While a many of those gearing up for the holidays are trying to squeeze in some last minute shopping, yours truly included, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are two people that will not be. That is not to say that they are done with making additions (and in turn subsequent subtractions) or that no moves will be made prior to Christmas Day. If anything, it is to take a moment and commend the front office duo of pretty much addressing the major needs of the Cubs roster since the 2012 season came to a close. The pair have certainly earned a couple days off to spend with family and friends for the holidays.
April 5, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein talks to the media before the game against the Washington Nationals on opening day at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Cubbies Crib has been just as busy keeping up with the roster news, so by now you regular readers should be familiar with the fact that the Cubs have addressed the three needs pointed out by Hoyer as the off season went along. The starting rotation now features five names in pencil, thanks to the arrivals of Scott Baker and Scott Feldman. There was the honest attempt at Anibal Sanchez and the latest rumor is Edwin Jackson. Regardless of what other starter or starters is added from here on out, technically it is an attempt to address rotation depth as opposed to filling literal holes in the rotation left by the trading away of Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm this past season.
Starting pitching? Check.
Another big concern was the question mark at third base. Ian Stewart was not the answer in 2012 due to injury, and prospect Josh Vitters is not quite ready to show that he can stick in the Majors. After pursuing options outside of the organization at the Winter Meetings, the Cubs and Stewart ended up getting back together.
Third base covered? Check.
Next the eyes turned a few dozen feet from the third sack at Wrigley Field to the bullpen down the left field line. After the retirement of fan favorite Kerry Wood and the trading away of Sean Marshall last off season, the bullpen lacked veteran presence outside of Carlos Marmol. Sure, Shawn camp was a pleasant surprise, but the young arms that need to show they belong have not quite done so, outside of the production from James Russell. So the Cubs imported a couple of veteran relievers from Asia and hope they will provide reliability typically associated with cars brought in from the region.
Bullpen bolstered? Check.
The last item of business was adding another outfielder to the roster. Hello Nate Schierholtz. Out of this short list, outfielder was the least of the concerns, hence the lack of rumored names that the Cubs were pursuing.
New man to patrol right field at the Friendly Confines? Check.
What will remain up for debate is whether or not the Cubs got quality to fill the holes on the roster, or if the new names above will just end up being warm bodies to get through what figures to be another 90 plus loss season. There are concerns over the health of the starting pitching Scotts. Ditto for the returning Stewart. Will Kyuji Fujikawa and Chang Yong Lim be able to compete at the Major League level? And will Schierholtz reach the first round potential as a Cub that he was not able to obtain in San Francisco and Philadelphia?
Only time will tell, but the initial reaction does not seem to involve much excitement. The key is to continue to remember the big picture and see how these short term band aids will keep the team inching closer to the goal of yearly contention from 2015 on.