Levine: Cubs Must Decide Who They Want To Be
By Bruce Levine--
(CBS) -- The addition of hot-hitting prospect Kyle Schwarber creates a question or two about where the Cubs are at and where they want to go.
The Cubs' first-round pick in the June 2014 amateur draft, Schwarber has been dominant all the way through his brief minor league career. There appears to be little question about his hitting prowess and what kind of run producer he's expected to become.
The real question facing this franchise full of fine hitting prospects is where it wants to play these young men and how soon are management is willing to commit to a full playoff run? The Cubs are considered a good organization with the arrow pointed way up for the near and distant future. All of that said, will they sell out on some young talent before the July 31 non-wavier trade deadline just to try and play one wild-card game to advance this season?
Manager Joe Maddon has his teamed focused on winning the NL Central, not a wild card entry. This is an aggressive and noble approach. The important question to ask and answer is whether this mentality is real or a pipe dream. Arguably, the two best teams in the league are in the Cubs' division. The Pirates and Cardinals have played as well as any club in the first 90 games of the season. Are the Cubs ready to play with the big boys now?
That answer is being worked on by a front office that's hoping to add a starting pitcher such as Ian Kennedy or Scott Kazmir to the rotation. New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon could also be had for the right hitter as well. All three pitchers mentioned are potential free agents this November. What in the name of player development would a two-month rental be worth to the Cubs?
Looking at Schwarber, would he be better served learning to play the outfield now? The young catcher has made some serious strides as a receiver since being drafted out of Indiana. The pressure of learning the most demanding position on the field at the big league level may be asking too much from the left-handed power hitter. Schwarber wouldn't have been recalled if Miguel Montero hadn't injured his hand. If the team wants to properly bring Schwarber along, shouldn't it make a decision now or return him to the minors for seasoning at either catcher or left field?
The Cubs have been a really nice story 90 games into this campaign. Are they serious about a playoff run? Pitching wise, the answer appears to be yes, though one more quality hurler would help provide depth. Hitting and defensive questions remain. You can make a case for only first baseman Anthony Rizzo -- and Rizzo alone -- being at the same position he's playing now when next April rolls around for the Cubs to start the 2016 season.
Winning is one thing, player development is another. Trying to accomplish both at the same time may be the most difficult thing to do as a baseball organization. Who are these Cubs? The management group headed by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer may have some answers for us by July 31.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.
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