Despite all the new faces, a lot of the headlines out of Cubs' spring training camp in Arizona are about new manager Dale Sveum's bunting tournament. I already appreciate Sveum's focus on fundamentals, especially every time the image of Matt Garza trying to bunt comes to mind, and I have to admit I've been looking to Twitter for the daily update on the winners and losers.
However, the attention being paid to the bunting tourney also works in the favor of the new front office as a timely distraction from the rest of the facts: This team is made up of low-risk spare parts, promising but still-green youngsters and a few leftovers from the Jim Hendry Cubs. No one wants to call it a re-building, but that's what it is.
Consider what we know already just a few days into camp:
- Bryan LaHair is already the clear starter at first base. No platoon, no challenger. I know, Anthony Rizzo is in camp, but he'll have to lead the Cactus League in homers and hit about .750 to start the season anywhere besides Iowa. I like that LaHair's finally getting a chance, but he also has the look of a last resort.
- Ian Stewart appears to be the clear starter at third base. No platoon, no challenger. Stewart is an example of what Theo & Co. have collected a lot of: Very intriguing, mostly low-cost spare parts that may or may not pay off. If they don't, they certainly won't weigh on the Cubs' future with Alfonso Soriano-like contractual obligations.
- Ryan Dempster is the ace of the pitching staff. Garza is the better pitcher, of course, but he may end up spending half a season or less with the Cubs. Dempster is the anchor, and while I like him a lot, that's not a completely comforting thought (a common Cub fan conundrum at work).
- Jeff Samardzija is competing for a rotation spot. How can this still be possible? Well, that's how unimpressive the starting rotation is. New arrivals like Chris Volstad, Paul Maholm and Andy Sonnanstine certainly lend depth, experience and their own histories of minor flashes of brilliance to the competition, but none of them is any more of a sure thing than Samardzija.
With the exception of a few faces, the Cubs really do have a different look, but it's not hard to get the sense that a lot of them our placeholders. Take David DeJesus, for example. Could he really pay off in right field? Absolutely, but the 32-year-old would be bucking the odds if he has a career year. If he's still a starting outfielder for the Cubs around 2014, then it's a good bet that the new Cub Way will have stalled somewhere along the way.