With pitchers and catchers reporting today, the Chicago Cubs will welcome a small army of new faces to the organization from the top to the bottom.
The manager is new—as are the GM, a good chunk of the pitching staff, the third baseman, right fielder and more.
Without further ado, here's a chronological list of events from the day the season ended to today that built the team as we now know it.
On October 12, 2011, the worst-kept secret in baseball gained its title, as everyone learned that Theo Epstein agreed to a contract with the Chicago Cubs to become President of Baseball Operations. Theo had been spotted at a Starbucks near Wrigley Field and would eventually admit to having been there.
Ever since Jim Hendry was finally dismissed on August 19th, many had foreseen Tom Ricketts' search for a GM leading to Epstein, as his comments as to the kind of person he was seeking for the job seemed to be tailor-made for Theo.
However, fans would learn that Theo would become the President of Baseball Operations, with previous Team President Crane Kenney shifting to a business-only role. Epstein thanked Kenney for bringing him to the Cubs. Presumably, this praise was a combination of professional courtesy and for Kenney stepping aside from the baseball duties.
Epstein's contract is for five years and $18.5 million, reportedly.
With the news that Epstein would be Team President and not simply just General Manager, the quest continued to find the new GM. Rumors almost immediately ramped up about Epstein's former top lieutenant in Boston, Jed Hoyer, making a lateral move from his post as GM of the Padres.
Despite this, there were many ideas as to who could come on as the new day-to-day top dog for the Cubs. While Hoyer seemed to be the obvious hire, people such as Rays GM Andrew Friedman (in what would have been a theoretical dream team), White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn and MLB Executive Kim Ng all saw their names pop up in various rumors.
In the end, it was Hoyer, who brought with him Jason McCleod from the Padres. McCleod had worked under Epstein and Hoyer in Boston and found himself in a hybrid role as Vice President of Scouting/Player Development.
Assistant GM Randy Bush was kept on in his role he'd had under Jim Hendry, as were many others, such as Minor League Player Personnel Director Oneri Fleita and Amateur Scouting Director Tim Wilken.
In what would be Epstein and Hoyer's first move to change the on-field team in their image for 2012, the Cubs fired manager Mike Quade. The firing came only days after Theo Epstein flew down to Quade's home to personally talk with him about his future with the team and their philosophies.
While everyone saw the writing on the wall about Quade, Theo and Jed gave Quade a chance to plead his case. However, his preference for lackadaisical veterans over enthusiastic, hard-nosed youngsters sealed his fate.
Before the Cubs began their managerial search in full force, Epstein called Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg to explain that, while Ryno had quality credentials, they simply weren't what the Cubs were seeking in their new manager.
Sandberg will return to the Phillies' AAA affiliate for the 2012 season as manager, but was publicly grateful to Epstein for the gesture of calling to explain the Cubs' stance.
While many Cub fans wanted Sandberg to be hired (including the fan who owned the team at this time last year), it clearly wasn't meant to be. The 2011 Cubs team was a doomed one, and Quade was the perfect sacrificial lamb. Imagine if the team had struggled this bad, but Sandberg had been managing. Imagine the backlash over having to fire Ryno.
Of course, in retrospect, it seems easy to say that Ryno couldn't possibly have been as bad as Quade, who somehow garnered a trip to the All-Star Game. Quade, though, seemed a solid candidate for the job. The players liked him, they won under his brief tenure in 2010, and he was a Chicago boy—an Evanston native who rode the El and could talk about the Bears with you.
It just wasn't meant to be for the baseball lifer.
After a long search that also involved Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux and Red Sox third base coach DeMarco Hale, the Cubs decided on Dale Sveum, who had been reportedly been the favorite in Boston.
Mike Maddux seemed like the frontrunner for the job, having given an amazing press conference after his interview and given the new management's dedication to pitching. Moreover, Maddux declined to interview in Boston and had an older brother in the Cubs' front office at the time; the stars seemed aligned.
Alas, Maddux decided to stay in Texas (where brother Greg would eventually wind up), so the Cubs quickly snatched up Sveum. In many ways, Sveum is seen as what we were promised with Quade: a baseball lifer with a no-nonsense approach, a dedication to fundamentals and a short fuse with lackluster veteran performance.
With the deadline for the 40-man roster to be completed upon them, the Cubs' new front office made a handful of changes.
Added to the list, to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, were Minor League Pitcher of the Year Jeff Beliveau, emerging infield prospect Junior Lake, 2007 No. 3 overall pick Josh Vitters and outfielder Matt Szczur, as part of his contract.
Removed from the 40-man roster were right-handed pitchers Esmalin Caridad and Kyle Smit as well as outfielder Lou Montanez. None of the three were taken in the Rule 5 draft, and Montanez elected free agency after being outrighted off the Cubs' roster.
On November 30th, the Cubs' new front office made their first splash in free agency, signing outfielder David DeJesus to be the Cubs new right fielder. DeJesus, who turned 32 in December, is coming off a career-worst season with Oakland in which he only hit .240, with five home runs and a .323 on-base percentage.
However, Oakland is a notoriously bad place to hit.
While Santo's election to the Hall of Fame wasn't technically a move made by the team, it still deserves recognition in any recap of the Cubs' 2011/12 off season.
Santo, a consensus pick as one of the biggest Hall of Fame snubs for years, finally got in, a year after his passing. A new "Golden Era" Committee was formed, and Santo received 15/16 votes, finally becoming a Hall of Famer, as he deserved.
The reasons for Santo's hall delay were the typical biases and shortcomings that caused this Golden Era Committee to be formed. Perhaps it was from playing on a 1969 Cubs team that didn't win anything and already had Ernie Banks and Fergie Jenkins in the Hall of Fame. Perhaps it was his heel-clicking after a win or his broadcasting style.
None of these reasons were the one that mattered: his on-field performance. Santo was a defensive wizard (Brooks Robinson once said the only third baseman better than himself on defense was Santo), hit for power and led the league in on-base percentage twice, back when that meant nothing.
While Santo may have said getting his number retired by the Cubs was his Hall of Fame, we all knew he wanted—and deserved—enshrinement in Cooperstown. It came too late for our beloved No. 10 to appreciate, sadly.
In the Rule 5 draft, the Cubs lost infielders Ryan Flaherty to Baltimore and Marwin Gonzalez to Boston.
The Cubs picked up infielder-turned-pitcher Lendy Castillo. Castillo is seen as a reliever now with the potential to be a starter down the road.
The Cubs lost no players in the minor league portion of the draft, but in the AAA phase, picked up Angels third base prospect Ricky Alvarez. Alvarez, a 23 year old, posted good but not great numbers at high-A in 2011.
Three former first-round picks and a second-rounder moved in this trade.
The Cubs, looking to move outfielder Tyler Colvin desperately, packaged him with young infielder D.J. LeMaheiu to Colorado for third baseman Ian Stewart and reliever Casey Weathers.
Stewart will be given every opportunity to win the starting third base job in camp. A lefty with good power, patience and vastly better defense than Aramis Ramirez, Stewart has impressed scouts this winter, coming back from injuries and serious offensive struggles.
Weathers, 26, is still on the mend from Tommy John surgery, but can still hit the high 90's out of the 'pen.
During the month-and-a-half of Epstein's reign as the President of Baseball Operations, the one area of the team that seemed to take a hit was infield depth. The Cubs lost Ryan Flaherty and Marwin Gonzalez to the Rule 5 draft and sent D.J. LeMahieu out as part of the trade to get Ian Stewart.
So when the Kansas City Royals tried slipping former second-rounder Jeff Bianchi through waivers, the Cubs snagged him. Bianchi, 25, spent all of 2011 at AA, hitting .259 while playing second base and shortstop. Bianchi lost all of 2010 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
In 2008, Bianchi won the Frank White Defensive Player of the Year Award, awarded to the top defender in the Royals' organization.
The tender deadline for arbitration-eligible players came around on December 12th, with the Cubs having seven players eligible: Matt Garza, Randy Wells, Jeff Baker, Blake DeWitt, Geovany Soto, Ian Stewart and Koyie Hill. Six of them got offers.
Hill was the odd man out, but that seemed a done deal the second Hendry was fired. Sure, the Cubs won more games with Hill behind the plate than Soto, but that seemed to simply be an anomaly. The pitchers didn't pitch significantly better, and Hill wasn't a massive defensive upgrade over Soto. However, Hendry continued to send Hill out as his backup catcher.
Hoyer and Epstein put an end to this, and sent Hill on his way. He's a nice defender and solid AAA insurance behind the plate but is by no means the guy you want to count on to catch 40-plus games a year.
It what is simply a move to bolster the outfield depth, the Cubs signed Joe Mather to a minor league deal. The former St. Louis, Colorado and Atlanta farmhand has a career .228/.283/.384 slash line in the majors.
The 29-year-old Mather will most likely report to AAA, where he holds a career slash line of .269/.346/.460. While he should get a long look in spring training, he likely won't see the majors unless there's a major amount of outfield injuries.
Chris Bosio during his playing career, looking simply thrilled on picture day.
The Cubs had only two holdovers from their 2011 coaching staff. Bench coach Pat Listach moved to being the third base coach, and Rudy Jaramillo returned as hitting coach.
Chris Bosio takes over as the Cubs' pitching coach, having worked a solid major league career and spent last season working as the pitching coach for the Brewers' AAA affiliate.
Mike McKay joins the Cubs as their first base coach after having spent last season in the same role with the St. Louis Cardinals, who had just a tad more success than the Cubs.
Jamie Quirk will work as the bench coach. A former MLB catcher and the Astros' bullpen coach last season, look for him to help with the development of guys like Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger during their times with the big league team.
Personally, this was the hardest move for me to handle at first, but I realize it's in the best interest of the team. Ever since he came up as a lanky, possibly rushed, starter, I was a huge fan of Sean Marshall. With his emergence as a top lefty reliever, I felt vindicated in being such a huge fan of his.
However, Epstein et al. saw that he was a big-time asset and maximized his value. They got Travis Wood back, along with prospects Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes.
Wood has a real shot to make the rotation this season and for years to come. Sappelt is a fourth outfielder type (think Reed Johnson), and Torreyes is a rail-thin infielder who makes great contact, but is still years away.
In an effort to build pitching depth, the Cubs signed Manny Corpas and Andy Sonnanstine to split contracts to round out their 2011 moves.
Corpas was a huge part of the Rockies 2007 run, being seen as the closer of the future at the time. The Rockies made it all the way to the World Series, where they ran into Epstein's Red Sox, who won their second World Series under Theo. After that, Corpas slowly declined and ran into injury trouble in 2011.
He'll be looking for a rebound season in the Cubs organization.
Sonnanstine was the fifth starter on the 2008 Rays staff that made it to the World Series before falling to the Phillies. Since then, his stats have dropped off, and he was pushed out of the Rays deep staff, working as a swingman. Able to start and relieve, Sonnanstine will likely see time in the majors in 2011 with the Cubs at some point.
Team mates celebrate Johnson's walk off home run against the Padres in April.
Johnson, who former GM Jim Hendry grabbed off the scrap heap at the end of 2008 spring training, returned to the Cubs for 2012 after an amazing campaign.
Johnson has seemed to just play better as a Cub and will fill out the bench this season. If there's an injury, or if Brett Jackson isn't quite ready for the bigs, look for Johnson to get a good amount of playing time.
In what would be Theo and Jed's second move of the offseason to reshape the Cubs' 2012 rotation, the Cubs sent headcase Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins with a large amount of cash for 25-year-old starter Chris Volstad.
Volstad is a young, ground ball-inducing starter with upside and three years of arbitration left before he hits free agency. While the Cubs had to eat a large amount of Zambrano's 2012 salary, the Cubs' new front office continued their trend of turning short-term assets into long-term assets.
Volstad, who already has three-and-a-half seasons of MLB service under his belt, has the potential to be a solid No. 3 starter.
Zambrano, in a contract year, will try to prove he's still talented and truly not a headcase in Miami. The hope is that fellow Venezuelan and close personal friend Ozzie Guillen will be able to unlock Zambrano's full potential and keep him in check.
With Big Z's stock seemingly at an all-time low, this trade is a huge win for Theo, Jed, and Co., even with the salary they had to eat.
Firing off their second trade in as many days, the Cubs traded Andrew Cashner and a minor league outfielder for Anthony Rizzo and a minor league starter. In Cashner, the Padres get either a potential replacement for Heath Bell or Mat Latos. In Rizzo, the Cubs have their first baseman of the future.
GM Jed Hoyer said that Rizzo will "most likely" start the year at AAA Iowa and that he likely didn't do Rizzo any favors by calling him up when he did last season. Luckily for the Cubs, they have options at first base this season, unlike the Padres who saw their would-be first baseman Brad Hawpe struggle.
Maholm will tow the rubber for the home team at Wrigley in 2012.
On the heels of the Zambrano and Rizzo trades, the Cubs' new front office made a slightly lesser splash, signing free-agent starter Paul Maholm to a one year deal with an option for 2013.
Maholm posted a 3.66 ERA for the upstart Pirates in 2011 and will make $4.25 million in 2012. His deal includes a team option for 2013 at $6.5 million or a $500k buyout.
Just over a month after claiming Bianchi from the Royals, he found himself waived to clear a spot on the 40-man roster to make way for Paul Maholm.
Bianchi was claimed by the Brewers, who depleted their farm system to acquire talent such as Zach Grienke and Shaun Marcum.
But, having never wanted to leave after 2008, Kerry Wood re-signed with the Cubs. He'll be paid $3 million in 2012, with a club option for 2013 at the same salary. The deal was announced at the Cubs Convention with no lack of theatrics.
The Cubs also signed utility man Alfredo Amezaga to a minor league contract on the 13th.
Jon Heyman of CBS sports tweeted on the 18th that Cubs catcher Geovany Soto had agreed to a contract, avoiding arbitration. The one-year contract will pay Soto $4.3 million for the 2012 season.
Soto will return as the Cubs starting catcher, but don't be surprised if his name comes up in trade rumors, as true MLB starting catchers are a rare commodity.
On December 26th, MLB Trade Rumors reported that the Cubs were nearing a deal with Jason Jaramillo. However, to date, the minor league contract hasn't been announced. Presumably, the Cubs were busy working out the final details of Sonnanstine and Corpas's contracts and unloading Zambrano to the Marlins.
On January 18th, MLB Trade Rumors learned that the contract had been finalized. Jaramillo will fight with Welington Castillo for the backup catcher's spot on the MLB roster.
By January 18th, every arbitration-eligible Cub had signed other than Matt Garza. The salaries are courtesy of Cubs.com.
Blake DeWitt: $1,100,000
Jeff Baker: $1,375,000
Ian Stewart: $2,237,000
Chris Volstad: $2,665,000
Randy Wells: $2,705,000
On January 30th, the Cubs signed a trio of MLB vets to minor league deals. Lefty Trever Miller and infielders Edgar Gonzalez and Matt Tolbert were all given minor league contracts with invitations to spring training.
All three will fight for MLB roster spots, though Miller, due to his experience as a lefty reliever, likely has the best shot at making the team.
When the A's tried to slip Adrian Cardenas through waivers to clear a 40-man roster spot, it seemed a foregone conclusion that someone would put in a claim. Despite being seen as a sub-par defender, Cardenas hit .314 as a 23 year old at AAA in 2011.
Billy Beane's ploy didn't work, as the Cubs grabbed Cardenas. To clear roster space, the Cubs designated Blake DeWitt for assignment. If DeWitt clears waivers, he can either opt for free agency or rejoin the Cubs as a non-roster invitee to try and fight his way back onto the roster.
Cardenas will try and remove Darwin Barney from his starting job at second base.
In Rizzo, the Cubs may have found their first baseman for the next fifteen years.
10/21: President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein
10/16: General Manager Jed Hoyer, Vice President of Scouting/Player Development Jason McCleod
11/18: Manager Dale Sveum
11/30: RF David DeJesus
12/8: RP Lendy Castillo, RP Casey Weathers, 3B Ian Stewart
12/9: INF Jeff Bianchi
12/12: OF Joe Mather
12/16: Bench Coach Jamie Quirk, Pitching Coach Chris Bosio, First Base Coach Dave McKay
12/23: SP Travis Wood, OF Dave Sappelt, INF Ronald Torreyes
12/26: RP Manny Corpas, SP/RP Andy Sonnanstaine
1/5: SP Chris Volstad
1/6: 1B Anthony Rizzo, SP Zach Cates
1/10: SP Paul Maholm
1/13: UTIL Alfredo Amezaga
1/18: C Jason Jaramillo
1/30: RP Trever Miller, INF Matt Tolbert, INF Edgar Gonzalez
2/6: INF Adrian Cardenas
Rammy will man third for the Brewers for the next three seasons.
11/2: Manager Mike Quade
12/8: UTIL Ryan Flaherty, INF Marwin Gonzalez, OF Tyler Colvin, INF D.J. LeMahieu
12/12: 3B Aramis Ramirez, OF Brad Snyder
12/16: Pitching Coach Mark Riggins, Base Coaches Pat Listach and Ivan DeJesus
12/23: RP Sean Marshall
1/5: SP Carlos Zambrano
1/6: SP/RP Andrew Cashner, OF Kyung-Min Na
1/10: C Koyie Hill
1/11: INF Jeff Bianchi