The Chicago Cubs still have a good deal of work to do before they'll be considered legitimate contenders in the NL Central, but President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein likes how his young "core players" have emerged over the past year, as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes.
Like Castro, Barney and Samardzija have been in the Cubs organization for years, but Rizzo was acquired by Epstein from the San Diego Padres last offseason to help anchor the team's offense long-term. All four players proved to be effective, affordable players in 2012, leaving the Cubs with some solid pieces to build around.
The emergence of Samardzija has been particularly exciting for the Cubs, as Epstein noted the organization's lack of quality young pitchers moving through the system. The team is well-stocked in position players, but having younger, established starters like Samardzija and Edwin Jackson around should offset some of the team's lack of young pitching.