The reality of the Cubs’ rebuilding process this offseason is the lack of quality depth on the big league roster for 2012.
Depth, of course, is of critical importance over the course of a 162 game season. Players get injured, others need rest, and still there are various other reasons in which back-up players will be called to duty.
Starlin Castro, for instance, has no viable replacement at SS other than Darwin Barney, the starting second baseman.
If not Barney at 2B, then it’s Jeff Baker who has yet to prove consistency as an everyday player.
Likewise, first base is manned by the 29-year-old Bryan LaHair, who’s consistency as a starter remains in question. And backing him up is Anthony Rizzo, a 22-year-old prospect still green in his development.
Newly acquired Ian Stewart is a nice complementary piece at 3B, but is protected only by Blake DeWitt, who’s marginal on both sides of the ball.
A better physically fit Goevany Soto managed to play in 125 games last season–his most since his rookie year (141)–but has yet to reach the promise of his rookie season in 2008.
Another stumble for Geo offensively could quickly transition Welington Castillo into the starting fold, but his struggle with plate discipline is no guarantee he’s any better on the offensive side of the plate.
Same story in the outfield with Dave Seppelt, Tony Campana and Reed Johnson. Each is an ideal situational player, but what happens if they’re thrust into an everyday role?
Although the Cubs have done well adding much needed depth to its starting rotation, many of these guys are on the rebound from down years–project players so to speak–who offer little assurance they’ll regain any past success.
An already thin and unsteady starting rotation could further crack if Matt Garza is dealt. And the bullpen, although slightly improved from 2011, is far from a sure-thing(ie. Carlos Marmol).
While many Cubs fans have braced for the growing pains that are sure to arise with a young and re-tooled roster, it’s the lack of depth that is most likely to sink the Cubs to another sub .500 season.