Chicago Cubs: The 2014 season offered a glimmer of hope

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

The first two seasons of the Theo Epstein era for the Chicago Cubs left a lot to be desired on the field. 2014, though, gave fans a shred of hope for the first time since the mid-2000s.

Winning 73 games, the Cubs had a winning record at home and were only three games out of fourth place. The silver lining, though, was that guys like Javier Baez, Kyle Hendricks and Jorge Soler made their major league debuts.

Baez has only turned himself into one of the elite defenders in the game at three positions and an MVP candidate, finishing as one of the finalists this past season.

Soler came up for September and torched the competition, hitting a home run in his first career at-bat against Mat Latos and the Reds. Soler would finish his 24-game stint with a .292/.330/.573 slash line, a .903 OPS. Two members of the “Core four” saw big league time and the plan was all starting to come together.

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In the 2014 draft, the Cubs drafted Kyle Schwarber fourth overall, which many saw as a reach, but he has performed better every year, and not to mention the Cubs don’t win the World Series without him.

The 2014 trade deadline featured the Cubs’ Front Office cashing in on a career start from Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs shipped him to Oakland in early July, along with Jason Hammel, acquiring top prospect Addison RussellBilly McKinney, and pitcher Dan Straily.

Jake Arrieta had one of his breakout seasons in 2014, giving the pitching staff an ace moving forward. Arrieta started 25 games, pitching to a 2.53 ERA, and took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in Boston. Along with the 2.53 ERA, his FIP was even lower at 2.26, and a WHIP just under one, with 167 strikeouts in 156 2/3 innings.

Hendricks’ debut saw him start 13 games with a 2.46 ERA, pitching 80 1/3 innings, giving up just 72 hits, a WHIP just over one, and a 3.32 FIP. In those 80 innings, Hendricks only surrendered four home runs.

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Hector Rondon took over the closing role, saving 29 games while Pedro Strop solidified his spot as the main setup man. There was a lot to like about this team, most of it came in the second half, which was even more reason for optimism. That winter would not disappoint Cubs fans, either.