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Cubs’ Sveum bracing for change though he believes he has more talent

Published: Friday, March 1, 2013 10:22 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — MESA, Ariz. — Dale Sveum is fortunate he’s not being evaluated on wins and losses during the Cubs’ rebuilding project.

With the Cubs facing the possibility of another midseason sell-off in the second year of Sveum’s three-year deal, it would be difficult to rationalize an offseason extension based on his winning percentage.

Considering they signed Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Dioner Navarro and Nate Schierholtz to one-year deals, a trading spree would be no real surprise. The Cubs traded Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson, Geovany Soto and Jeff Baker last summer, and have plenty of trade bait available in Alfonso Soriano, Matt Garza, Carlos Marmol and David DeJesus this year, not to mention the newly signed free agents.

The revolving door policy is here to stay for a while, and Sveum understands what’s in store if the Cubs flop.

“When you feel your team is out of it, (you unload) to start building and getting a healthier organization,” he said. “That’s part of the business. ... Hopefully we’re buying people.”

That seems like wishful thinking. The Cubs haven’t been buyers at the trading deadline since 2009. The Cubs ultimately folded in August that season and haven’t been a contender since.

On the flip side, even a .500 season would be considered a success. President Theo Epstein said this week “there’s definitely more talent here than people give us credit for,” which suggests Sveum should be able to translate that into more victories.

Sveum agrees there is “more talent in camp” than at this time last year.

“We’re older, (we have) depth, we have a lineup that can keep the line moving as well as hit home runs and have (a higher) slugging percentage,” he said. “Maybe we don’t have the three or four guys in the lineup who have the chance of hitting 30-40 home runs like some teams do. But we have put together (a team) that if guys are getting better ...”

Sveum said he was counting on improved hitting from Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo, and a bench that should be an upgrade over last year.

The Cubs ranked 15th in National League hitting last year. The only team behind them, the Astros, has switched to the American League. The Cubs were also last in on-base percentage and 14th in runs scored.

The only offensive additions were Schierholtz, Navarro and Scott Hairston, who all could be traded, and minor league invites like Brent Lillibridge and Darnell McDonald. Until the farm system prospers, the Cubs will rely on mercenaries to fill in the gaps.

Sveum said the Cubs went into last season thinking “if these guys don’t do something, we’re going to struggle offensively, and obviously that happened.”

This year, he insisted, it’s a different story.

“Now it’s just more (believing) if guys just live up to their capabilities, then it’s a pretty functional offense,” Sveum said.

If not, the Cubs will do it again next year, with a new cast of characters.

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