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Chicago Cubs: 5 Burning Questions Heading into Opening Day

Jeff ChaseSenior Analyst IIApril 3, 2012

Chicago Cubs: 5 Burning Questions Heading into Opening Day

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    After a dismal 71-91 season in 2011, the Chicago Cubs have gone into total rebuild mode by adding a new front office led by former Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, as well as bringing in a new manager in former Milwaukee Brewers' coach Dale Sveum.

    Upfront, things are looking promising for the team's future—but what about this year?

    There are clearly many question marks surrounding the club and where they will go, but surely we will get our answers as the season carries on.

When Will Brett Jackson Get His Chance?

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    Brett Jackson had to make sure he got noticed this spring in front of the Chicago Cubs' new brass, and, well, he did just that.

    Jackson had nice numbers, batting .276 in 29 at-bats. He had four runs while producing seven RBI on eight hits.  

    Unfortunately, that wasn't enough given the team's current predicament. With a full outfield to start out the year, it was decided that the team was better off having Jackson develop in Iowa until there is an opening for him to contribute regularly.

    If the team decides to move a player like Marlon Byrd or Alfonso Soriano—or even offseason acquisition David DeJesus—they will have a reason to make the move to bring up their outfielder of the future.

Will Jeff Samardzija Succeed as a Starter?

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    In what was quite possibly one of the more surprising moves of this offseason, the Chicago Cubs moved reliever Jeff Samardzija officially into the team's rotation to start the 2012 season.

    Samardzija has started a few times over his career, but he has been mostly used as a reliever since first appearing in 2008.

    He did a fine job this spring, going 3-1 with an ERA of 4.50 over 20 innings. He did allow 10 runs, seven of which came in a single outing against the Colorado Rockies.

    While he was given the third spot in the rotation, there is no doubt that his tenure as a starter will be determined with his first handful of outings.

How Much Better Will the Team Be with Manager Dale Sveum?

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    One of the biggest flaws with the hiring of Mike Quade as manager for the 2011 season, was that he had no true managerial experience at the pro level—well, besides becoming the interim manager after Lou Piniella decided to walk.

    Well, same goes for the Cubs' new manager in Dale Sveum. He has never managed at the professional level besides for his stint as interim manager of the Milwaukee Brewers after they dismissed Ned Yost in 2008.

    While fans should be optimistic about Sveum, they shouldn't buy into him having success right away. While he most definitely can—as everybody has to start somewhere—there is right now no guarantee he can run a team any better than how Quade did.

Theo Epstein and His New Regime: Build Young or Wheel and Deal?

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    While it currently looks as if team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are looking to build the Chicago Cubs from the ground up, it isn't outlandish to assume that they may decide to swing a big deal if the opportunity arises.

    The team can definitely add some great young pieces for the future of the club, but those guys won't guarantee immediate success—as in two or three years down the line.

    The Cubs are going to continue to rebuild but, fact of the matter is, they need to fill the seats. 

    Don't imagine the team to make foolish moves, but there isn't a reason to think they won't potentially make a splash if they can land someone who can help the team right away.

Will Starlin Castro Out-Do His 2011 Season?

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    Starlin Castro stormed back from a strong rookie season with an even better sophomore performance, but can he keep it going three years in a row?

    It was good to see the star shortstop not suffer from a sophomore slump, so many are hoping it won't come this time around.

    Castro impressed many in 2011, as he batted .307 while recording 10 home runs, 66 RBI and having 207 hits—a number that led the entire National League, as well as making him the youngest to ever accomplish such a feat.

    There is no doubt that the Cubs will need him to come up big once again to keep this team alive for 2012, but even more so if he can continue to put up even better numbers year after year.

     

    Jeff Chase is a Featured Columnist for the Chicago Cubs and Arizona State football.


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