SAN DIEGO -- The Cubs have a lot of work to do if they're to be contenders again. How long that takes remains to be seen, but team chairman Tom Ricketts said Wednesday it could be sooner rather than later.
Ricketts visited the Cubs on the last day of the season at Petco Park, where the Cubs lost their season finale 9-2. They finished 71-91, their second straight losing season. Ricketts was asked about 2012 possibly being a "rebuilding year."
"I think one thing you've seen in baseball over the last few years is that turnarounds can happen pretty quickly," he said. "I don't think it's meaningful to describe a year as a rebuilding year. The fact is, you get the right players on the team and they all stay healthy and they play hard, and a team can go from 70 wins to 90 wins. It happens pretty quickly. Look at the Diamondbacks, even with the Cubs a few years ago."
It's not known what the player payroll will be at the major-league level, but all indications are the entire budget for baseball operations as a whole will be about the same as it was this year, when the Cubs spent heavily in the amateur draft and in international signings.
Backing Fleita, Wilken:
Tom Ricketts made his first public comments on the Cubs deciding to keep farm director Oneri Fleita and scouting director Tim Wilken.
Both were hired by former general manager Jim Hendry, who was fired last month.
"The fact is Oneri is a really valuable part of this organization," Ricketts said. "I think any general manager coming in would agree with that. It's a step we took to make sure we had good continuity and made sure we kept building on the things we think we're doing well."
Fleita signed a four-year extension while Wilken is signed through 2012.
"I think I would just say we really think Tim does a terrific job and he's signed through next year," Ricketts said. "We'll kind of leave it the way it is now."
Although he had a shaky start, pitcher Ryan Dempster reached the 200-innings mark for the fourth straight year. Dempster needed 3⅓ innings to reach 200. He gave up 4 runs in the third inning after issuing a two-out, bases-empty walk to pitcher Wade LeBlanc. Dempster lasted 5⅔ innings, giving up 8 hits and 9 runs.
"It (stinks) to be going home," said Dempster, who finished at 10-14 with an ERA of 4.80. "I'm proud of the way I battled all year. I was able to make my starts and give us a chance to win. Unfortunately, it was a tough one today."
Dempster has a player option for next year. He said he wanted a chance to "breathe" before making any decisions. It's likely Dempster will pick up the $14 million option.
Shortstop Starlin Castro doubled in the eighth inning to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 40 games. He also ends the season with an 11-game hitting streak.
Castro wound up leading the National League in hits, with 207. At 21, he is the youngest player ever to lead the NL in hits and the first 21-year-old to do so. Castro is the third Cub in the last seven years to lead the NL in hits, joining Juan Pierre (2006) and Derrek Lee (2005).