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Finding quality depth key for Cubs as team builds toward the future

The Cubs have gotten a lot out of their depth this season with big performances by Frank Schwindel, Rafael Ortega and Patrick Wisdom.

Taking a chance on Frank Schwindel seems to be paying off for the Cubs.
Taking a chance on Frank Schwindel seems to be paying off for the Cubs.
Matt Slocum/AP

The next time the Cubs reach the postseason, their roster will look dramatically different.

The organization has increased the emphasis on scouting and developing talent at the major-league level.

The Cubs took a step back after the trade deadline, moving nearly a third of the Opening Day roster, including their World Series core of Javy Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

But since the beginning of the season, the Cubs have found depth pieces who have contributed at the major-league level. It might not move the needle now as they restock, but identifying different traits in players will be valuable as they build their next contender.

“I think that goes into [the front office] doing a really nice job,” manager David Ross said before the game Tuesday against the Twins. “The scouting, player development and front office identifying those guys.

“I mean, that’s a long, tedious process that they’re always focused on up there [in the front office].”

When you look around baseball and see the teams that are fighting for postseason spots, several of them have superstars they rely on, but it’s the depth pieces found in the offseason or during the season who push teams over the top.

“I think that that’s the secret of every organization,” Ross said. ‘‘Finding those hidden gems and coupling those with the minor-leaguers or the guys in your organization that you already have or guys that you feel like are going to need two months in the minor leagues and might be on the map. All those things kind of factor into building that next team for the following year and then future years.”

This season, the Cubs hit on several players they’ve taken fliers on in the minor-league free-agent market — Rafael Ortega and Michael Hermosillo — or on waivers — Frank Schwindel and Sergio Alcantara.

Patrick Wisdom broke the team’s rookie home-run record after signing a free-agent deal with the Cubs after being released by the Mariners in 2020.

Former Cubs reliever Ryan Tepera signed a minor-league deal before last season. Tepera turned into one of the team’s best relievers in his two seasons, and the Cubs were able to deal him for a prospect at the trade deadline.

“I think we would be crazy to think all those guys are gonna hit, right?’’ Ross said. “You get a Tepera and a [Brandon] Workman. The chances of both those guys working out this year are probably thin. But you’ve got to try to balance that with finding the value and where those hidden gems are. And hopefully somebody can make adjustments or something ticks back up to past performances that they’ve identified.”

Having depth is only one part of the equation when it comes to building a roster. Having go-to players will always be a main part for any team. The Cubs will have to be active this offseason during free agency to build their roster back up, ensuring those depth pieces don’t get overexposed.

But once you’ve successfully added those superstar-caliber players, which the Cubs will look to do over the next few seasons, making sure to fill out the roster with players who are capable of contributing at the major-league level will be an important part of the team’s rebuilding process.