Gil LeBreton

Cubbies, Rangers may just be an October away from big stage

Signing free-agent outfielder Justin Upton should be a high priority for the Rangers in the off-season.
Signing free-agent outfielder Justin Upton should be a high priority for the Rangers in the off-season. AP

Someday, the Cubs will go all the way.

Just like that Eddie Vedder song says.

That day, the one that gets them into their first World Series since 1945, could well come 12 months from now.

October 2016, when the Chicago Cubs play the Texas Rangers in the true Back to the Future World Series.

Counting the Cubs’ world championship drought — they last won it all in 1908 — and what happened to the Rangers in Game 6 of 2011, the two franchises will have played 152 baseball seasons without the big trophy when next year rolls around.

Holy cow, as the late Harry Caray would say.

But do not dwell on the buzz saw that was the New York Mets’ pitching in the NLCS or the Rangers’ seventh-inning collapse in Toronto. Evidence persists that this October was just a warm-up.

The Cubs and the Rangers. Next year’s champions. Book it.

The champagne had barely dried on Chicago’s NLDS victory over St. Louis when it was suddenly all over. The Mets in four. The Cubs never led for a single inning.

“It’s hard to get to this point,” pitcher Jon Lester reflected Wednesday night. “You can fool people through the season and win games, but this is where you get exposed. This is where you figure out how to truly win.”

The similarities between the two franchises are apparent. The one-two punch in the Texas rotation will be Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels. The Cubs have their own one-two in Lester and TCU’s Jake Arrieta.

Both teams appear to be a free agent pitcher short.

“You’re going to look always to augment your pitching — always,” Chicago manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s just what you do.”

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels has expressed his preference to fill roles from within. But look at what the Mets are sending to the mound next week.

Who’s the Rangers’ version of Noah Syndergaard? For that matter, who’s their Steven Matz?

If there are any doubts at all about Derek Holland, Colby Lewis or Yovani Gallardo, or about Chi Chi Gonzalez’s big-league readiness, why take that chance?

The marquee advertising this winter’s free agent pitching market has seldom shined brighter. The lists includes, among others, Zack Greinke, David Price, Jordan Zimmerman and Johnny Cueto.

The Cubs certainly will be interested. The Rangers should be, too.

Starting pitching is expensive, but buying it has proven to be the time-honored best way to go. The Rangers can dig deep and sign a third A-list starter in the off-season, or they can try to beat him next year when he pitches against them.

The same no-doubts philosophy needs to guide Daniels’ thinking as he seeks to balance the Rangers’ predominantly left-handed lineup.

Which is to say, how’s that wishing well on Josh Hamilton going? Think he will be healthy for 140 games? Even 60?

Why take that chance?

The Rangers failed to trade for right-handed-hitting left fielder Justin Upton two winters ago. Now that he’s hit free agency, Daniels should be interested.

Upton only batted .191 against lefties for the Padres this season, but his career splits are more even and he has an .886 OPS against them.

Mike Napoli came cheaply and made a winning impact on the Rangers’ clubhouse. But Nap has become a one-trick platoon pony, batting barely above .200 against right-handers over the past two seasons.

After poor Kyle Schwarber’s misadventures in the NLCS, do you really want to see Napoli in left field next season?

Losing in baseball’s postseason hurts, especially the way both the Cubs and Rangers were eliminated.

“But it’s only going to make these guys better,” Lester said. “Guys will come in and expect to be in this position, if not the next step. That to me is the greatest positive we can take from this year.”

Next year. Next October.

It may be the “someday” that Pearl Jam’s Vedder sings about for both the Cubs and the Rangers.

Book it.

Gil LeBreton: 817-390-7697, glebreton, @gilebreton

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