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Cubs Tue Mar 19 2013

What If The Cubs Contend In 2013?

Cubs_200.pngThe concept of contention is laughable amongst the Cubs fan base these days. Everyone has been brainwashed (myself included) to willingly accept the high probability of losing in hopes there is light at the end of the tunnel.

But a last place finish in an Astros-less National League Central isn't a guarantee. It's just a probability.

It's happened before. Teams that don't look great on paper get breakout performances from young players just learning the Major League game, veterans that discover the fountain of youth (or a German doctor), and an inordinate amount of close games go in your direction.

The Baltimore Orioles hadn't had a winning record in 15 years before catching some breaks (29-9 in one-run games) and going for it in a surprisingly weakened AL East last season. The Pirates hadn't broken .500 since 1992, but were in a battle for a playoff spot until fading in August.

Though unlikely, the Cubs could be in the playoff race when the July 31st trade deadline arrives. Matt Garza could return to ace form after recovering from his injuries, Jeff Samardzija could pitch to his full potential, and Edwin Jackson could simply be himself to give the team a trio of nasty arms atop the rotation.

Starlin Castro could go back to hitting .325. Anthony Rizzo could join Alfonso Soriano and bash 30-plus homers. David Dejesus could get on base at a high rate, and Wellington Castillo or the Nate Schierholtz/Scott Hairston combination in right field could tear the cover off the ball. It's baseball -- anything can happen.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have said that if the Cubs are in contention that they'll play to win. But don't think for a second either guy will get trigger happy and start trading the farm to win a few games in 2013. Each opportunity to reach the playoffs is precious -- nobody can argue that -- especially when the best team heading into the playoffs rarely wins the World Series. It's just not worth sacrificing elite young talent to get marginally better now.

If the Cubs sit in second or third place on July 15th and are within shouting distance of a playoff spot, you might see them make a deal for a third basemen with a better track record, another starter, or a bullpen arm. But if a team they call even whispers the names of Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, or Albert Almora, a dial tone is the only thing they'll hear in response.

Contention may not be a part of the plan right now, but the organization will welcome it into the fold if all the breaks fall in the Cubs direction. Just don't expect it to affect the bigger future the team aspires to.

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