Organizational Rankings: #7

As we finish out the top eight, all of the remaining clubs earn an overall grade of A-, A, or A+. These eight franchises have separated themselves from the rest of the pack – there’s probably a bigger gap between #8 and #9 than between #8 and #4, for instance. If you root for any of the upcoming teams, you should be very pleased. The future looks bright for all the upcoming franchises.

Rankings So Far

#30: Washington Nationals
#29: Florida Marlins
#28: Houston Astros
#27: Kansas City Royals
#26: Pittsburgh Pirates
#25: San Diego Padres
#24: Cincinnati Reds
#23: Colorado Rockies
#22: Detroit Tigers
#21: St. Louis Cardinals
#20: Toronto Blue Jays
#19: San Francisco Giants
#18: Minnesota Twins
#17: Chicago White Sox
#16: Baltimore Orioles
#15: Seattle Mariners
#14: Philadelphia Phillies
#13: Los Angeles Dodgers
#12: Texas Rangers
#11: Oakland Athletics
#10: Los Angeles Angels
#9: Arizona Diamondbacks
#8: Atlanta Braves

#7: Chicago Cubs

Ownership: ?

With the Tribune companies sale of the club to an ownership group led by the Ricketts, the team is changing hands one more time. Unlike with the Padres situation, we don’t really have anything to judge the new owners by, so I’m just working off the assumption that the Cubs will continue to be fairly well capitalized, based on their revenues and market.

Front Office: B-

Believe it or not, Jim Hendry has a good eye for talent. When he was the Cubs scouting director, the team acquired a significant batch of young talent, and he consistently built farm systems that were supplying the Cubs with impact players. Since being promoted to GM, his weaknesses have been exposed, however – the team has had problems in how the young talent is integrated into the major league roster and the team has shown questionable discernment in handing out contracts to free agents. He’s built a quality major league roster, but squandered a lot of assets in getting there.

Major League Talent: A

For 2009, this is the best team in the National League. The line-up is going to put runs on the board in bunches, and the team isn’t sacrificing defense in order to build an offensive juggernaut. They have a roster full of players who contribute on both sides of the ball with skill sets that age well. The rotation is terrific, and even without a proven closer, the bullpen has a solid collection of interesting arms. There are depth issues, and with Milton Bradley and Rich Harden involved, you know the team isn’t going to be at full strength on most days, but they’ve got a team on the field that could be the class of the NL for the next several years.

Minor League Talent: C-

There’s Josh Vitters and then a pretty large gaping hole. The lack of minor league depth hurt the team over the winter, as the Padres couldn’t find enough interesting pieces to ask for in a Jake Peavy trade and required an additional team be involved in order to get enough quality prospects headed back towards San Diego. It’s a good thing the Cubs have a loaded major league team, because they aren’t going to get much help from the farm system for a couple of years.

Overall: A-

The Cubs management has made a lot of mistakes, but their payroll gives them a lot of room for error, and they’ve managed to assemble a top tier major league roster even with their questionable judgments. If Hendry and company can stay out of the way, the team should be playing in a World Series in the next few years – there’s just way too much talent on the 25 man roster for them to not make it deep into October sooner than later. Given the state of the farm system and the lack of a great young core at the major league level, the fall-off could be pretty steep down the line, but for right now, they’re legitimate contenders for the foreseeable future.



Print This Post



Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ender
Guest
Ender

This is the first team I’m dubious about your ranking for. With a poor minor league system, good but not great GM and a completely unknown at ownership I don’t think even A level talent makes them deserve an A- ranking. This is the team that probably should have slotted in at B+.

Gina
Guest
Gina

Agreed, especially when you consider the age of so many of their major league players. I would imagine that steep downturn should be expected to come much much sooner than later.

Gina
Guest
Gina

Mostly what I don’t understand is how/why they rank so high above a team like the Phillies. Obviously the cubs likely spend more but both have very good but aging ml squads and shaky farm systems/lack of young help on the way.

YC
Guest
YC

Dave already mentioned that he is considering the team’s ability to contend in the next 5 years or so. While their ownership isn’t the greatest, their stockpile of major league talent will keep them from contending year after year for the next 5 years, which is what this ranking is evaluating.

Will
Guest
Will

I can agree, or at least not quibble too much, with this statement:
“For 2009, this is the best team in the National League.”

But there are a lot of hedges in this article, with this one the starkest:
“Given the state of the farm system and the lack of a great young core at the major league level, the fall-off could be pretty steep down the line…”

To my mind, one must replace the words “could be” with “will be.”

As Cardinal fans, we follow the Cubs more closely than any team besides our own. And this team has the smell of decay to it. If they don’t make it in 2009, I don’t see them in the playoffs in 2010 barring a significant influx of new talent, and their current payroll commitments (and the reluctance of teams to swap young talent for big contracts in today’s economy) will hurt them in this effort.

The team’s big three are Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano, all of whom have shown major warning signs of decline in their production. (Perhaps Ramirez the least so, but another article on this site predicts a major decline this year and I agree). Unlike most of the people I talk to, I think Soriano was actually a good signing, and think he’ll continue to produce for several years as his countryman Vladimir Guerrero has. But outside of he and Soto and hopes for Fukudome, this is an offense in decline. Worse, Lee is locked into pinstripes through 2011, well after his 20-HR days are done. Ramirez as well.

The key to the pitching staff hinges on Zambrano – 1) can he continue to stay ahead of the avalanche of PAP that he’s accumulated through the years, and 2) how will he mature as he continues to lose the ability to miss bats? After him you have a couple of nice guys in Lilly and Dempster who overachieved last year, and Harden, who is Cy Young for 18 games per season, but even when “healthy” wasn’t deemed reliable enough to pitch the desperation game 3 of last year’s NLDS.

I agree they have talent enough for this season. But beyond, I have serious doubts.

Ryan B
Guest
Ryan B

‘“Given the state of the farm system and the lack of a great young core at the major league level, the fall-off could be pretty steep down the line…”

To my mind, one must replace the words “could be” with “will be.” ‘
—————
This is ignoring the other method of acquiring talent…free agency. And given Dave’s assumption about the next ownership (“the Cubs will continue to be fairly well capitalized, based on their revenues and market. “) this is certainly a viable option for the Cubs to avoid a steep fall-off.

Gina
Guest
Gina

The problem is the escalating nature of the contracts they currently have, it was part of the reason it was so hard for the tribune to find buyers. They have a lot of older players who are still owed a lot of money which is going to make it incredibly hard for them to be major players in the free agent market anytime soon. Not to mention not as many marquee free agents are hitting the open market.

dylanj
Guest

To my mind, one must replace the words “could be” with “will be.”

I sure to your mind it has to be inevitable, because this is what your mind wants to believe. Lets begin.

“And this team has the smell of decay to it. If they don’t make it in 2009, I don’t see them in the playoffs in 2010 barring a significant influx of new talent, and their current payroll commitments (and the reluctance of teams to swap young talent for big contracts in today’s economy) will hurt them in this effort.”

While I can’t comment on the overall odor of the Cubs baseball team I can find flaws in the rest of your statements. Namely why you feel they are at the limits of their payroll when you have no idea what that payroll will be. The Cubs have added payroll every year for the last several and there have been no indications from the new owner that this will change. Further you seem to feel that in the span of 1 year the Cubs will go from the class of the NL to a team not able to win its divison. Are all the Cubs players going to age at the same time, dramatically and all the while the hyped up young talent of StL, Cincy and Milwaukee will all pan out and mature? This seems as improbable as a Cubs fan thinking that the core won’t age at all doesn’t it?

“The team’s big three are Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano”

This is not only false but it’s irrelevant. Why limit a team to a “Big Three” Unlike other teams in the division whose hopes for contention rest on 1 or 2 mega players to carry the team the Cubs have no real other worldly talent but a collection of good players. Aramis Ramriez, Milton Bradley, Zambrano, Marmol and Soto aren’t going anywhere and while some will undoubtedly face regression that doesn’t mean their regression makes them useless decrepit players rather just less productive ones. By every measure the Cubs have a vast gap of talent/production from the rest of the NL Central so it would take alot of regression to age team in the way you imply they will.

“this is an offense in decline”

Now THAT is really off track. Take a look at the WAR for the Cubs offense this year compared to last year’s. This team is going to score more runs, a lot more rather than less.

“Worse, Lee is locked into pinstripes through 2011,”

False. His contract is up in 2010 along with Ted Lilly’s and perhaps Bradley’s which gives the Cubs between 20-30 million to sign other good players.

“his 20-HR days are done. Ramirez as well”

This is getting homer-ish. When Derrek Lee hits 20 this year send me an emai. Also, when Aramis Ramirez posts an OPS over the .850 mark for the next few seasons think of me. There is a difference between wishing somethign to be so and presenting it as a likely event and actually having reasons to feel the way you do.

“The key to the pitching staff hinges on Zambrano”

No it doesn’t. Zambrano is a great pitcher and we like having him but if he goes down tomorrow we have a good enough rotation to win the NL Central without much trouble. This isn’t my opinion its backed up with WAR and other metrics.

“After him you have a couple of nice guys in Lilly and Dempster who overachieved last year”

This is the 2nd year in a row I have seen people talk about Lilly and his overachieving, maybe it’s time to acknowledge he is a good pitcher and just leave it at that? As for Dempster he isn’t having any problems racking up the K’s in ST so far so while I won’t hold my breath for a 08 repeat other teams fans shouldn’t bet against a productive season either. Also, Rich Harden did in fact start in the NLDS and “when healthy” is the best pitcher in the NL.

dylanj
Guest

I also apologize in advance for the typos I’m rushing to get of the office.

Nathan
Guest
Nathan

I think the reason is because the Cubs are probably the best team right now in the NL by a significant margin. This makes them the most like MLB team to reach the world series this year and maybe for one or two more. Their short term future is good enough to make up for a lack of longer-term prospects.

archilochusColubris
Guest
archilochusColubris

This is a good point; i guess this optimism is relying on a couple last grasps at a title and a big-market safety net to overcome longer-term concerns.

I’ve gotta say though, as a hardcore Cubs fan, i can’t help but agree with Will’s comments regarding the sense of this team: they just feel like a team that missed out on their best shot and supporting their short-term hopes with free agency feels like a taller and taller order. I think it’d be tough to argue against the claim that this is a team getting worse, not better, even if you disagree about the strength of the core. With the exception of Soto, Marmol, and Harden (for some of us more bullish types), you can’t really get excited about the 2011/2012 version of the players here, regardless of how good they are right now.

And also, watching them over the past few years, i just can’t shake the sense that their consensus as the NL team-to-beat isn’t drastically shaped by the inferiority of the Central division and their oh-so-convenient SOS. As little as postseason performance says about a team, it’s not much of a surprise that they’ve been swept right out of dodge the last couple years, as they never seem to matchup against quality teams from the other divisions. Combining this with an apparent downhill trend, and well… i guess we’ve got a couple more shots to take at the dartboard we call the postseason.

wpDiscuz