12/30 A look back at 2013

The 2013 season was another step in the Cubs’ rebuilding process. For the second straight year, the Cubs dealt 40 percent of their starting rotation. They seemed to set a record for most deals in July as Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol and Scott Hairston also were traded. In August, David DeJesus was sent to the Nationals.

In return, the Cubs felt they strengthened the organization with players such as third baseman Mike Olt and pitchers Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Jake Arrieta, Ivan Pineyro, C.J. Edwards and Corey Black. It’s all part of Theo Epstein’s plan since taking over as Cubs president of baseball operations.

All the transactions didn’t solve the 2013 team’s problems, and the Cubs finished last in the tough National League Central at 66-96, the fourth straight year they’ve posted a sub .500 season.

As 2013 comes to a close, here are five storylines from the Cubs’ season:

5. Hot prospects

Every time Javier Baez hit a home run, or first-round Draft pick Kris Bryant won another award, there were questions about where the Cubs top prospects would fit in the big league lineup. Baez, the No. 1 pick in 2011, and Bryant, who was the second overall selection in June, stole some of the headlines from the big league team. The Cubs front office’s mantra is that the kids need time to develop but fans are eager for someone to cheer for. Baez, who belted 37 homers and drove in 111 runs combined at Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, and Bryant, the college player of the year who was named the Arizona Fall League MVP, aren’t the only super kids. The list of potential impact players in the Cubs system also includes Albert Almora, C.J. Edwards, and Jorge Soler. Now, the question is when.

4. Marmol, Fujikawa and Gregg

Carlos Marmol lost the closer’s job one week into the regular season, and Kyuji Fujikawa took over but he was limited because of elbow problems. The Japanese pitcher eventually needed Tommy John surgery, and the Cubs had to scramble. They signed Kevin Gregg, who was released by the Dodgers April 3, and he proceeded to reclaim the job, finishing with 33 saves. Marmol was eventually traded to the Dodgers for Matt Guerrier, and didn’t get another save opportunity the rest of the season. The Cubs bullpen was a problem most of the season, ranking on the bottom of the National League in ERA, walks, and home runs allowed.

3. Alfonso Soriano is traded to Yankees

For the second straight year, the Cubs were busy at the Trade Deadline, but none of the moves affected the players the way the departure of Alfonso Soriano did. The veteran outfielder was dealt to the Yankees, where he began his U.S. pro career in 1999. He has one year remaining on the eight-year, $136 million contract he signed with the Cubs in November 2006. While fans were critical of Soriano’s defensive ability, he was revered in the Cubs clubhouse. Soriano topped the Cubs in home runs and RBIs at the All-Star break, and they struggled to fill his spot in the lineup after he left. The Cubs may have been the only team to use a backup catcher, Dioner Navarro, in the No. 4 spot.

2. Manager Dale Sveum is dismissed

Sveum was a no nonsense kind of guy. He held players accountable. He believed in face to face communication. In Spring Training, he organized a bunting tournament, and included himself in the bracket. When Sveum was hired in November 2011, Epstein trusted the manager and his coaching staff to compile “The Cubs Way” handbook, to be used throughout the organization.

The Cubs lost 197 games in two seasons under Sveum, but Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer said the record wasn’t the reason the manager was dismissed. There were issues regarding the development of some of the Cubs, and Sveum got his signals crossed with a few players and the front office.

“There has to be a clear, unified message, and [players] can’t be getting different signals from different directions and collectively — myself included — we failed to provide that,” Epstein said.

Sveum wasn’t out of work for long. Royals manager Ned Yost waited one hour after Sveum was dismissed before calling to offer him a job on Kansas City’s coaching staff.

1. Starlin Castro takes a step backward

Castro was disappointed when he didn’t bat .300 for a third straight season in 2012, finishing at .283. But no one expected the shortstop to struggle as much as he did in 2013, batting .245 — including a .167 June. What happened? The shortstop lost his aggressive approach, struck out a career-high 129 times, and often looked lost at the plate. He was dropped to eighth in the order in August.

“This year, it’s too many things to think about [and] I’m not supposed to think [up there],” Castro said. “Sometimes you have a tough season, and you want to please everybody. But it’s not right. You have to listen to the things that can help you — not everything. When you come to home plate, you don’t have any idea, because you listen to too many things.”

Toward the end of the season, Castro announced he was just going to “be me.” The shortstop may be the Cubs’ new leadoff man in 2014 — he batted .263 there this past season — and the team can only hope he regains his approach, especially since this is Year 2 of his seven-year, $60 million contract.

– Carrie Muskat

12 Comments

2013 is over…..just like 2003 season…..move on………sad to say that 2014 will be like 2012 season……………….I will like to say that I am looking forward to the second half pitching……Johnson, Vizcaino and Hendricks will show us what they got…………..if Rizzo has another bad year, time to think replacement………..Castro will be okay……Olt should prove why he was a top prospect.

And there will be no Tanaka in a Cubs uniform……….it will make that Cubs Den gang so sad.

Rizzo’s replacement, if it comes to that, will be Dan Vogelbach, who will be close to ready by 2015.

not so this is going to be abetter than last season

A tip of the cap to the best MLB beat writer in the Majors. For all her dedication, no one deserves an eventual Cubs Championship more than she. Thanks, Carrie.da

Thanks, Dan. Just hoping for good baseball in 2014

Make that “winning baseball” — that sounds better

Why is there not one syllable on this webite about Tanaka???

Probably because his chances of being a Cub are almost nil. He sounds awesome BUT all too often a Japanese pitcher finds it VERY difficult to adjust to the MLB and disappoints.

I did post something earlier with Hoyer/Epstein saying they’ll be involved in the Tanaka process. Since then, there’s been nothing new to report. What could affect Tanaka’s decision is that the Cubs are still in rebuild mode, while Yankees, Rangers, Dodgers will likely be in playoffs in 2014

I would guess that there’s nothing because there’s not really much to report on Tanaka from the Cubs perspective. He got posted, but we haven’t even heard for sure that the Cubs have made a bid on him yet. In fact, I don’t think any team has confirmed making a bid on him yet. If the Cubs do make a bid on him and they are one of the teams that get to negotiate, then that’s something to talk about. However, that won’t happen until January and therefore should belong in the 2014 look back post.
As for Tanaka to the Cubs, I wouldn’t call the Cubs the favorites to get him, but I think they have a slightly better than nil chance of getting him. The Yankees are probably the favorites, with the Cubs, Dodgers, and Angels the next most likely teams.
As for whether he can adjust to the MLB, that’s something no one really knows yet. What we do know is they were making similar remarks about Yu Darvish before he came over and so far he’s looked good for Texas. Dice-K was off to a good start too, before injuries derailed his career. If I had to guess, I’d say that Tanaka will be fine. Scouting is much more advanced today and judging whether or not his stuff will translate to the MLB is probably a much easier call to make now than it was back when Hideo Nomo came over. As for culture shock, that’s where it will help to have Fujikawa on the team in 2014. But I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the next few weeks.

Alot to look forward too in 2014 as the Cubs Organization grows as a whole. I know that the Cub fans are being told the big 4 prospects will make a difference, but right now, I only see 2 of that 4 making a difference.
Baez and Bryant. Of course I have hope for Almora and Soler, I just dont see any possible chance of either making it, until they are in the line up everyday.
Some guys just have it, I honestly believe that Baez and Bryant, just have what it takes.
I even believe the Pitching is better. The bullpen has to be better. With Wood and Arrietta at 1 & 2, Jackson at 5. If Samardizja is around in 2014, that gives the Cubs a pretty good first 3 and a innings guy at 5. Can Grimm, Rusa, Cabrerra, B Marshall take that #4 spot? Will there be a trade?
People talk about the top prospects Soler, Almora, Bryant and Baez, but the prospect Pitching is never mentioned. The Cubs have some very good arms in the system and they get better with every trade and Draft.
This will be a huge transition year as they go from last place, also trading some popular players and moving up a notch or two.

I think we all agree not much happened on the major league level. The minor league level did well though. That is something to look forward too.

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