2012 Chicago Cubs: Could This Be the Year? (An Extremely Early Look)
This is a very early look at next year with bold offseason predictions and MLB additions. We'll look at the current Depth Chart after the predictions.
Bold prediction number one: Theo Epstein will leave the Boston Red Sox, not to be the Cubs GM, but the become the President of Baseball Operations. Tom Ricketts will lure him away from Boston by offering him this position and a sizable contract.
Bold prediction number two: Epstein will not hire someone from the Boston organization, but will instead steal Rick Hahn from the White Sox to be the Cubs new GM. Hahn has grown up rooting for the Cubs and knows the culture here on the North Side much the way Epstein did when he became GM for Boston.
Bold prediction number three: The Cubs will help drive up Albert Pujols' contract numbers, but will sign Prince Fielder for slightly less than the Pujols offer. There is very little chance that Milwaukee will be able to keep Fielder with the contract they already gave Ryan Braun. The reason the Cubs drive up the price on Pujols leads to bold prediction number four.
Bold prediction number four: Yadier Molina and Edwin Jackson with both be in Cubbie Blue next year. Due to the price tag to keep the franchise player for St. Louis, their hands will be tied to try re-signing these players. While Molina states he would like to stay in St. Louis, the price to keep Pujols became too steep of a price.
Bold prediction number five: Carlos Peña will be re-signed to man first. The middle infield will be shifted to the left side and Fielder will be placed as the 2B with Peña still manning first.
Manager prediction: Mike Quade will be out once Hahn officially takes over. Hahn will then bring in Ryne Sandberg, who many say should have taken over for Lou Piniella at the end of last year. Sandberg has said he would not be opposed to returning to the organization if the conditions were right. Now is the perfect time to return and lead the team to the promised land. So with these changes, let's compare and contrast.
Which free agent will the Cubs most likely get?
The current roster as we know is nowhere near perfect, but with the free agent pick-ups, the Cubs will be at least a .500 team (if not better).
1. RF Tony Campana—During Spring Training, Campana will edge out Alfonso Soriano on the everyday card with his hustle and strong defensive play. He has shown flashes of the defense while reluctantly being placed in by Quade. Campana will become the leadoff man that Soriano was supposed to be.
2. 3B Starlin Castro—After two error-filled seasons, Castro will find the hot corner his true calling. Since Quade proved that it is still too early in his career to hit third in the lineup, Sandberg will start easing into that hole. Castro will finally have the mentor he needs in his new manager.
3. 1B Carlos Peña—After a rather successful first season, Peña has proven to be a suitable successor to Derrek Lee. Hahn would err in not returning the first basemen who has turned dozens of errors into outs.
4. 2B Prince Fielder—Prince will more then earn his handsome contract next year by having a career and MVP year as the National League's first Triple Crown winner since Joe Medwick way back in 1937 for the St. Louis Cardinals.
5. LF Tyler Colvin—After coming off a disappointing sophomore campaign (mainly due to the freak accident at the end of the rookie campaign), Colvin finally returns to his rookie form and becomes a solid middle lineup hitter.
6. SS Darwin Barney—Barney returns to the position he grew up playing. The switch will make an immediate impact with fewer "E6's" showing up in the box score.
7. CF Marlon Byrd—Byrd will anchor the outfield as he has the past few years. His second year being reunited with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo will prove a success hitting as high as third during the season.
8. Yadier Molina/Geovany Soto—Geo will start the year, but during the early part of the season will suffer a major, but not season ending, injury similar to Buster Posey. Yadi will fill in spectacularly and catch Andrew Cashner's first career no-no.
Ace: Matt Garza—After his first season in the NL, Garza settles into the spot that he will occupy most of the rest of his career. He will be a serious threat for the Cy Young and be a league leader in multiple categories.
2: Ryan Dempster—Dempster will continue to be the veteran presence in the dugout. He will be the team leader in innings pitched.
3: Edwin Jackson—After returning to Chicago, Jackson will a solid number three and save the bullpen on more then one occasion.
4. Casey Coleman—After bouncing back and forth between the major and minor leagues, Coleman will solidify his spot in the rotation for years to come.
5. Andrew Cashner—With the assistance of Arizona Fall League play, Cashner recovers from his injury plagued first season to pitch a no-no and show signs of being Greg Maddux reincarnated.
7th inning: Sean Marshall—This was one of the few question marks that was answered, along with the bullpen as a whole. Marshall will continue to pitch well in this spot as he did all last year.
8th inning: Kerry Wood—Wood has proven that his second stint with the Cubs is on a parallel with his early career success. Though he did spend time on the DL, Wood will have a healthy and successful 2012 campaign.
Closer. Carlos Marmol—Though he did blow several save opportunities this past year, Marmol will finally find his control in the offseason and be the dominant closer he has shown the flashes of being.
The middle relievers will also be similar next year with the addition of Marcus Mateo. As many have noted, the 'pen was very solid this year and really the only bright spot in an otherwise terrible year.
Record and playoff prediction
The 2012 Cubs will finish with an overall record of 92-70 and finish atop the NL Central. They will face the Atlanta Braves and like in 2003, will win the series 3-2. The NLCS will be a lesson in karma for the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies will be up three games to two with a lead with five outs left in series and an over zealous Philly fan will send into motion the undoing of 103 years of true torture.
For the first time since the Harry S. Truman administration, the Lovable Loser will be in the Fall Classic. The foe will be none other then their opponent from the 1945 Series, the Detroit Tigers. Justin Verlander will be locked in a pitcher's duel with Garza in Game 7 when he gives up the only run the Cubs will need in the bottom of the seventh inning to none other then Garza to finally end the Billy Goat Curse, reversing the Black Cat bad luck and finally giving the Cubs faithful the long-awaited Parade of Parades down Chicago's Michigan Ave.
Fox announcer Mike Joy will ring out the same call he did for CBS for the 1998 Daytona 500, "103 years of trying, 103 years of frustration and the Cubs get a double play to win the World Series!" Everyone at Wrigley Field will be crying tears of joy like they did when the Blackhawks won it all in 2010.
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