Theo Epstein: Chicago Cubs plan to contend in 2015

Chicago Cubs’ general manager and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein addressed the a large group of the club’s season ticket holders on Friday at the Oriental Theater in Chicago.

“Our goal in 2015 is to win the National League Central,” said Epstein. “It felt good to say that.”

It would feel good to say that for the GM of a club that finishes last in the N.L. Central on a fairly regular basis, at least in recent years. It would also feel good to th players, fans, everyone surrounding the team, in fact, because they are all looking for the club to finally break the “Curse of the Billy Goat” that has plagued the Cubbies for a century.

Not  unlike the Red Sox who broke their own “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004 when they won the World Series. The Red Sox went on to win two more World Series titles in the decade that followed the breaking of the curse, and I’m sure that is the hope of Cubs fans everywhere.

The Cubs still have work to do to become division champions but throughout the 2014 season the team was inundated with a lot of young call-ups that performed beyond expectations.

They already have a great young shorstop in 23-year-old Starlin Castro and the same goes for their 23-year-old first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Called up during the season were names such as shortstop Javier Baez and right fielder Jorge Soler, both of whom hit home runs in their first Major League games. Some rookie call-ups wait months just to get their first hit.

Two others are second baseman Arismendy Alcantara who was the number 33 prospect in Baseball America‘s midseason rankings and center fielder Albert Almorawho was ranked number 36 on Baseball America’s 2014 preseason top 100 list.

Then there are the prospects who haven’t been called up yet. In a July trade with the Oakland Athletics for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, the Cubs recieved the league’s number five prospect Addison Russell and the A’s 2012 first round draft pick Billy McKinney.

They also have the number two overall prospect Kris Bryant who is ready for the big leagues after being named USA TODAY’s Minor League Player of the Year.

There are others too but to name them all would begin to bore you. Some people are panicking that the Cubs might not have room for some of them but I think the Cubs’ management has a plan on how to work that out.

The Cubs pitching was decent this season, bordering on good. There have been rumors that they may go after a big, verteran free agent over the offseason, like Jon Lester orMax Scherzer.

Epstein did say that the team does plan to add impact pitching sometime over the next year but that it wouldn’t necessarily be a big name free agent over the offseason but that there was a possibility that they may wait to strike at the 2015 trade dealine.

“This time of year is dangerous, because we always take the small sample size events and create majestic narratives about what it means to build a winning team and a landscape, in general,” Epstein said. “We’re not going to go out and lead the league in stolen bases next year because of the Royals. … We know that buying top-of-the-rotation starters in free agency, those haven’t been the signings that bring the best return in investment.”

He went on to tell reporters after his presentation to the season ticket holders about not being afraid of passing on some of the bigger name free agents over the offseason.

“To be the organization that we want to be — to be a world-class organization — you can’t be afraid of perception. You have to put yourself out there and look stupid at times. We’re going to miss on players by not signing them, we’re going to sign players who don’t work out. But we’re also going to sign players who make a real impact and win those extra three, four games for us and put us in the postseason and put us in the World Series.”

2015 might not be the Cubs year to win the National League Central but the could. In anycase they certainly have a chance to contend and if not right away then in the very near future.

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