Time goes by like pouring rain: The Cubs spent $10 million over five years to lure Jeff Samardzjia away from football; in return they’ve received only 81.2 worse-than-mediocre big-league innings. When the Cubs signed him, GM Jim Hendry said Samardzjia offered to return a $2.5 million signing bonus if he opted for football. This is the fifth year of the deal — the Cubs could extend it two more years for about $6 million, but why would they? — and getting the signing bonus back is about the best the Cubs can hope for. There have been glimpses of hope, but Samardzjia’s minor-league ERA is 4.30, his major-league ERA is 5.95 and he’s found baseball success as hard to hold on to as one of Jimmy Clausen’s passes.
I feel I’m knocking on heaven’s door: The Cubs have long specialized in power-hitting prospects who fizzled as they advanced because of their inability to control the strike zone (see Vitters, Josh). Brett Jackson breaks every mold the Cubs have built over the last decade — he walks, he runs, he fields, and he still hits for power. Jackson did all of that last year at two levels — 58 extra-base hits, 30 steals, a .297 average and an .888 OPS — and he even struck out 126 times, tempered by 76 walks. Jackson did more than maintain his production at AA, and he should vault past big-league fourth outfielder Ty Colvin quickly. No way a threesome of Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukodome and Alfonso Soriano can keep him from the big leagues long.
What is this man doing here? Haven’t the Cubs done enough already for Luis Montanez’s career? Yet here he is back in camp with the Cubs as if the first six years of his minor league career never happened. It’s impossible to tell whether Montanez’s mostly non-career is the fault of the Cubs or Montanez or both, but the union produced nothing but frustration the first time. The two reuniting is like the couple down the block who do nothing but argue getting back together. There’s a reason it didn’t work the first time. In theory, the Cubs could use a right-handed hitting backup outfielder with some power. In reality, there’s got to be too much negativity for it to work.
Outlook: The Cubs have a good start on their second century without a World Series, and there’s nothing in the immediate future to look as if it’s going to end soon. Their roster is still far too old, overpaid and nostalgic, with more stopgaps than bright futures.
Trading for Matt Garza may appease the fans in the short term, and make the Cubs incrementally better, but that’s only until Garza’s big-money years start, which will be soon.
There are problems everywhere in the infield, be it because of age/injury (Aramis Ramirez), contract (Carlos Pena) or lack of productivity (Blake DeWitt), and if the outfield was any more ordinary they’d wear gray suits.
The Cubs do have some pieces in catcher Geovany Soto, shortstop Starlin Castro, closer Carlos Marmol and young pitcher Andrew Cashner, but not enough of them or enough confidence the front office can build a winning team around them.
Remember when: You have to be older than a Baby Boomer to have seen the Cubs play in the World Series — 1945 was their last appearance, when they lost to the Tigers in 7. Here’s a link to their last Series victory, by 8-7 in 12 innings in Game 6 courtesy of a bad-hop double. It also has all you need to see of Game 7 — the Tigers scored five in the first and won 9-3.