By Chris Emma–
(CBS) We Are Good has been the theme of this 2015 Cubs season.READ MORE: Woodstock Woman's Car Gets Damaged, Then Insurance Company Refuses To Pay Because She Called Police 2 Hours Too Late
It started with catcher Miguel Montero spreading some postgame encouragement on Twitter, and it took off. Now, players roam the clubhouse in T-shirts bearing said rallying cry. Wins have brought disco dance parties and a smoke machine that constantly leaves Joe Maddon wheezing into his postgame press conference.
“The more raucous the better,” Maddon said earlier in the season.
There’s real, tangible proof that “The Plan” is working — the Cubs’ young core and veteran acquisitions have found playoff contention with a 47-40 first-half record and current claim to the second National League wild-card spot.
This season has seen fun things like blazers and chinos for a Miami road trip, an appearance from Simon the Magician in New York and — oh, yeah — winning. But now it gets real, because the stretch run looms.
According to Fangraphs’ projections, the Cubs possess a 63.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, a 7.0 percent hope of winning the National League pennant and a 3.3 percent shot at claiming the franchise’s first World Series title in 107 years.
Of more importance, the Cubs have a farm system filled with valuable assets, either potentially key pieces for the future or players for another organization to claim.
Patience has been the theme of president of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s time in Chicago, a concept that fits well in Cubdom. This ground-up organizational rebuild has taken time to produce results, so don’t expect any sudden gamble because the chips are stacking higher.
“You do have to put some of those checks and balances and safeguards on yourself, a restrictor plate,” Epstein said in a recent interview on 670 The Score’s Spiegel and Goff Show.READ MORE: Colin Powell, First Black Secretary Of State, Dies At 84 Of Complications From COVID-19
Perhaps a deal of spare parts like minor-league prospects first baseman Dan Vogelbach or third baseman Christian Villanueva (the Cubs have All-Stars occupying each position at the big league level) could be part of the right package for a rental player. Any deal of Starlin Castro or Javier Baez has been put on hold, with little value to come in return for either, as teams aren’t much interest in the struggling Castro and Baez continues to recover from a fractured finger and be unproven at the big league level.
Epstein will surely operate with care when balancing the needs of the 2015 team against the organizational assets of the future. Again, it all comes back to patience.
The Cubs’ 47-40 record is good enough for a wild-card spot, but their bleak World Series hopes rest in the form of unfulfilled potential, and such a notion reminds of the important fact that Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell and newly added Kyle Schwarber are all rookies. Castro and Anthony Rizzo are still young men, too.
Castro has a -0.4 WAR, which ranks near the bottom of baseball’s eligible position players. Ace Jon Lester has seen bad luck in the form of a 3.59 ERA and 3.14 xFIP. Dexter Fowler has a wOBA of .300, and Montero’s BABIP is just .276. But with all of this, the Cubs were still a playoff team at the All-Star break.
Overall, the Cubs carry an 11.0 WAR for position players, which ranks 13th of 30 teams. The metrics show this team has plenty to improve on, and the blend of blossoming youth and underperforming veterans suggests such improvements will come over time.
This current Cubs team doesn’t need to mortgage important parts of the future when its young core should keep developing and struggling veterans will most likely play closer to their baseball card stats.
Maybe the right move is put on the table, and Epstein bets chips with which he can part, but by no means must he go all-in on this season. It appears that a greater promise lies ahead of the Cubs.
Being in playoff position is quite an accomplishment for the Cubs, who have plenty needed to improve in order to be considered among baseball’s top teams. That potential lies within this current core.
They are good, without a doubt, and there’s better to come in the future.MORE NEWS: Jubilant And Inspired Fans, Booming Businesses Near Wintrust Arena As Chicago Sky Win WNBA Championship
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.