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posted: 3/31/2014 5:30 AM

2014 will not be dull for Cubs, White Sox

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  • The White Sox began rebuilding last July with the acquisition of right fielder Avisail Garcia.

    The White Sox began rebuilding last July with the acquisition of right fielder Avisail Garcia.
    Associated Press


Five seasons have passed since the Cubs won more games than they lost.

For the White Sox, they only have to go back to the surprising 2012 season to find a year in which they finished over .500, staying with the powerhouse Tigers until the very end.

But neither Chicago team has reached the postseason since they both lost in the first round in 2008.

So what does 2014 hold for Chicago baseball?

Well, no one has much hope of finishing .500 or playing games in October, but both teams are in full rebuilding mode and the future holds much hope.

When and how they get back to playing meaningful games in September remains to be seen, but both appear to be on the right track.

In the meantime, there's no shortage of interesting or important stories on both sides of town.

For the Cubs, it's about negotiating new radio, TV and renovation deals that will ultimately marry off-field revenue with on-field play worth paying to watch.

This year is also huge for Jeff Samardzija, who will be dealt by July 31 and hopes to find that long-term deal he seeks at his next stop. For the Cubs, it will be about flipping their top starter for more pitching, which is hard to find in their minor-league system.

What they do have is myriad prospects, one of whom made a surprising jump to the big leagues with a solid last couple weeks of camp.

It is both huge for Mike Olt and the Cubs that he has won the third base job. Having overcome several injuries, it's easy to forget that Olt was one of the top prospects in baseball just two years ago. If Olt can progress, it opens so many more options for the Cubs.

It means Javy Baez can stay at short or move to second. It means Starlin Castro can stay at short, move to second or become valuable trade bait, assuming he can regain his form. It means Darwin Barney becomes trade bait this summer, very valuable to a team that may want his glove and can support his bat.

It means Kris Bryant can shift to left field, forming a monster future outfield with Albert Almora and Jorge Soler, or perhaps moving to right if Soler doesn't pan out. It means Junior Lake is also expendable and could be a valuable trade asset if he hits in 2014.

That doesn't even take into account the likes of Arismendy Alcantara and Dan Vogelbach.

This year is crucial for Theo Epstein as he begins to determine which prospects he will hype and trade, and which he decides are untouchable and future stars at Wrigley Field.

For the White Sox, much of the future is already here, though still learning at the major-league level.

Rick Hahn began the rebuilding last July when he stole Avisail Garcia in the Jake Peavy deal. The division-rival Tigers will be watching closely to see if they have dealt a superstar to a team that could punish them for it down the road.

Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu will also be developing in Chicago, and Matt Davidson is going to be at third base this summer. It's only a question of when.

Adam Dunn is in his final months with the White Sox. What is still to be determined is whether the Sox can get something valuable for him in a deal, and the more Dunn hits early, the better it is for the Sox later.

The Sox are already very heavy from the right side and will become more so as Dunn departs, so finding left-handed hitters on the market becomes a focus.

The Sox are loaded up the middle and at first base/DH. We could be seeing the end of the Gordon Beckham/Alexei Ramirez era in Chicago, the two infielders having played next to one another since Beckham's promotion in June 2009.

Now healthy, it appears as though John Danks could return to form, and depending on how far away Hahn believes his team is from competing, Danks would also become very popular in trade talks with a deal that is worth $14 million a year for the next three years.

All that is certain with the South Siders is that it's the final season for one of the most popular players in team history. Paul Konerko will call it quits at the end of the season, and all that remains to be seen is how much he will play, and how effective and healthy he will be.

Konerko may wind up playing more than anyone previously thought, depending on the performance of others, and the trading of valued chips at the deadline.

Regardless, it's a chance for a highly respected player to say goodbye to the game, and the swan song allows fans to say goodbye to him.

So while the drama may be lacking, interest should not in Chicago baseball in 2014.

Rest assured, better days are ahead. This season will go a long way toward determining when those days arrive.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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