ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s finally official. As of 2015 we should all start judging the Cubs front office based on the team’s record on the field. Ever since the Cubs brought in Theo Epstein to save the franchise in the 2011 offseason, there have always been reasons why the Cubs losses werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t his fault. He and his administration inherited a flawed team with a bad farm system, and Rome canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be turned around in a day.
But the excuse well has run dry. The Cubs have built an impressive core of major league talent. Finishing in last place over and over again got them some very nice draft picks, and now they have a swarm of top prospects ready to make an impact at the big league level. And finally, this offseason, they went out and spent some real cash and made some real trades. That’s the real clincher when it comes to being accountable. If the Cubs brass thought they werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ready to compete, they would have saved their money for another time. They went out and got the guys they needed to fill the gaps between their homegrown talent. Now the pressure is on to produce.
Jon Lester was the Cubs biggest acquisition, and obviously at the top of the list in terms of pressure. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s averaged 207 innings a year over the last 7 years, putting up a 121 ERA+ while toiling in the AL East. Now heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s moved to a league thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s never seen him, and he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to pitch to a DH, so just about everything is lined up right for him. For whatever reason, it feels like Lester has never really reached the level of hype and expectations that other staff aces have, but all thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about to change. His average salary of $25.83 mil is the 6th highest in baseball history and third highest for a starting pitcher. Anything but a dominant season will be a disappointment. Hopefully thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s enough to jinx him.
In what I thought was a pretty savvy move, the Cubs also added Dexter Fowler. Now, Fowler is hardly amazing, and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s making a decent amount of money in his last year before free agency. But the Cubs didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give up anyone that was going to help them now or in the future, and Fowler does one thing really well: get on base. For a team thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to have a lot of power hitting prospects hitting home runs and striking out, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think of a better piece to add. Unless heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s injured, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be adding to a lot of young guysÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ RBI totals this summer.
The Cubs also brought back Jason Hammel off of a career year (2 years, $20mil), added a nice bench player in ex-Red Chris Denorfia (1 year $2.6mil), and got maybe the greatest backup catcher ever in ex-Red David Ross (2 years, $5 mil). Ok, maybe thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a stretch, Ross has been pretty bad the last two years in Boston, but remember when he put up a .932 OPS with 21 homers for the Reds? That was awesome. The Cubs also brought in notorious trash talker Montero to be their starting catcher. This guy always seems to have something to say in the media about someone else, even though he’s hit for a .662 and .699 OPS the last two years. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t imagine why a team would seek out his services, let alone trade players for him, but hey, maybe Theo was worried that the Cubs would get too good of a reputation.
From a Reds fan perspective, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sort of hard to imagine this many offseason moves, since our front office really isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t into doing stuff in the offseason. Any one of these moves can be critiqued on its own, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hard to argue that the Cubs didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make big improvements overall. Theo et al. went out and spent a couple hundred mil to address a lot of their problems, and now itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time for rubber to meet road.