We’re finally here after 30-some spring training games that really didn’t matter much at all. Although I suppose Mike Olt, Ryan Kalish and Brian Schlitter would tell us otherwise. All three had something to prove this spring and all three are on the Opening Day roster.
It’s amazing how many changes have occurred with this club over the last few years. We’re at the point at which Jeff Samardzija is the long-tenured “veteran” and he’s not even 30. New manager, new closer, a bunch of new coaches and bench players. There is more flexibility and versatility on this team than in years past.
Emilio Bonifacio brings a dynamic game to the mix with his ability to switch-hit, play multiple positions and make things happen with his speed. Olt is a wildcard here. He could be quite a revelation if he lives up to his previous billing in the Rangers’ organization. As JD mentioned on the air recently, Jason Hammel could be poised for a big year as an under-the-radar rotation acquisition.
But it still comes back to the current core–Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. I might even include Darwin Barney, who doesn’t have the security the other two have but is trying to hang on to an every day role at second base. The Cubs need a lot more offensive production out of those three guys and if they get that, the offense has a chance to be decent. But everybody has to pitch in. It is not an offense that can operate efficiently with the same guys who struggled last year doing the same again this season.
The big story going in will be Samardzija’s future with the club. He won’t want to keep answering questions about a new contract or a possible trade, but he knows better than anyone that the story will follow him all season or at least until one of those things happens.
Then there’s the “When are the kids arriving?” question, which only the kids and the front office can ultimately answer. Would I be shocked to see Javier Baez on the club in 2014? Not at all, but I don’t think it will happen soon.
We are excited for another season of Cubs baseball on WGN. Hope you’re with us for the daily soap opera throughout 2014.