We all knew that the Chicago Cubs were in for a long road of recovery when Theo Epstein and company took over. We knew that the disarray the Cubs' organization was in was not going to be cured by a quick hire of a general manager, manager, or any one player. And while the Cubs' current 28-49 record might lead us to believe otherwise, I think I'm already starting to see that disarray begin to clear. That doesn't mean I think the Cubs are going to roar back into contention this season (or even next season), but, if you're looking for it, signs of lasting life are beginning to sprout. As a perpetual long-suffering Cubs fan, this excites me.
The easy point to stress is Anthony Rizzo. As excited as I am about Rizzo, I've seen too many highly-touted prospects crash and burn. Rizzo appears to be something special, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. However, his presence (at only 22 years old) is a great starting place. The Cubs also have Starlin Castro (22, as well) at shortstop. These are two viable, potentially special, players that the Cubs can build their offense around for a very long time. I know it's only on a small scale --two players-- but the Cubs simply haven't had this for quite some time.
The Cubs also went out and signed Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler to a nine-year contract worth about $30 million. That's a lengthy contract, but at least it doesn't set the Cubs back too much per year if he doesn't work out how they're hoping he will. However, if he does work out, the Cubs have secured another young (20 years old) talent for well into the future. In a very short amount of time, you can see the Cubs getting better for the long haul. While it's early, I'm also excited about first-round draft pick Albert Almora. It's too early to even begin speculation on what he might or might not do (he has to get signed first), but he's an intriguing pick given his five-tool talent potential.
The pitching is the big question mark. However, Epstein and pal Jed Hoyer know that --illustrated by their selection of 22 pitchers in this year's draft. Both Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza might find themselves traded by the deadline and that could help the Cubs bring in a nice little influx of young (pitching) talent to start that portion of the reconstruction.
I don't doubt that the overall plan will continue to take time, but even in the midst of a 28-49 season, you have to like the direction the Cubs are starting to head in. While waiting is hard, seeing pieces come into place one at a time is enough to keep me excited. It also makes it a lot more fun to watch the team.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed Major League Baseball throughout.
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