For the last three seasons, Chicago Cubs fans have been doing their best to weather the request for patience from the front office. It wasn’t easy, and I speak from my own experience. Back-to-back 100 loss seasons were not easy to swallow. This season gave us clear improvement. More than just the amount of wins compared to year’s past. There is hope, there is excitement. And for the first time, Theo Epstein is doing nothing to throttle it.
He’s setting the goal high.
While speaking with the media in the Cubs’ offices, across from Wrigley Field, which the 100-year old icon is now undergoing a facelift, Epstein gave a much different forecast than he had in the past three years.
"“Overall, for the organization, I think 2015 will be a little bit different from the previous three seasons in that we now think we have the talent to compete,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Tuesday afternoon. “And anytime you have enough talent to compete you want to set your sights high. h/t Jess Rogers, ESPNChicago.com"
And it didn’t take long for him to elaborate on how competitive he thought they could be, uttering words Cubs’ fans have been waiting on since Theo and Co. came to Chicago.
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"“We proved we can be very competitive within this division and when you have a chance to compete you should set your sights high and that means our goal is the NL Central title next year.”"
The biggest concern for the Cubs will be experience. The talent is there, and there is more on the way. But even with the sample of Major League time several of these rookies have now, they are yet to experience the full 162 game grind. The team is aware that it will be a balance of development and competition, but they didn’t fare all that bad this year doing the same thing essentially.
"“We’re going to be competing while we develop young talent,” Epstein said. “It isn’t easy but it’s exciting, very exciting.”"
Aside from the conversation of what to expect next year, Epstein has made suggestions as to what the winter may look like for the Cubs. While they have for the most part sat on their hands the past few off-seasons, this year looks to be different. With the amount of young players on low salaries, all the big money contracts they have cut, and the minimal amount they have spent the last three years, the Cubs are ready to spend.
He has hinted it could be this winter, or over the next 15 months, including next year’s trade deadline and the 2015 off-season. The Cubs could look at Jon Lester, James Shields, and Max Scherzer this season. But the overall belief is that next year’s market will be better with names like Jeff Samardzija, Jordan Zimmerman, and David Price.
While the exact timing of when they add the talent is unknown, it is a given that it’s going to happen says Epstein.
"“We try to look at these things in stages. Between this offseason, next year’s trade deadline and next offseason, we will add impact talent from outside the organization.”"
With players like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and C.J. Edwards yet to come, it’s hard not to be optimistic as a fan, even if that’s become our M.O. as fans of this team. Epstein has a track record, he’s followed the plan similar to how he did in Boston. It worked there, so I’m going to let it play out and enjoy the ride.