The Chicago Cubs didn't expect to contend this season, but the new brass might have been surprised by the 101-loss season.
Give team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer credit, though. They approached their first season exactly the way they said they would. Once the July 31 trade deadline neared, Epstein and Hoyer traded veteran players for prospects, in keeping with their stated philosophy of building from within.
The Cubs gave looks to a number of young players, and Hoyer admitted it was a mixed bag of results.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo looks like the real deal. In a little more than a half-season, he had a hitting line of .285/.342/.463 with 15 homers and 48 RBI.
Catcher Welington Castillo looks to have established himself as the No. 1 catcher after a strong finish to his rookie season.
Center fielder Brett Jackson and third baseman Josh Vitters both struggled at the plate after their Aug. 5 call-ups from Class AAA (Des Moines) Iowa, and they might end up in Iowa to start next season, further adding to the team's offseason wish list of players it needs to acquire.
Left fielder Alfonso Soriano drove in a career-best 108 runs to go along with 32 homers. Soriano has two seasons left on his eight-year, $136 million deal. He knows he'll be the subject of trade rumors. He has 10-and-5 rights and can veto any trade involving him. He said it would have to be the right situation for him to consider leaving.
Job one for Epstein and Hoyer will be to restock the rotation with at least two serviceable starters. However, Epstein warned that if the Cubs are in a similar situation at next year's July 31 deadline, they could trade off 40 percent of the rotation again to keep restocking the system.
If nothing else, a positive, workmanlike tone has been set by first-year manager Dale Sveum and his coaching staff. That figures to be important with the number of young players the Cubs have.