At some point in the next few weeks, the Chicago Cubs are going to blow up what has surprisingly been a very good starting rotation (by at least one measure, the best), continuing the cycle of accepting present-day pain for potential future gain. Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel will likely head elsewhere via trade, to be replaced for now by the likes of Chris Rusin and Tsuyoshi Wada, and the pitching will suffer for it. Almost certainly, the season will end with the Cubs in fifth place in the NL Central for the sixth consecutive year.
If that sounds like it's painting a bleak picture for Cubs fans, it shouldn't. The Cubs are already seeing the fruits of last year's deadline trades in the big leagues thanks to Jake Arrieta, Justin Grimm, Mike Olt and Neil Ramirez, and potential Hammel/Samardzija trades should only bring in more talent. In the minors, third baseman Kris Bryant has done nothing but destroy baseballs, continuing to test the organization's otherwise reasonable assertion that he won't see the bigs until 2015.
That might not make another 90-loss trip to last place any easier to watch as fans continue to hear about "the future," but this should: Right now, in 2014, the best first baseman in baseball might just be wearing Cubbie blue.
Chicago building block
Yes, we're talking about Anthony Rizzo, and yes, it's clear how crazy that might sound. "The best?!," you incredulously say, "after how disappointing he was in 2013, and with mashers like Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt at first base?"
Clearly, it's going to take more than this for Rizzo to enter the "best first baseman in the game" conversation for many people, but the numbers don't lie. So far, Rizzo is behind only Goldschmidt for most WAR among first basemen. By wRC+, an offense-only stat which corrects for park and league effects, he's ahead of both, in third place behind Edwin Encarnacion and the shocking performance of Adam LaRoche.