The Chicago Cubs are entering a new era of baseball thanks to the hiring of Theo Epstein and a large payroll that will see better use under his supervision. The Cubs were hamstrung by the massive contracts doled out to Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, and Kosuke Fukudome, but thanks to the expiration of these deals either this year or in the near future, Chicago can open up their wallets through free agency and the draft. Epstein’s desire to build through the farm system is a refreshing sound for Cubs fans, who’ve seen the club spend too much on marginal players.
The best of the best: Starlin Castro. The young shortstop stepped into the starting role and quickly became a fixture in the Cubs lineup. A meteoric rise through the minors, due to a hot bat, landed him in Chicago quickly, and if the Cubs can get him to avoid any off the field problems, as well as a lack of concentration, Castro should be in the all-star mix every year.
The new guy: Theo Epstein. Epstein arrives from a tumultuous stay In Boston after delivering two world championships for the Red Sox, promising a new start in Chicago by building through the draft and making solid signings to supplement those players coming up through the minors. With Epstein in charge, the Cubs have leadership in place that will guide them in a new, promising direction.
The fatal flaw: Lack of impact players. The Cubs will take a step back this year, but that’s part of the plan. In order for Chicago to clear payroll, they’ll have to suffer through the final years of their overpaid former stars and then start over. Don’t expect the Cubs to compete this year, but do expect to see plenty of younger players taking on bigger roles with the big league club. There will be a lot of growth, even if it can’t be measured in wins and losses.
Down on the farm: Brett Jackson. Brett Jackson is one of the top prospects in the Cubs organization and projects to be an above-average outfielder. Jackson, the former first round pick, has gotten on base at each level, but his strikeout level is a bit too high to play in the majors right now. If he can tone down the K’s, he’ll have a chance to be an impact player at the next level.
Final verdict: The Cubs won’t be in the race for the National League Central this year, but for once it’s from youth instead of a lack of performance. The Cubs are hitting reset on their team, and starting this year they’ll keep an eye on the future with all of their moves. Cubs fans have to be excited for the chance to finally start over and start building again instead of treading water, finishing in the middle of the pack each year. Epstein brings a spark to an organization much in need of it.