Nash Elder, Online Editor • May 13, 2015 - The Speaking Eagle
The Chicago Cubs. A Major League Baseball franchise riddled with losses—going without a World Series win since 1908—could be a winning team in 2015.
The popular 1989 movie “Back to the Future Part II” predicted it, but that’s not the only reason some fans see the Cubs as a formidable force in the postseason. Bettors in Vegas agree, and more than twice as many bets were placed at the MGM Grand for the Cubs to win the World Series than any other team, according to ESPN.
With newly-acquired players—Jon Lester, Miguel Montero, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, and Addison Russell, to name a few—adding depth to pitching and talent to the field, and an experienced manager—Joe Maddon—the team is set up to succeed this season.
The Cubs signed left-handed pitcher Jon Lester on Dec. 13, 2014. Going into his tenth season, Lester was a sought-after free agent in the offseason. He pitched for the Red Sox in the 2007 and 2013 World Series—both seasons in which the Red Sox won.
Lester will likely be the ace for the pitching rotation throughout the season, moving the Cubs’ last-season ace, Jake Arrieta, to the number two spot. The Cubs have a deep pitching staff, despite their trade of Jeff Samardzija last season, which would be useful in the postseason.
Chicago’s front office has its roots in the Red Sox organization—one of the most successful teams in the last decade, winning three World Series since 2004. This includes President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who was General Manager for the Red Sox when the team won it all in 2004 and 2007. In recent years, Epstein has done all the heavy lifting to gather talent on the field for Chicago. Jed Hoyer, Executive Vice President and General Manager for the Cubs, also came from the Red Sox.
The Cubs have one of the top farm systems—minor league teams affiliated with the franchise—from which the Cubs have five players on MLB’s top 100 prospects list. Bryant and Russell, both Cubs, are ranked second and fifth, respectively, on that list.
More importantly for this year, Starlin Castro and Jorge Soler are two starting players who came from the farm system. Castro is a sixth-year player for the Cubs and was the star player for a losing Cubs team in those past years. This year, he has talented teammates to help him out.
The Cubs hired Maddon—2008 and 2011 American League Manager of the Year for the Tampa Bay Rays—to manage all the talent on the field.
The situation for the Cubs is similar to what Maddon accomplished with the Rays in a single season. In 2007, the Rays were one of the worst teams in baseball, but Maddon transformed the young team and led them to the 2008 World Series. If Maddon could do it in Tampa Bay, there’s no reason he could not do it in Chicago with a more talented team, higher payroll, and passionately devoted fanbase.
Chicago does not have to be the best team in the league going into the postseason. All they need to do is get in. The 2014 World Series included two teams that fought to the top from the Wild Card series—the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants. This proves that if a team can at least make the playoffs, it has a chance to take it all. The Cubs team needs to be able to play well in the playoffs and could lose steam after six long months of the regular season.
Thinking ahead for the Cubs franchise, if they fail this year, the talent will still be there next year and the year after that due to multiple-year contracts.
Lester signed a six-year, $155-million contract. Whether the Cubs do exceedingly well in this year’s season outcome or not, the franchise still has an ace pitcher who is a three-time all-star with a 2014 season Earned Run Average (ERA) of 2.42. Although he may not produce those numbers all six years, he will more than likely play confidently for a few years with a $155-million cash flow.
Many of the other talents on the team have contracts extending several years as well, forming a bright future.
Regardless, Epstein and the Cubs have taken enormous steps toward creating a successful baseball team.
In Maddon’s introductory press conference, the newly-named manager was optimistic for the Cubs’ future.
“I’m gonna talk World Series this year. I promise you. I am. And I’m gonna believe it. And I’m going to see how it’s all going to play out,” he said. “It’s within our future, there’s no question about that.”