Over the next few weeks I'm going to take a look at the offseason moves of each of the NL Central teams and their 2014 outlook, starting from the bottom up and finishing with the Cardinals on or around the start of Spring Training.
Thus, today I start with the Chicago Cubs.
Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, Kevin Gregg, Dioner Navarro
Tsuyoshi Wada, Wesley Wright, Jose Veras, Justin Ruggiano
The Cubs continued their rebuilding plan this offseason, making no big splashes. Although they did make a run at Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, reportedly offering more than any other team, Tanaka ended up signing with the Yankees.
If its any consolation for Cubs fans, they did sign another Japanese player in Wada, who came over to the states in 2012, but did not pitch in the majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Wada won 107 games with a 3.13 ERA in his 9 seasons in Japan, including a 16-5 record with a 1.51 ERA in his final season in 2011. He is the epitome of the buy low players the Cubs have focused on in recent years.
The Cubs also picked up center fielder Ruggiano in a trade with the Marlins as well as a couple relievers in Wright and Veras. Veras could compete with holdover Pedro Strop for the closer role, while Ruggiano should be the Cubs starting center fielder in 2014.
Despite the lack of moves by the Cubs, things are still looking up for them as many of their top prospects are on the cusp on joining the big club.
Top prospect Javier Baez clubbed 37 homers between high A and AA last year. Third baseman Kris Bryant, who was selected in the first round of the 2013 draft, should not be long for the minors after hitting .336 with 9 homers in just 128 at bats in his debut.
Pitcher C.J. Edwards, acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza trade last summer, has been downright dominant in his brief minor league career, posting a 1.72 ERA in 183.1 innings.
Add in top outfield prospects Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, and the Cubs have the makings of a strong nucleus of players to build a championship caliber team around.
Overall, I don't look for the Cubs to contend in 2014, as most of their top prospects are probably at least a year away, but if the team has bounce-back years from youngsters like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo and can patch together a decent rotation, they could push for a .500 record.