As the calendar prepares to turn over, we begin to start the early talk of what the new season will bring. Pitchers and catchers won’t report till the second week of February, but the groundwork for the season is being laid now. But realistically, can the Cubs take the division next season?
Rarely following a season, or two like the Cubs have had do you believe they can make the jump. But when it happens, it’s rare to believe anybody saw it coming. In the first 90 years of baseball, it never happened. Not once. But in the last 24 its happened 11 times. The Cubs were one of those, capturing the division in 2007 after a last place in the previous campaign. And they are also one of only two teams (Atlanta) to win consecutive titles following a last place finish. And take Boston this year. Last place to World Series Champion. So why not the Cubs?
First, I think we can all admit that the last place version of the Red Sox were a team of talent in disarray. Manager John Farrell did an amazing job, but the talent was there already, he just had to bring them together. The Cubs on the other hand have some pieces in place, but are far from the level of talent the Red Sox. But it’s not just about what the Cubs do, it’s whats happening within the division as well. Could the Cubs benefit from a weaker NL Central next season?
That scenario is hard to envision as the Central put three teams into the postseason. While moves are being made that change the dynamic of our rivals, I don’t see enough shake up for the Cubs to reap the benefits of a weaker division. I personally made the mistake of doubting the Cardinals this season. Even with the loss of Carlos Beltran and Edward Mujica, I won’t make that mistake again.
The Cubs font office continues to follow the rebuilding plan. They are by no means standing pat and just waiting for some of the talented youth to make it to Wrigley. The Cubs are quite active, but with moves and signings that won’t garner front page press. Low risk, high reward moves. The signing of Jose Veras gives the Cubs a veteran arm in the pen, and he becomes the likely closer, allowing Pedro Strop time to develop. The Veras deal also leaves the Cubs room to flip him for young talent should he perform well and the Cubs rebuild continues its slow churn.
So in closing, no, it’s not realistic to think the Cubs can win the NL Central next season. But there is no reason to believe they cannot be competitive during the rebuild process. As Jacob Misener pointed out, the Cubs weren’t really as bad as they looked. Even though I don’t think they will do it, don’t take that as I don’t have hope they can.