What a difference a couple of weeks make for the Chicago Cubs? When the season started, everyone who watched the Cubs considered the team to be on the verge of losing 100 games this season and many considered the Cubs to be the worst team in Major League baseball. While, the Cubs are still on pace to lose 90+ games, the sentiment about this team has changed.
With the help of surprising performances by Jeff Samardzija and Bryan LaHair, over the course of the past two weeks, the Cubs are looking more like a team that is in the final stages of their rebuilding project as opposed to the beginning. This change in mentality has lead to some local reporters to suggest that the Cubs could sneak back into contention during the 2012 season. I don’t necessarily see that being the case. Though, I do think that the Cubs play this season may alter the strategy for General Manager Jed Hoyer and President Theo Epstein.
The grand scheme of things will not change. The Cubs are still going to continue to build towards the future by trading away veterans such as Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol, Ryan Dempster, and Geovany Soto. But rather than trading away Matt Garza, the Cubs may be more inclined to extend him and build around him. The same way that the organization plans to build around Starlin Castro. The same can be said about LaHair and Samardzija. Prior to the season, there was speculation that the Cubs were showcasing LaHair and Samardzija for potential trades as the team approaches the July 31 trade deadline. However, both LaHair and Samardzija are proving that they should be viewed as long-term assets to the team.
Nonetheless, here is a look at what is making news around the Cubs’ universe.
Gordon Wittenmyer writes that Matt Garza holds the key to the Cubs’ future. While the popular belief has been that the Cubs will try to trade Garza at the trade deadline, Wittenmyer reports that the Cubs’ front office is not following that concept. The only certainty, or so writes Wittenmyer, is that if Garza signs a long-term deal with the organization, the starting pitcher will not be traded. Garza was on the door-steps to becoming the ace of the Cubs rotation when the season started, and the 27 year old has proved that he is capable of such a label with his 2.67 ERA in five starts for the Cubs this season. The Cubs’ future is very much dependent on Garza. If Garza is traded before the deadline, that should indicate that the Cubs plan to rebuild for at least one more season. However, if Garza remains with the team, that may indicate that the rebuilding period may not be as long as originally anticipated.
Kerry Wood had a very public moment of frustration when the relief pitcher exited from his appearance against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. After giving up two runs in the inning, as Wood was leaving the mound, the pitcher threw his hat and glove into the stands. After the game, Wood abruptly ended his interview with reporters after being asked about his display of frustration. I thought the Cubs got rid of the player who had public outbursts? Well, it seems that Wood is taking the place of Zambrano. At least, for one night. Though, once again, it is worth mentioning that Wood has no business being on the Cubs’ roster. The 34 year old reliever was not a fit with the team when he re-signed in January, and the same holds true now.
Since April 20, the Cubs’ starting pitchers have had the best ERA in baseball (2.51). Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija, and Paul Maholm have all pitched effectively over the course of the past 16 games. The one pitcher who has not is Chris Volstad. Volstad has yet to be effective in any of his starts for the Cubs this season. If Vosltad’s struggle continues, he may soon be replaced in the rotation by Travis Wood.
With a win over the Milwaukee Brewers tonight, the Cubs will no longer be in last place in the National League Central division. The Cubs are 6 an 4 over the course of their last 10 games.