Despite losing, high marks for Cubs' brass

CHICAGO – It’s hard for a front office to get rave reviews when the on-field product is floundering, but Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have found a way.

Despite a team that entered play Saturday with a major league worst 27-49 record, the Cubs are meeting major objectives. The latest was getting outfielder Jorge Soler under contract before the Monday deadline when the policies on international signings will change.

It was one of two major steps taken this week with the other being the Wrigley Field debut of slugger Anthony Rizzo, whom Epstein and Hoyer obtained from the San Diego Padres this offseason.

And yet another major piece of the future puzzle should be in place in the next two weeks, if and when the club comes to contract terms with first-round pick Albert Almora, a high school outfielder from Florida.

All of the Epstein/Hoyer work hasn’t necessarily been focused toward the future, just most of it. Jeff Samardzija was converted into a starter this spring and while the early returns were mostly positive, there has been a major bump in the road of late.

Samardzija’s issues are a sign that not everything Epstein and Hoyer touch turns to instant gold. The on-field product was expected to struggle this season, but it wasn’t necessarily expected to be this bad. And one of this winter’s trades to send outfield prospect Tyler Colvin to Colorado for Ian Stewart has been a bust.

But the decision to acquire Travis Wood in a deal with the Reds that cost them Sean Marshall is finally starting to pay off. And free-agent signing David DeJesus has delivered a solid season for his $4.25 million price tag this year.

All in all, the Epstein/Hoyer duo has met some major objectives when it came to rebuilding the farm system with the goal of making the Cubs playoff worthy in a few seasons. And it isn’t just for a one-time playoff strike, but for long-term postseason appearances and success.

It might not be what Cubs fans want to hear, but the beginning of next season could be rough too. But by this time next year, though, the Cubs should be showing signs that solid play is right around the corner and that winning streaks are attainable.

It still might not mean a playoffs appearance in 2013, but so far the new front office has shown that there is a reason to believe in postseasons of the future. For a fan base that has waited since 1908 for a title, waiting for those days to be a contender again will still feel like an eternity, but if it happens, it will be all worth it in the end.