He isn't necessarily the man you want as your offensive anchor, but if the Cubs continue inserting pieces around him, he will continue to be a welcome addition to the lineup.
In the midst of rebuilding, the Cubs went forward with the idea that Wellington Castillo was the answer at catcher, despite underwhelming results. Prior to his season-ending knee injury, Castillo was batting .287 between July 30 and September 19, finishing his season with a .271 batting average. Still not elite, Castillo has shown enough upside that he can be considered an average to above-average catcher.
Having Dioner Navarro as a backup has been a lifesaver for the Cubs. Navarro has had an exceptional year in limited duty -- .303 AVG, 13 HRs, 34 RBIs, .867 OPS -- and works as a great complement to Castillo. He doubles as an effective pinch-hitter -- .286 AVG, 2 HRs, 4 RBIs in 2013. For a position that looked to be in flux, Castillo and Navarro could be seen as effective options for the next few years.
Pedro Strop as a potential closer
Despite Kevin Gregg's unexpected, substantial success 2013 (32-for-37 in saves), his inconsistencies over the last few seasons (and his recent run-in with the Cubs' front office) make him an unlikely long-term solution at the back end of the Cubs' bullpen.
Strop -- who came over in the Scott Feldman trade -- has been a steal. Not only does he appear to have closer "stuff," but he has also posted an ERA of 2.70 and has a WHIP of 0.90. And the fact the Cubs got him for a mid-tier starter who they signed with the intention of trading (Feldman) makes it all the better.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs follower. Living in Illinois his entire life has given him a chance to closely follow and report Chicago sports as a freelance writer through Yahoo Contributor Network and Yahoo Sports. He is also a senior majoring in Creative Writing.
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