Organizational Rankings: #18 – Chicago Cubs

Organizations like the Cubs present some challenges in a series like this. They have some very obvious strengths – the printing press that is Wrigley Field, the ability to support a $140 million payroll, new ownership that at least appears to be committed to improving how the organization is run, and some really good players on the field. They also have some similarly obvious weaknesses – a lot of committed money to aging players, a front office with a long history of questionable decision making, and a roster that needs some good luck to contend in 2010.

If you just focus on the strengths, you can make a case for the Cubs to be a bit higher than this. After all, they have a real resource advantage over the rest of their division and some really good players in place. If a few things go right, they could steal a playoff berth this year, and they’ve got the finances to be a real player in the future. Their strengths are stronger than most teams strengths.

Likewise, however, you can just focus on the weaknesses and make a case that they should be lower. Their core is getting long in the tooth, with most of their best players being past their prime. They have some good young talent, but not a roster full of it, and the big contracts will hamper their ability to rebuild around guys like Soto and Castro. And, even with a sizable payroll, you can’t expect Hendry to spend it all that well, based on his track record.

When I try to balance the strengths and weaknesses, this is where the Cubs end up – in the middle of the pack, getting less out of what they have than most clubs, but having enough to keep them from being too bad. If the Ricketts demand that the front office catches up to the rest of the league, the team could rise pretty quickly – a more efficient front office could do wonders for the Cubs. There’s enough talent and enough money in Chicago that they should be a top ten franchise without too many problems. They aren’t there now, however. They may get there, but based on where they currently stand, middle of the pack is about as high as I can place them.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Sam
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Sam
6 years 6 months ago

So the Cubs are worse than the Mets? That’s kinda harsh.

Boomer
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Boomer
6 years 6 months ago

Two words: Jim Hendry.

mb21
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6 years 6 months ago

2 more words: Omar Minaya

Ivdown
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Ivdown
6 years 6 months ago

Two more words: Omar Minaya

Neither one is a real genius, lol.

Tom Au
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Tom Au
6 years 6 months ago

Maybe the Mets are No. 17, and in a stabistical “dead heat” with the Cubs. We’ll see.

Boomer
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Boomer
6 years 6 months ago

Not a fan of either one, but I think Hendry has himself in a worse pickle than Omar. Also I think Omar will be fired before Hendry is. If the Ricketts didn’t fire him when they came in, that implies that he has their confidence and support (!)

Kevin S.
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Kevin S.
6 years 6 months ago

The Cubs don’t have anyone nearly as good as Santana, Wright, Beltran or Reyes (although the latter two could be heading off the rails with injuries).

SchmidtXC
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SchmidtXC
6 years 6 months ago

I think the key would be that the Mets have a younger and better core in place, and quite a few solid prospects who will likely be in the bigs by opening day 2011.

OlSalty
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OlSalty
6 years 6 months ago

While the Mets have a horrible GM, they also have some pretty amazing talent in Beltran, Reyes, and Wright. I don’t think the Cubs can make that same claim.

Joe Macaluso
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Joe Macaluso
6 years 6 months ago

As a longtime Cub fan, I feel you are too generous. I have seen the Florida Marlins win two World Series, completely gut the team twice, and still produce a more interesting team than the Cubs.

joser
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joser
6 years 6 months ago

And yet nobody shows up for Marlins games, while Wrigley is mostly packed.

Ivdown
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Ivdown
6 years 6 months ago

So who is next. I’ve been picking Arizona for 4 teams on this list or so, so I’ll stick with it.

Ivdown
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Ivdown
6 years 6 months ago

Baltimore…

Perhaps I’m underrating Arizona?

Ben
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Ben
6 years 6 months ago

“…and the big contracts will hamper their ability to rebuild around guys like Soto and Castro.”

Do you mean the *one* big contract, Soriano’s? That’s the only big contract that the club won’t be getting much value from. Zambrano’s and Dempster’s contracts are relatively close to market value, and those are the only two sizable contracts the Cubs will have after 2011.

As the owners have said payroll will remain in the $135M-$140M range, I don’t see how those contracts alone will keep the Cubs from spending on free agents, beginning with this coming off-season.

Also, I don’t think “rebuild” is quite the right word here. I can’t see the Cubs going through a fire sale, or even deciding to not contend for the division for a couple seasons.

Maybe that’s a weakness, but in the mediocre-to-bad NL Central, where they’re the 900-lb. gorilla due to their revenues, I don’t see why they should even think about rebuilding. I think 2010 is as close to a rebuilding season as we’ll see.

Travis L
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Member
Travis L
6 years 6 months ago

Zambrano is owed approx $18 million / year for 3-4 more years. He’s projected to be around a 4-4.50 ERA for those years, worth about 2-3 wins.

Zambrano’s deal is relatively close to market value when he signed. Do you really think a deal like this, today, would look anything but horrible? I figure the deal to be at least 25% overpaying, and that’s with the most optimistic projections as shown above.

No, it’s not as bad as Soriano’s. But I still think it’s one of the 10-15 worst contracts in baseball.

SchmidtXC
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SchmidtXC
6 years 6 months ago

It’s not a great contract, but it’s not even close to being one of the ten worst. Just off the top of my head I can come up with ten no-brainers (Perez, Silva, Wells, Zito, K-rod, Lidge, Cordero, Rowand, Matthews, Soriano), without even getting into guys like Willis that likely will be paid huge and cut.

Brian
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Brian
6 years 6 months ago

Hendry gives out no-trade clauses like fun-sized Snickers bars on Halloween, so I don’t think the team could be broken apart if Hendry wanted to do it.

Omar
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Omar
6 years 6 months ago

I know I sound like a broken record, but are they REALLY better than the Tigers? The Tigers have Verlander signed until 2014 and Cabrera until 2015, and 60-70M coming off the books at the end of the year. Not to mention young assets like Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer, that and they’ve been drafting extremely well as of late and really flexing their financial muscle in the draft. The Cubs have spent in the draft too, but they’ve yet to spend on the high ceiling like Detroit does.

Tim In Missouri
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Tim In Missouri
6 years 6 months ago

This isn’t mean to be disparaging…Don’t you have to account for the miasma that hangs in the air when the Cubs are in a tight race lat in the season? You can’t convince me that players are immune to 40,000 fans metaphorically puking their guts out with every pitch and every at bat? That kind of mass negativity washes over the most professional of players and can’t be discounted. Maybe I’m wrong but there will have to be a transcendent season by a couple of players to knock the monkey off that team’s back. Even Harry Carrey once asked, “What’s the world series got in common with a female bear on the pill?….No Cubs.”

joser
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joser
6 years 6 months ago

Everybody said exactly the same thing about the Red Sox (and its fans) for decades. Right up until they won the World Series. Twice. I knew Red Sox fans who were convinced the team would find some way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in ’04, and told me so even as the team was wining games during the WS.

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