With the agreement on a 3.9 million signing bonus with top draft pick Albert Almora now done pending his passing a physical, the Cubs have all of their Top 20 draft picks from Junes first year player draft in the fold.
Almora is a highly polished outfielder who projects as a .300 hitter with 20-25 home run potential as well as a very heady player who understands the game as well as any player in the 2012 draft. He is expected to take his physical today and once he is cleared, he and his advisor Scott Boras will finalize a contract with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
A look at the Cubs organization since Epstein and Hoyer were hired shows a far different future than the Cubs had under former GM Jim Hendry.
Almora joins the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler as players acquired in trades and signings since the regime change. The 20-year-old Soler is a Cuban outfielder who signed a nine-year 30 million deal with the Cubs in late June and is projected as a tremendous power bat.
Today though, the big news is the signing of Almora, who has been confirming his agreement by re-tweeting from his Twitter feed most anyone who is congratulating him on signing with the Cubs. He will be on a fairly fast track to this big leagues, but even the most optimistic projections have him arriving at Wrigley Field no earlier than 2015 when he would be just 21 years old.
Almoras deal was handled by super-agent Scott Boras who once upon a time was a minor leaguer in the Cubs system. He told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, They knew the player and they knew the value of the player. With where the Cubs are at, I think the fanbase has to believe in player development. So that means these types of signings are very important.
A look at the future of the Cubs in 2015 or 2016 has a lineup that could have these pieces in place:
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
RF Jorge Soler
CF Albert Almora
3B Javier Baez
LF Brett Jackson
Add in prospects that will be acquired in potential trades for Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and others plus a very high pick in the 2013 draft and you could have the makings of a very solid team. Plus, with the Cubs almost done with long-term commitments to aging veterans, the payroll room should allow for some free-agent signings over the next couple of winters to strengthen a rotation that will obviously have holes after the trades of Dempster and potentially Garza.
Right now, the only long-term piece of a five-man rotation appears to be Jeff Samardzija with not much additional starting pitching expected to come from the farm system that Epstein and Hoyer inherited.
This years draft had a major emphasis on pitching and the Cubs hope that at least two starters are now in the organization at some level, but I would expect that they will be players in free agency for starting pitching over the next winter or two.