Legends On Deck

How They Were Built: 2015 Chicago Cubs

Starting Pitchers

Jon Lester – Signed a six-year $155 million deal in December.  Lester spent the first 8 3/4 years of his major league career with the Boston Red Sox before being traded to the Oakland A’s at the trade deadline last season.  He is very durable and makes over 30 starts a season.  He is 116-67 with an ERA of 3.58, including a 19-win season in 2010.  Lester has been selected to the All-Star game three times and had finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting twice.  The Cubs are looking to make a run at this thing and desperately needed an ace and they got one.  The thing that will be interesting is to see how Lester handles that pressure and how he lives up to the contract he signed.

Jake Arrieta – Acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in a trade in July of 2013.  Arrieta is entering his six year in the major leagues.  He was originally drafted by the Orioles in the fifth round of the 2007 draft.  Made his debut in June of 2010 against the New York Yankees and also picked up the win.  He is 14-7 in 34 starts with the Cubs and should continue with that success with the new lineup that manager Joe Maddon will march out there everyday.

Jason Hammel – Signed two-year $20 million contract with a club option for a third in December.  This is the second stint with the Cubs for Hammel.  He signed with Chicago during last offseason and then was traded away to the Oakland A’s with Jeff Samardzjia in the beginning of July.  Entering his 10th season in the major leagues, Hammel holds a 59-70 record with a career ERA of 4.60.  If it is any consolation for the Cubs, Hammel had a record of 8-5 with an ERA under three in 17 starts before the trade.

Travis Wood – Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in a trade in December of 2011.  Wood avoided arbitration with the Cubs agreeing to a one-year $5.685 million deal.  Wood didn’t have the best of seasons in 2014 going 8-13 with an ERA over five.

Kyle Hendricks – Acquired in a trade from the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline in 2012.  Hendricks made 13 starts for the Cubs going 7-2 with an ERA of 2.46.  A bright spot in an otherwise gloomy season, Hendricks could win 12-15 games if not more in 2015.

Bullpen

Hector Rondon (CL) – Selected by the Cubs in the 2012 Rule 5 draft from the Cleveland Indians.  Rondon appeared in 64 games in 2014 and recorded 29 saves.  Chicago may have something here with Rondon as he saw is ERA drop in half and is about a strikeout per inning guy.  The 26-year old from Venezuela should take the reigns as the closer in 2015.

Pedro Strop – Acquired in the trade with the Baltimore Orioles that brought Arrieta to the Cubs.  Strop is a decent option out of the pen in the later stages of the game for Chicago.  He appeared in 65 games last season with an ERA of 2.21.  He has a 10.5 K/9 rate which any team would be happy to have.  He also collected two saves last season.

Jason Motte – Signed a one-year $4.5 million free agent contract in December.  After missing all of 2013, Motte made 29 appearances with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014.  A former closer that registered 42 saves in 2012, could give the Cubs an option other than Rondon in the ninth if needed.  He was a former 19th round pick of the Cardinals and has a World Series ring from the 2011 season.

Edwin Jackson – Signed a four-year $52 million free agent contract in December of 2012.  Jackson is an interesting case as he can start and come out of the pen.  He can win games but he certainly can lose them too with a league-high 18 in 2013.  Things just really haven’t seemed the same for Jackson after his no-hitter a few years back.  He has played for eight different teams in 12 years and could give the Cubs an option of the rotation due to slow starts or injuries.

Felix Doubront – Acquired in a trade with the Boston Red Sox at the deadline last season.  A former member of the Red Sox rotation, Doubront could fill that role with the Cubs as well if need be.  Although he appeared in only four games last season in Chicago, Doubront was 2-1 with an ERA of 3.98.  He is a two-time eleven-game winner.  He doesn’t strike many batters out but is capable of getting them out which will obviously help.  He signed a one-year deal with the Cubs this offseason avoiding arbitration.

Jacob Turner – Acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins in August of last year.  Turner was a highly rated prospect during his time in the minor leagues.  He had a rough 2014 but has shown signs in previous seasons that he has what it takes to have some success at this level.  He is in the final season of the four-year $5.5 million contract with options he signed as a member of the Detroit Tigers back in 2009.  Turner is another player that could come out of the pen as well as start if the need arises.

Starting Lineup

Miguel Montero (C) – Acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in December.  One thing that is going to help out a rotation that may have seen some struggles in previous seasons is a good catcher.  The Cubs went out and got one in Montero.  He has some pop in his bat and has the ability to hit home runs and get on base in general.  The two-time All-Star boasts a career .991 fielding percentage as a catcher.  He has seen his batting average dip over the last couple of seasons but that is nothing to worry about.  Montero is in the middle of a five-year $60 million contract he signed with Arizona in 2012.

Anthony Rizzo (1B) – Acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres in January of 2012.  One of the things that Rizzo will be most known for this offseason is his mentioning of the Cubs winning the Central title this season.  The 24-year old slugger has the numbers to prove that he will do his part, he just needs everyone else to believe.  Rizzo was selected to the All-Star team in 2014 and had a batting line of .286/.386/.527/.913, to go along with his 32 bombs.  He has the goods and should be a player to keep your eye on.  He signed a seven-year $41 million contract extension that replaced the one he had already in place in 2013.

Javier Baez (2B) – Drafted in the first round (9th overall) by the Cubs in the 2011 draft.  Listed as one of the top prospects in all of baseball, Baez made his major league debut in 2014.  It wasn’t the greatest of debuts but he is only 22-years old.  Baez appeared in 52 games and hit .195.  The Cubs and their fans are excited to see what he can do on an everyday basis.

Tommy La Stella (3B) – Acquired in a trade with the Atlanta Braves in November of 2014.  La Stella appeared in 93 games with the Braves hitting .251.  It is assumed that La Stella is just keeping this position warm for Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant.  It isn’t known when he will make his debut, but all of baseball feel that he is a star in the making.

Starlin Castro (SS) – Signed as an amateur free agent with the Cubs in 2006.  One of the more exciting players that was on the Cubs roster last season, Castro has the goods.  He is a three-time All-Star that can hit for average and has the ability to knock a few out of the park.  Defense is a little bit of an issue as he has a career fielding percentage of .963, but he is improving.  Castro is currently under contract as he signed a seven-year $60 million pact in 2013.

Chris Coghlan (LF) – Signed as a free agent with the Cubs in January of 2014.  Coghlan is a nice player that showed he could produce given an opportunity to play everyday.  He appeared in 125 games in 2014 and hit .283 with nine home runs and 41 RBI.  The starting job should be his but the Cubs do have other options.  He and Chicago agree on a one-year deal worth $2.505 million.  The former Rookie of the Year should see plenty of playing time in 2015.

Dexter Fowler (CF) – Acquired in a trade with the Houston Astros in earlier this month.  Fowler gives the Cubs a serious lead-off option due to his ability to get on base and also run when he gets there.  In 2014 he hit .276 with 11 stolen bases in his only season on the Astros.  Fowler agreed to a one-year $9.5 million contract to avoid arbitration.  He is a viable option as long as he stays healthy.

Jorge Soler (RF) – Signed as an amateur free agent by the Cubs in 2012.  Soler made his major league debut last season and appeared in 24 games.  He hit .292 with five home runs in 89 at-bats.  He had an on-base percentage of .330 with an OPS of .903.  The 22-year old Cuban was rated in the top 50 prospects according to Baseball America.  This is just another young player that the city of Chicago and their fans should be excited about.  Players that they have been hearing about they are going to actually see what they can do.  Soler signed a nine-year $20 million contract in June of 2012.

Projected Bench

David Ross (C) – Signed a two-year $5 million free agent deal in December.  One thing that gets lost in the rigors of a long season is the importance of a quality backup catcher.  Chicago got theirs this offseason as they try to get back to the top of baseball.  Ross is entering his 14th season in the major leagues and the Cubs will be his seventh team.

Mike Olt (1B/3B) – Acquired by the Cubs from the Rangers in the Matt Garza trade in 2013.  Olt has played in over 100 games in his career in the corner infield position and in the outfield.  He was a top 50 prospect that hasn’t had the opportunity to make a name for himself.  He did have his struggles in 2014 hitting just .160 in 89 games.

Chris Denorfia (OF) – Signed a one-year $2.6 million deal with the Cubs in January.  Denorfia is a guy that can play anywhere in the outfield.  He is entering his 10th season in the major leagues and has seen his playing time increase over the last several seasons.  He gives Chicago another option off the bench.

Arismendy Alcantara (IF/OF) – Signed as an amateur free agent with the Cubs in 2008.  Alcantara made his major league debut last season in July and appeared in 70 games.  He didn’t have a very high batting average (.205) but did hit the ball for power (10 home runs) in the small sample size.  He played both outfield and second base last season and will most likely continue in that role in 2015.

Ryan Sweeney (OF) – Signed a two-year $3.5 million free agent contract with the Cubs in April of 2013.  Sweeney can play all of the positions in the outfield and can hit too.  He has a career .276 average with an on-base percentage of .333.

John Ginder

Site Co-Founder/Senior Editor and Co-Host at Legends on Deck® The Podcast
In the past John has been a part of such successful sites as MetsMerizedOnline and MetsMinors.net.John was born and raised in upstate New York and has a love of all sports but mainly baseball. He has grown used to heartache with his teams as he roots for the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres too.John has a loving and understanding wife and is the the proud father of two amazing boys.He also loves heavy metal music.

You can also reach out to John at jginder@legendsondeck.com