The answer to the headline is yes…and no.

In my third article of this 30 in 30 series, we take a look at the Chicago Cubs, one of the hottest teams in all of baseball at the end of last season.

Posting an impressive 24-13 record under interim manager Mike Quade at the end of last season, the question now for Chicago is no longer “Just how bad are the Cubs?” It has been replaced with the much more optimistic “Just how GOOD are these Cubs?”

The same team that was near the bottom of the NL Central for the entire season appeared to be a legitimate contender in September. But it was too little too late, and the Cubs finished the season with a 75-87 record.

One thing I will say about this team is that over the course of the offseason, the Cubs improved the most out of any team in the entire National League. Bringing in SP Matt Garza from the Devil Rays was a great move by the Cubs in order to stay on pace with the division leaders. 

The Cubs also signed 1B Carlos Pena who hit 28 home runs with 84 RBI. The main concern with Pena is his consistency at the plate, batting .196 last season. Even with Pena’s low BA, the Cubs now have a much-needed power bat in the middle of a fairly well-rounded lineup.


Here’s what the lineup and starting rotation look like for the Cubs right now.

C: Geovany Soto

1B: Carlos Pena

2B: Blake DeWitt

3B: Aramis Ramirez

SS: Starlin Castro

LF: Alfonso Soriano

CF: Marlon Byrd

RF: Kosuke Fukudome


SP: Ryan Dempster

SP: Randy Wells

SP: Matt Garza

SP: Tom Gorzelanny

SP: Carlos Zambrano 

CL: Carlos Marmol


This Cubs team is loaded with potential, but that’s the key word: “potential.” 

Castro is on the verge of becoming a star for this team. The very talented SS batted for .300 last season, ranking him 10th in the NL. He is also only 20 years old, and with the addition of Pena, his production should only go up this season.

When you look at this Cubs lineup, there are no real weaknesses, but the production of Soriano and Ramirez is going to be what makes or breaks the Cubs this year. 

It’s almost hard to believe that Soriano is only four years removed from an unreal season with the Nationals, in which he hit 40 doubles, 40 home runs and stole 40 bases. Injuries have since kept Soriano from repeating this type of production, and no one expects this same production out of him. However, if he can play the entire season, it’s not unrealistic to see him around 30 HRs and 80-plus RBI.

The starting rotation for the Cubs this season is one of the best in baseball. They have five quality starters, who should be able to keep the team in most games heading into the later innings of each game.

We all know what a healthy Carlos Zambrano is capable of, while Dempster and Wells appear to be locks at the top of the rotation after very productive 2010 seasons from both. 

Garza is the key here, and the Cubs gave up a lot to get him. With a 15-10 record, an ERA of 3.91, and 150 Ks last season, Garza is definitely capable of doing big things for the Cubs in 2011…but was the deal enough to get the Cubs back into contention? At this point it’s a very tough question to answer, and I believe that this club could be a big mover this season.

The NL Central is always brutal, especially this season. With the resurgence of the Reds, the always consistent Cardinals and the Brewers with newly acquired former AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, it’s hard to put the Cubs ahead of any of those three teams.

With that being said, don’t be surprised if I become a buyer of the Cubs stock sometime during spring training, and I will say this for Cubs fans…on paper you have one of the better teams in the NL. But as we’ve seen before, if paper wins championships, well, Steve Bartman would have never happened.

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