The Cubbies haven't won the World Series since 1908 and haven't played in the Fall Classic since 1945. That won't change this season as a fifth straight losing campaign seems like a sure thing for sports bettors on the Cubs.
OF Brian Bogusevic, Kevin Gregg RHP, Matt Guerrier RHP, C Dioner Navarro, Manager Dale Sveum
Manager Rick Renteria, C George Kottaras, CF Justin Ruggiano, RHP Jose Veras, LHP Wesley Wright, RHP Jason Hammel
Only the Miami Marlins kept the Cubs from the worst record in the National League last season with Chicago finishing at 66-96. At least it was a five-win improvement from 2012 and the Cubs were good for sports bettors on the runline at 90-72. Team president Theo Epstein essentially had a five-year plan to rebuild this franchise from the minor leagues up when he arrived in 2011. Thus Cubs fans probably can't count on a contender until 2016.
If you want to see exciting Cubs baseball, go to the Cactus League this spring. That's because Chicago has four of the best position player prospects in baseball in Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. All four will be in spring camp but not a one has a shot of going north with the big club. Epstein likes to give prospects plenty of time in the minors for seasoning. Baez likely will be the first one up, perhaps by this summer if the tears up Triple-A.
As for the Cubs who will be on the Opening Day roster, Chicago is counting on new manager Renteria, the former Padres bench coach, getting the best out of the likes of shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Castro looked like a future superstar his first three seasons but hugely regressed last year, hitting .245 and continuing to make mental mistakes on the field and on the basepaths. The hope is that the bilingual Renteria and new hitting coach Bill Mueller will re-charge Castro as he wasn't on the same page with former manager Sveum. Rizzo hit 23 homers and knocked in 80 last year but his average plummeted to .233 after hitting .285 in 2012.
The Cubs ranked 14th in the NL in runs in 2013 (68-86-8 O/U at sportsbooks) and are likely to be among the worst again even if Castro and Rizzo bounce back. Second baseman Darwin Barney is great defensively but hit only .208 a season ago. Third base is a black hole unless former Rangers top prospect Mike Olt shows something in camp and wins the job. The outfield could be the worst in the majors. Nate Schierholtz was a pleasant surprise in 2013 by hitting 21 homers, but he's a trade candidate by July 31.
The pitching staff is led by Jeff Samardzija for now, but he also could be dealt by the deadline because the former Notre Dame receiver still hasn't agreed to a long-term extension and can become a free agent after 2015. Samardzija wants to be paid like an ace but was just 8-13 with a 4.34 ERA last year. Travis Wood was the Cubs' best pitcher with a 3.11 ERA, but that could have been a fluke as it was by far Wood's best career number. Edwin Jackson is the No. 3 and was one of the worst pitchers in the NL in 2013. Orioles retread Jake Arrieta is likely to be the No. 4, although he's already dealing with shoulder tightness, and Chris Rusin/Hammel at No. 5. It could be ugly. Veras will take over as the closer.
The Cubs are +2500 at BetOnline's baseball odds to win the NL pennant and +4000 to win the World Series.
Castro and Rizzo show why they both were given long-term extensions and prove they are indeed young building blocks. Samardzija pitches like the No. 1 starter he thinks he is. Baez comes up in July and shows signs of superstardom to give fans a reason to show up at Wrigley. The Cubs nearly sniff .500 and have positive momentum heading into 2015.
The Cubs are hammered night after night in the deep NL Central. Renteria is overmatched in his first big-league managing gig. Wood returns to previous form and Samardzija gets hurt, not only costing the team its best starter but ruining his trade value this summer. And the franchise's star quartet struggles in the minors, pushing future contention back even further.