AP Photo/Matt Slocum
The Cubs have gotten a lot out of their depth this season with big performances by Frank Schwindel, Rafael Ortega and Patrick Wisdom.
The next time the Cubs are in the postseason, the team’s roster will look dramatically different than it does right now. As the Cubs have started to rebuild as they turn their roster over post-World Series core, it has increased the emphasis on scouting and developing talent at the major-league level.
The Cubs took a step back this season after the trade deadline as they moved nearly a third of the Opening Day roster including their World Series core of Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. But after seeing so much high-end talent walk out the door, the team’s roster naturally took a step back.
But one thing the Cubs have done successfully since the beginning of the season has been finding different depth pieces that have contributed in some way at the major-league level. While it might not move the needle now as they restock their talent, identifying different traits in players and that will be valuable as they build their next contender.
“I think that goes into [the front office] doing a really nice job,” manager David Ross said before Tuesday’s game against the Twins. “The scouting, player development and front office identifying those guys.”
“I mean, that’s a long tedious process that they’re always focused on up there [in the front office].”
When you look around baseball and see the teams that are fighting for spots in the postseason, while several of them have a group of superstars that they rely on, it’s the depth pieces that are found either in the offseason or during the season that push those teams over the top.
“I think that’s the secret of every organization,” the Cubs’ skipper said. “Finding those hidden gems and coupling those with the minor leaguers or the guys in your organization that you already have, or guys that you feel like are going to need, two months in the minor leagues, and might be on the map. All those things kind of factor into building that next team for the following year and then future years.”
This season, the Cubs hit on several of the players they’ve taken fliers on either the minor league free-agent market where they acquired Rafael Ortega and Michael Hermosillo or on waivers where they picked up Frank Schwindel and Sergio Alcantara.
Some of those finds have benefitted the Cubs in big ways whether it be Patrick Wisdom breaking the team’s rookie home run record after signing a minor-league deal last season or in a trade.
Former Cubs reliever Ryan Tepera signed on a minor-league deal prior to last season. Tepera turned into one of the team’s best relievers in his two seasons in Chicago and the Cubs were able to turn that into a prospect at the trade deadline.
“I think we would be crazy to think all those guys are gonna hit, right?,” Ross said. “You get a [Ryan] Tepera and a [Brandon] Workman. The chances of both of those guys working out this year are probably thin. But you’ve got to try to balance that with finding the value and where those hidden gems are. And hopefully somebody can make adjustments or something ticks back up to past performances that they’ve identified.”
Having depth is only one part of the equation when it comes to building a roster. Having go-to players will always be a main part of building any team. The Cubs will have to be active this offseason during free agency to build their roster back up, ensuring those depth pieces don’t get overexposed.
But once you’ve successfully added those superstar-caliber players, which the Cubs will look to do over the next few seasons, making sure to fill out the roster with players who are capable of contributing at the major league level will be an important part of the team’s rebuilding process.