The Rundown: Cubs Rebuild Requires Lots of Faith, Franchise Value Jumps Again, Prospect Rankings Shift

“But sooner or later baby here’s a ditty, Say you’re gonna have to get right down to the real nitty-gritty” – Shirley Ellis, The Nitty Gritty

Kris Bryant signed with the Rockies, while Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos signed with the Phillies as both teams vastly improved their outfield. Carlos Correa signed with the Twins, and though it was a deal that would not have helped the Cubs as much, the Twins are a much stronger team. Javier Báez inked a deal with the Tigers, the Rangers signed Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, and the Red Sox landed Trevor Story.

In the meantime, the Cubs have added Andrelton Simmons to a middle infield that goes about a dozen deep, and Clint Frazier could be the team’s starting left fielder on Opening Day.

Jed Hoyer indicated that the Cubs aren’t in a rebuild, then signed Marcus Stroman virtually minutes before Rob Manfred and the owners locked the players out for three months. Fans were giddy with excitement that Chicago would parlay that into players such as Correa and maybe even Bryant, or at least Anthony Rizzo.

Once the lockout ended, the Cubs added Seiya Suzuki, Simmons, Daniel Norris, and a whole lot of cereal filler. Hoyer may have said this is not a rebuild, but if it looks and smells like one…well you get the picture. The Cubs haven’t asked the team’s fans to be patient while the front office and minor league coaches develop Chicago’s next core, but I think we all know better.

Barring something completely unlikely, the Cubs are a third-place team in a division that has a lot fewer strengths than weaknesses. Only the Brewers look like a real contender, but that offense? Yikes! If you’re depending on Andrew McCutchen to take run-scoring to the next level, you might just be a little too optimistic.

Are we excited about the future Cubs? As fans, we do tend to overvalue the kids playing ball at the minor league complex. Things seem different now, though, and I’m not trying to paraphrase Chicago’s milquetoast new slogan. For once, it’s the pundits and talking heads who are a bit shy to give the Cubs’ farm system its due. That will come in short order and this will be a pivotal year for many of those players. If we see further progression, some of those players — such as Brennen Davis, Caleb Kilian, James Triantos, Jordan Wicks, and Cristian Hernandez — will be thrust into the national spotlight before their first major league appearances.

On the other hand, regression from a handful of players will make this a long season for Chicago’s front office. Truth be told, a rebuild is only as good as the pipeline of players that will eventually make their way to the parent club. This was a stellar year for free agency, and Hoyer and Carter Hawkins basically sat on their hands. Next year’s crop of free agents isn’t nearly as good, though that can change with opt-outs and non-tenders, and players are only going to get more expensive.

That leaves us with trusting the process, a phrase that is going to quickly become a little overfamiliar. It also means adding to minor league depth by making trades, and Willson Contreras will probably be the first to go. Trades don’t often happen this late into the exhibition slate, but this is an offseason like no other. Yes, no matter how Hoyer tries to spin it, the Cubs are in a rebuild.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

You’ll need a subscription to the NY Post to access the content but a picture is with a thousand words, give or take.

Climbing the Ladder

“Now, when I was a young boy, at the age of five, my mother said I was gonna be the greatest man alive. But now I’m a man – I’m age twenty-one and I want you to believe me, honey, we having lots of fun.” – Muddy Waters, Mannish Boy

The Cubs lost 5-4 to the Angels in Cactus League action, but  Triantos celebrated his ascension to number three on the team’s top 30 prospect list with a 2-for-2 afternoon that included an RBI.

Spring Training News & Notes

Veteran reliever Andrew Miller, who was instrumental in CBA talks all winter, announced his retirement after 16 seasons. Naturally, Cubs fans were quick to point out the 2016 World Series, as if Miller’s entire body of work pivots on that season.

Fake Teams, an unheralded but (mostly) trustworthy source for minor league analysis, at least from a fantasy baseball perspective, announced its top 250 prospects for 2022. The Cubs placed 16 players on this year’s list.

Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill challenging baseball’s antitrust exemption.

Dominican stars fear the impact of an international draft. I’m in favor before you ask.

Story got vaccinated while finalizing his deal with the Red Sox.

The A’s are still focused on moving Sean Manaea. The veteran starter will be a free agent following this season and if you had to choose a perfect destination, it might be the Twins.

Extra Innings

Though the hot stove season was a bit of a letdown for fans of Chicago’s North Side baseballers, Stroman and Suzuki are going to be fun to watch.

They Said It

  • “It’s going to be really hard to talk in-season because there’s no time. We’re already two weeks away from Opening Day. It’s going to be really tough. I’m not focused on getting an extension. I’m not focused on the arbitration case. I’m focused on winning. I’m focused on competing on the field with my teammates. I’m focused on being the best I can be for them.” – Contreras
  • “[It] says a lot about a team that in quotations ‘shouldn’t compete’ in this division. The guy wants to win. In just talking with Dick [Monfort], he’s a really personable guy. He’s just a baseball nut. He wants to be at the field all day. He’s in the cage watching us take BP. I never got to experience that before. This is actually pretty cool to see an owner who really is invested.” – Bryant
  • “That’s not a dig at anybody. Please [don’t misinterpret that]. That’s not what I mean. Mr. Ricketts and [they] are awesome. Tom did the same thing, but he just did it in a different way.” – Bryant

Friday Walk-Up Song

Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison with saxophone solo by Pee Wee Ellis – It’s starting to feel al to like spring here in the Midwest, which means regular season baseball is getting close.

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