Owner: mase4342 (3rd season in Alexander/60th overall)
.522 Pct/2 WS titles/3 Pennants/15 Division Titles (no titles in Alexander)
Franchise History: .425 Pct/0 playoff appearances
Last Season: 72-90/3rd place/23 GB
Runs Scored: 831 (7th)
Runs Against: 954 (15th)
Advanced W-L: 70-92
Award Winners: None
Wolf Baldwin: Jack of all trades who was below average, but could be below average at a number of positions across 450 at bats. He's lost a step defensively and remains unemployed
Matt Reames and Buddy Sikorski: Reames is an excellent defensive catcher who gave back a lot of that value with a sub .300 OBP. Sikorski lacks a dominant out pitch and didnt pitch up to his ratings. Traded for Spud Bennett and Howard Gibbs, who have mid-rotation and 4th OF potential. A very good trade for the franchise given their long-term focus
Rod Long: First Baseman made redundant by the return of Sam James. An AAAA guy, now in AAA with St Louis
Guillermo Sanchez: One of the better pitchers out of the Cubs pen last year with a 1.22 WHIP. Probably has reached the end of the line at 36
Ernie Hammonds: Journeyman signed as a stopgap at 3B. Cubs are intrigued by his power potential in the cozy confines of Wrigley (5 HR through 11 games)
Todd Champion: Soft tosser selected in the Rule Five draft with a good assortment of breaking stuff and mid rotation potential. Will start working out of the bullpen
Grant Kapler: Free agent signed away from Richmond to replace Sikorski and take the closer role, should be the best pitcher on the staff.
When Mase4342 took over the Cubs franchise three seasons ago, the team was in disarray coming off a 102 loss season with a $90MM+ player payroll and a threadbare farm system Mase has focused on reducing the bloated payroll (down to $51MM) and rebuilding the farm system (up to $38MM available to spend on prospects this season. The trade of Matt Reams and Buddy Sikorski is a move emblematic of the direction Mase is taking the franchise: shedding $7.6MM in salary while picking up two decent prospects for two decent players who will be getting long in the tooth by the time the Cubs contend again.
The farm is starting to improve. Curt Gabriel, a number 2 overall pick and future #2 starter, could be a factor as early as this season. Timothy Bowie , a number 3 overall pick, should be able to stay at SS and put up high .800 OPS while playing every day, which will likely force bonus baby Daisuke Nomo over to third base. Last years first round pick, Damon Darwin lacks dominant stuff but will be a #3 starter if he stays healthy. With another top ten pick and money to spend in the international market (where the team is gradually increasing scouting), the future looks brighter than the present.
This is good, because the present looks pretty bleak. Chicago was 15th in the league in pitching last season and will likely remain near the bottom this year. The loss of Reames, who made up for his weak bat with excellent game calling skills, will hurt here. Some help is on the way from AAA, and Kapler will help stabilize the bullpen, but the starting rotation remains long in the tooth and relatively mediocre. Trace Maranville (8-11, 5.02 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) may be the nominal ace of the staff where he slides in as a 4th or 5th starter on a good team.
The lineup is mainly made up of placeholders as well. Fernando Hernandez and Howard Cora are two nice up the middle players, but both would be better off playing more against lefties than full time. Rob Spivey (39 HR, .871 OPS) is probably the Cubs top hitter, but he's far from a true middle of the order presence. The Cubs will likely not be represented in the All-Star game again in season 12.
Mase took over a big rebuilding job in Chicago, and while the franchise is turning around, the major league team is still several seasons away from being competitive. Look for another long season in Chicago