Better luck next year, Chicago Cubs

This season was bad, but 2014 could be the same as the Cubs are in rebuilding mode. Photo: Travis Wood was a rarebright spot for the Cubs/AP

CHICAGO, September 12, 2013 — Yesterday’s edition of Better Luck Next Year looked at the team on the South Side of Chicago that has been officially eliminated from the playoffs. Today’s column travels to the north side to Wrigley to see what went wrong. Better luck next year, Cubs.

Click here to see all previous teams from the Better Luck Next Year series.

SEE RELATED: South Side sliding: White Sox are officially out of the playoff hunt

What Went Right: There was not a ton that went right as far as the major league Cubs, but the minor leagues were another story. The Cubs saw players like Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Arismendy Alcantara take steps forward for a system that entered the season ranked 12th by Baseball America. The club was also able to add Kris Bryant, the second overall pick in the draft, and Mike Olt and CJ Edward, through the Matt Garza trade.

Some of the minor league talent, none as heralded as what is expected in the next couple years, has started to graduate to the major league club. Junior Lake had frustrated scouts for not being able to realize his tools in the minors, but has performed well in his limited time in the majors, posting a .313/.356/.474 slash line, albeit in just 206 plate appearances. Chris Rusin has also performed well in his 53 innings that he has pitched this year, although his peripherals suggest that his success may be fleeting. Whether or not Lake and Rusin have staying power, only time will tell, but it shows fans that the minor leagues are getting players to the majors. 

Starlin Castro/AP

Travis Wood has been a revelation for the Cubs staff as he has posted a 130 ERA+ while producing 4.3 WAR and making his first All Star team. He has maintained a strikeout rate of 17.4%, which is near his career rate, while improving his walk rate to 7.7%. Kevin Gregg has performed very well, to the surprise of many, as the Cubs closer. Gregg posted a 133 ERA+, the best of his career, and produced 1.1 WAR the second best of his career.

SEE RELATED: Miami Marlins are officially out of playoff race

What Went Wrong: For some reason the club held onto Gregg at the deadline. While the team managed to trade Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, David DeJesus and even Alfonso Soriano for a combination of prospects and salary relief they kept Kevin Gregg. Not that Gregg would have gotten a lot in trade, but when clubs look for bullpen help near the deadline it seems like Gregg would have been a prime candidate to move.

The Cubs caught some bad luck with injuries. Jorge Soler, one of their top prospects, had a stress fracture and missed the latter part of the year although hopefully he can get back on track in the Arizona Fall League. Kyuji Fujikawa had Tommy John Surgery and missed the last two thirds of the season.

Perhaps the biggest thing that went wrong though was the two players that the Cubs had pegged as building blocks going forward took giant steps back. Starlin Castro posted a slash line of .240/.279/.343 with an OPS+ of just 69. This was a giant step back for a player the Cubs signed to a seven year $60 million dollar extension just 13 months ago. In May the Cubs also gave Anthony Rizzo a seven year $41 million dollar deal and were rewarded with a .229/.325/.419 slash line and 2.1 WAR. Rizzo produced 2.3 WAR last year in just 368 plate appearances compared to 616 plate appearances this year.

What To Look For In 2014: The Cubs will likely look to continued progress from their minor leaguers as the goal for next year. There may be more graduates to the big league club although it is unlikely that most of their “name” prospects will be anything more than September call-ups. It will also be interesting to see if the Cubs add any pitchers in free agency as they signed Edwin Jackson to a big money deal last winter while signing pitchers like Scott Feldman and Scott Baker to shorter deals with the mindset that if they performed they could also serve as trade bait.

SEE RELATED: Better luck next year, Houston Astros

Free Agents/Options: Scott Baker, Dioner Navarro 

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Steve Adler

Steve Adler was born and raised in NH in a town called Westmoreland. He currently resides in Chicago, IL with his wife and daughter. He has worked in Commodities and Banking. Steve has been a sports columnist for The Washington Times Communities since July 2013.

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