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Cubs look to retool, not rebuild

“We also want to stay true to the things that we have been a part of here and recognize in winning and make sure we do things the way the Cubs do,” manager David Ross said.

Manager David Ross and the rest of the Cubs leadership believe they know how to make the team competitive again.
Manager David Ross and the rest of the Cubs leadership believe they know how to make the team competitive again.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

When team president Jed Hoyer spoke with the media after an 11-game losing streak that changed the course of the Cubs’ season and the future of their franchise, he wouldn’t use the word ‘‘rebuild’’ to describe what would come next.

At the time, Hoyer referred to teams such as the Red Sox and Yankees as templates he might like to follow. In both cases, those teams had success, let go of key players, then retooled and were quickly competitive again.

Or there’s the Giants. They arguably were the best team of the 2010s and are at the top of the standings again as the new decade gets underway.

Either way, the thinking in the Cubs’ organization seems to be that they plan to take their own course back to being a winning team.

‘‘I think when you start chasing other organizations’ ways of doing things, you might lose sight of what you find important,’’ manager David Ross said Sunday.

Even while his team was being swept by the Giants, Ross said he felt comfortable with the Cubs’ blueprint for success.

‘‘We also want to stay true to the things that we have been a part of here and recognize in winning and make sure we do things the way the Cubs do,’’ he said.

In the past, the Cubs’ way of building a winner meant a full teardown. It meant 100-loss seasons and top draft picks. And it worked.

But Cubs fans aren’t likely to be as patient as they were through seasons such as 2012 and 2013, when the team was at its nadir. The good news is that the recipe for fielding a competitive team again — and quickly — isn’t complicated.

‘‘I think pitching and defense,’’ Ross said. ‘‘We want to be able to compete on the mound, play solid defense.’’

The Cubs are fine defensively, but they’re not excellent the way they were during their championship season in 2016. This season, they rank 11th in the majors with 34 defensive runs saved. In 2016, they were tops in the majors by 30 runs saved at 107.

Poor pitching is one of the main reasons the Cubs have had losing streaks of at least 11 games twice this season. As a whole, the pitching staff’s 4.75 ERA is the seventh-highest in majors. The starting rotation’s 5.16 ERA has it in company with the Twins, Pirates and Orioles at the bottom of the majors.

And though he doesn’t want his team emulating the rebuild or retooling processes of other organizations, Ross has found himself looking across the diamond and taking note of things he wants to see from Cubs teams in the future.

‘‘Some of the things I think I’ve noticed . . . [are] commanding the strike zone, having calm at bats no matter the moment,’’ Ross said. ‘‘Doesn’t matter who the opposing team brings in, you get the same quality at-bat, things like that.’’

In July, weeks before Hoyer traded the core of the 2016 team — Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javy Baez — his sights were set on what it would look like to build ‘‘the next great Cubs team,’’ as he described it.

What pieces from the current iteration will be a part of the next core aren’t clear yet, but what is clear is that Hoyer isn’t planning for a drawn-out rebuild and that Ross has a distinct vision for the kind of team he wants to manage.

Both visions might mean the Cubs will be active during the offseason. Pitching is an obvious need, and there will be a decent market. Offensively, they’re trending toward higher contact rates and fewer strikeouts and will need to bolster their lineup with at least one power bat.

On the whole, the next winning team will be about consistency.

‘‘Things that you can bring every single day,’’ as Ross puts it.