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On Three Seasons of Success...So Far

On Three Seasons of Success...So Far
Brian Cassella - Chicago Tribune

Last night, the Cubs finished their third season under Joe Maddon's leadership, and when laid out objectively, the success can't be argued against:

  • Nearly 300 regular season wins
  • Reached the NLCS in all three seasons
  • World Series championship

It's only when we nitpick in some of the minutiae that we find a different list, one of flaws and shortcomings. But that last bullet point should be enough to wash away all of that, but I suppose that so many decades of failure and frustration don't get scrubbed off so easily.

But coming off of the World Series last season, many of us as amateur prognosticators spent March dreaming on another 100-win season and easy trip back to the Fall Classic. I was one of these, I think predicting a modest and rational 97 wins for the season and double-digit lead in the division.

Of course, it wasn't like that. The Cubs looked likely to miss the postseason altogether until after the All-Star break, and even then, it took them until nearly the final week of the season to secure their spot in the NLDS. So many of the things that could have gone wrong did go wrong, and the with-ease success we anticipated for the season didn't happen.

Because of this, it's easy to take the wrong perspective on how the 2017 season turned out. In fact, many voices -- even some in Chicago -- are already calling for a stop on the Cubs dynasty talk.

And that's their right. It's any easy take to have after the Cubs got stomped 11-1 in Game 5 of the NLCS against a Dodgers team currently playing like it will not lose a series again until 2022. But let's take a different perspective.

It is well-documented that it is incredibly challenging for the defending World Series champion to repeat. That hasn't been done since the Yankees won three in a row from 1998 to 2000. Since then, the last World Series champion to even make the postseason at all was the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 after their 2008 victory. Even as the San Franscisco Giants were putting together their 2010s dynasty, they missed the postseason altogether each year after they won the World Series.

So when the 2017 Cubs not only returned to the playoffs, but advanced to the NLCS, they did something that has not happened since 2012, when the St. Louis Cardinals advanced that far after winning the World Series in 2011.

It's cute, then, to brush off the Cubs and assume they'll just quietly return to the cellar and wait another century or so before returning for another championship parade, but it's just cheap analysis.

True, this year the Cubs somehow -- I'm still mystified by it -- coasted on fumes past the Nationals in the division series and nabbed a third consecutive championship series berth, but we saw the shortcomings pretty easily: the pitching staff struggled throughout the postseason to throw strikes and keep runners off of the bases, the defense turned sloppy at times, and the offense vaporized. It's that last one that had the heaviest hand in doing them in; consider that in the NLCS the Cubs did not manufacture a single run. All of the runs they scored came via longball, and unless you're somehow going full Home Run Derby in the playoffs, you're just not going to win that way.

But, looking ahead, the Cubs shot at a dynasty is not even close to used up.

The staples of their roster, most of them bats, are still ludicrously young and have accumulated a boatload of postseason experience in the last three seasons. Going forward, the starting rotation will have holes to fill, but there's still Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, and Jose Quintana. Most teams in baseball would beg for that. In the bullpen, the Cubs have need, and maybe a bounceback in 2018 from Justin Wilson allays some of our fears, but there remain several live arms among the relievers.

Len Kasper called these the golden years of the Chicago Cubs, and they really are. We have had the great joy of three very successful seasons in a row -- so much so that we have almost become spoiled by the winning and all the less able to accept with grace that losses, too, are unavoidable, especially in baseball -- and there is little reason not to think that we won't be watching at least a few more in the years ahead.

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  • I knew as soon as I posted this in the game thread that the post season summary article would be posted...It seems like there are enough thoughts in my brain to write a novel, but I want to keep it high level and positive. My only negative commentary, if these guys are all so warn out and tired from this grind of a season, then I better not see anyone reporting early to spring training next year, and the Cubs better have pitchers and catchers report as late as possible per MLB rules. Now on to the positive, the Cubs and dodgers are the only 2 teams in MLB to make the playoffs the last 3 years, and obviously 3 straight nlcs on top of that. It hurts that they were pretty much dominated in 2 of those nlcs, but the expectation level of everyone including the fans is so high, that it really shows you how transformative this era of Cubs baseball is. This group exceeded expectations in 2015 and met or exceeded expectations last year too, so Theo had no reason to upset the apple cart and retool this group of hitters that is fairly 1 dimensional with a lot of players with similar skill sets. He gave them the benefit of the doubt. This is the first year that the hitters didn't meet expectations across the board, so I think Theo will diversify the hitting portfolio this offseason. He has likely already known for 12+ months what he wants to do if he needs to retool the mix of offensive players, but this year they were exposed enough to where he knows he will need to execute that plan. Cubs have 9 young hitters for 8 spots. Can't imagine a scenario where all 9 are back. It isn't abundantly clear which person(s) should be traded as most of them are still establishing themselves as major leaguers, but im suspect theo is going to pick a lane and make a change. We have all off season to discuss / analyze those options

  • In reply to kb60187:

    I would expect all core 9 to return, barring a trade for pitching. Joe is a master at rotating players and keeping them fresh(er than on other teams). No reason for that not to continue, augmented by another OBPer or two

    BTW, I was just out at Sloan, and the place was buzzing 1 1/2 hours before the first pitch for a fall league game. Good signs for the future.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    Guess we would disagree on Joe being a master. He does rotate ad naseum but not sure that helps. Baseball players want a routine and play their best under those conditions. As to being fresh, I think the NLCS says it all. They could hardly put one foot in front of the other. How does Roberts use his bullpen regularly but they seem fresh while ours are exhausted. Z with a .000, Riz with a .059 and all the rest below norms. Don't seem rested to me.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    Cubs have 2 dire needs before next year:

    1. Closer. 2. Top starter
    Arrieta and Davis need to be replace with high end free agents.

    Then to get back to the world series they need 2 relievers and probably a leadoff guy.

    I would replace Lackey with Montgomery or a from a whole group of potential guys.

    If it was me i would put Almora in leadoff spot from day 1. If they are going to keep Almora he has to be your leadoff man. If he isnt going to leadoff then trade him.

    I would go with this batting order. Against lefties:
    Almora zobrist Bryant Rizzo Contreras Russell Baez Happ
    Against righties:
    Almora Zobrist Bryant Rizzo Contreras Schwarber Russell or Baez Hayward. That leaves Lastella and Caratini to round out the bench.

    As far as relief, as Theo said we need a couple of top strike throwers through free agency. Then depth will come from guys like maples, zastrynsky to fill in around edwards strop wilson deusing etc.

    We have the payroll to spend money on these 4 free agents.
    With the loss of Jay Lackey Arrieta Davis and uehara that will give us quite a bit of that to spend.

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    They have $72million coming of the books this year. Looking at adding $20mil in arbitration so to maintain the same level they have $52million to spend. They need to spend it in the next 3-4 years. Because 2021 & 22 are going to be expensive to keep Bryant and company. The Dodgers aren't going to reduce their payroll.

  • In reply to kb60187:

    I'd say there's 10 young core players considering Happ & Almora on the scene w/the others...

    What I really do feel this team lacks is a legit leadoff hitter/table setter. Nobody hit well in that role this year other than Rizzo's small sample there. I did feel this as a concern going into the year.

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    In reply to kb60187:

    Just out of curiosity, what is the "1 dimension" the team has and similar skill-set?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Russel, Baez, Schwarber, and Happ all have overlapping skill sets in my opinion. And really contreras, Bryant, and rizzo are just a more refined version of a not to dissimilar skill set. Their strengths are all above average power potential for their position. I don't see the first group of guys being able to control the strikeout to walk ratio enough to not suppress their obp ability. Baez isn't going to walk enough to carry a high obp. Happ and Schwarber aren't going to make enough contact to do the same, and Russell is somewhere in the middle

  • Not sure if people saw this on twitter over the last hour. But both NBCsports tv and online are going to carry Theo's end of year press conference @ 3pm.

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    Great article Jerod, as Cubs fans the future is still very bright! One correction, the Cubs have not won 300 regular season games the last three years, 97, 103 and I think 92 this year. 292 but still really impressive!

  • In reply to Cali Cubs:

    I know. I was rounding up, but I've amended that first bullet point anyway.

  • We have 3 holes to fill. Definitely the Cubs need a top-notch leadoff hitter, Bryant suffered largely from the fact he kept coming up with the bases empty and it affected him over the season. We also need 2 starters , With Jake and Lackey likely gone we should have some $ towards someone like Darvish, I doubt if we have the assets to trade for a TOR or a solid #2 at least. With Davis also likely gone a closer is on the agenda, good news there is there wont be much of a shortage there. I think the Brew Crew in 2016 played somewhat over there heads, The division team Id fear the most if they get it together is the Pirates, who have talent, but not consistency.

  • I refuse to be disappointed while being a fan of a team that has done so much to improve itself in the last 5-6 years. Three straight post-season appearances by a Cubs team was unheard of.

    Three straight runs into the League Championship series had me happy and somewhat astounded. A World Series victory is something that essentially nobody alive could remember for the Cubs.

    There are some obvious flaws (obvious now - that they have been exposed by a very good set of teams) that need to be fixed. There are a couple of important players who are likely to leave via FA, and a couple of others (Zobrist in particular) who appear to be in decline, or who have not performed up to expectations (Heyward's offense as the most obvious example).

    They'll have to scrounge up a couple of SP arms,.... and who knows, Montgomery and/or Zastryzny or Tseng might fit the bill for one of those spots.

    They need a "Dexter Fowler" table-setter, They need to figure out a way to get Almora in the starting lineup at least 5 days a week. And they need to figure out how to best utilize Happ and Schwarber - whether that's trading one, or both, or keeping both and figuring out how best to deploy them. And they have to reconfigure the bullpen - because those guys were actually decent most of the regular season,...

    This team is going to be competitive for several more years,... there are other opportunities coming.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    i was wondering a little if almora hitting lead off yesterday (can't remember if he did in game four but don't think so) was also an audition. i don't think he is a lead off hitter but if he can fill the role it would make it easier to get him more time in the line-up.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    I don't know that the team was "exposed" as much as they ran into a team that just plain had more talent than them. And they were really "leaking oil" all through the playoffs. The bullpen would come in and it was ugly in a hurry in both series.

    I think there is reason to be optimistic for next year. They will have in the vicinity of $70M coming off the books: Davis ($10M), Lackey ($16M), Arrieta ($15.6M), Duensing ($2M), Jay ($8M), Uehara ($6M), Montero ($14M), Rondon (5.8M). That is about $77M.

    I anticipate they will sign someone along the lines of a Brett Anderson veteran BOR starter with some potential upside. Let's call it $15M (+/- $3M). I think they will sign a veteran back up catcher, preferably LHB but not required. Let's call it $2-4M. There will be arbitration increases, especially to Bryant, Hendricks and Russell. Let's say that will be a total increase in the vicinity of $25-30M (I think Bryant gets a HUGE increase). That leaves them with around $25-30M to shore up the bullpen. A lot of really good bullpen arms can be had for that money. TOP relievers get around $15M. Not sure there are any this off-season other than Davis. So that STILL leaves $10-20M. That is plenty to sign some really good bullpen arms. Give the Cubs even a decent bullpen and they will be a scary team.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    If Lackey and Arrieta leave and the Cubs only sign 1 BOR pitcher, I'll be very bummed out. That would mean the team would have 3 #2ish type pitchers (Lester, Hendricks and Quintana and 2 #5s. That doesn't inspire confidence for the long grind of the season, but even less so in a short playoff series against other teams' aces.

    However, perhaps they can trade for someone (Archer keeps getting mentioned and he'd be a nice change of pace from the arms they currently have) as I understand FA isn't the only place to get better.

    It'll be an interesting off season for sure.

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    In reply to Pura Vida:

    The Cubs don't have much left to offer for someone like Archer. And I don't know that the Cubs are willing to give up someone like Schwarber or Happ so discussions might end there.

    To me Arrieta pitched like a #4 this year. Whether he has more talent or not the Cubs need to replace a guy with a 4+ FIP and FIP+. Lackey was even worse. While Montgomery also fit that description he did it at a far more palateable $0.5M and is younger with some possible upside (as recently as 2016 at least Maddon and Epstein both saw Montgomery as capable of winning 15 games). Yes, both Arrieta and Lackey had really good stretches but Jason Hammel had really good stretches. If they can get a better pitcher I wouldn't be shocked if they do but I wouldn't hold my breath on someone like Archer or Darvish. As I said I think they take a flier on someone like Anderson which will allow them to put Tseng in AAA as a depth piece.

    Also, if the team has 3 #2 pitches, a #4 and a #5 that has the makings of a pretty solid rotation. It isn't going to blow everyone away but it would be very capable of winning the division and wouldn't be as bad as you might expect. It would also allow the Cubs to put a lot of money into shoring up their bullpen which has struggled the last couple years in the post-season.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I am strongly, strongly, strongly against counting on Montgomery in the starting rotation. He has shown that he can be a real asset in the pen and as a spot starter, but he seems to really struggle as a starter and hasn't really had success in that role in the big leagues yet. So, moving him out of a role he's successful in and relying on him to be do something has hasn't done weakens 2 areas at the same time.

    Secondly, Montgomery has never pitched more (in MLB) than the 130 innings he pitched this year so couldn't be counted on as an innings eater. In a rotation that already counts on Hendricks (also not a big innings eater), that's suddenly putting a lot of strain and stress on the bullpen.

    Lastly, this FO has generally tried to go into the season with some depth at the SP position as there are inevitably injuries. Starting out with 3 #2s and 2 #5s (I don't see Montgomery as more than a #5 given his innings limitations and results thus far as a starter + a Butler/Anderson type) would make this team extremely vulnerable to any loss to those #2s.

    If they go into the season with Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Butler (or a Butler type) and Montgomery (and then the Tseng's of the world as their "depth"), I will go on the record today as saying they won't make the playoffs next year let alone the WS.

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    In reply to Pura Vida:

    What, exactly, do you think they went into this season with? Just substitute Arrieta for Quintana and there are your 3 #2s and 2 #5 (Brett Anderson/Montgomery/Butler and John Lackey). Yet they made the playoffs and all the way to the NLCS where they were beaten by the team with the best record in MLB.

    I do think they will bring in another guy on a flier. Whether it is a surprise guy who doesn't generate the interest expected and decides to sign a 1-year "make good" contract, or maybe a veteran looking for one last short term deal (1-2 years), or something like that. I am not talking about bringing in a young and unproven player. I am talking about bringing in a guy for about $15M AAV on a 1-2 year contract. Someone with a history of staying reasonably healthy and eating innings.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I'd argue that Lackey is more of a 4 than a 5 though I'll admit that might be splitting hairs a bit, but you could at least count on him to eat innings. Not so much the other 3 you mention.

    Another very large difference is that the FO knew that had some ammo to go out an get another pitcher which is exactly what they did with Quintana. I'm not sure they have that same ammo this year barring someone (or someones plural) making a big leap in the minors. I think they have to stock up this off season to build depth and not count on getting reinforcements at the deadline... or at least not anyone of Quintana's caliber.

  • you're a little off on the 300 wins.

  • In reply to cubsker:

    Pardon me. 292, counting only regular season wins.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    Post season wins are just as important if not more so... count em. :o)

  • In reply to cubsker:

    That's all ya got from the article? Sheesh.

  • In 2016, the Cubs had by far the best ERA in the league. If they had replicated that ERA this year, it again would have led the league. I imagine if you just looked at the starting pitchers in 2016, their performance would have been even more outstanding. And in 2016, the five starters never missed a game. Of course, the defense was also incredible. Now two of those starters are likely gone, with Arrieta being a key loss. And Lester will be another year into the wrong side of 30.

    On the offensive side, the Cubs got off to an amazing start in 2016 largely because Zobrist and Fowler were absolutely incredible. They both put up nearly .500 OBP. It was those two older players, not the young prospect, who led the way.

    So what's my point? Yeah, the Cubs are young, and I am as bullish about their future as anyone, but it isn't as simple as saying, "They're young, they'll be great."

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Oddly enough, Kris Bryant might be the teams best leadoff hitter. If they cant find someone like Fowler, maybe another type like Rizzo in the 3/4 spot in the order and make KB leadoff hitter. He did it in college(rather well) , and he did it with the Pelicans when he was in the minors(and they won the league championship). All Im saying is if theres no other option out there maybe KB should be considered.

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    I know this is kind of a strange time for this, but is there still rehab to the stadium going on this year?

  • In reply to Daniel Stone:

    There is. From what I understand, they are adding some luxury suites, but nothing too dramatic. Visitor's clubhouse will change some, but won't yet be getting the full remodel that it badly needs.

  • In reply to Jared Wyllys:

    Lol......doesn’t bother me much that the Dodgers got to spray champagne in a broom closet......

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    I was credentialed for the NLDS and NLCS and could have gone in there last night, but chose not to. I know how cramped and gross that visitor's clubhouse is.

  • I have a friend who is a Sox fan who asked my if was going to cry if the Cubs lost last night. I told him I'd be upset (and I was when it happened) but if you told me several years ago that I'd see three straight trips to the NLCS and 1 World Series title and a talented young core still under contract for the next few seasons, I'd be ok with it. Do we have issues? Sure. But its not like we're heading to the basement or starting from scratch. Yesterday hurt - much more than I expected but I think this team will continue to challenge for big prize in the upcoming years. I can't wait until next year.

  • The Cubs need to focus on getting a Starting pitching in a Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb. A better Reliever in Addison Reed or Bryan Shaw. I think the lineup last night was more like the one they will have next year. I see Albert Almora being the lineup hitter. Also I see the minor league producing a legitimate young starter. Like Adbert Alzolay

  • In reply to Elmorto34:

    Reed or Shaw would be good gets for the BP.

    I realistically see all of Rondon/Grimm/Uehara gone by Spring Training and possibly even Dunning and Davis gone via Free Agency.

    Starting pitching will be critical next year as Lester is getting older and Q had enough "clunkers" to say he is not yet a solid 1 or a 2. Hendricks will be Hendricks, but after that is a big question mark. I really don't see MiMo filling that 5th starter spot for more than a couple of time during the season.

    Not much coming up thru the minor leagues regarding starting pitching for at least another 2-3 years. We may find a couple of bullpen arms, but not much else.

    This is a critical year for Team Theo to find some pieces that will "stick" and not cost us the rest of our minor league system. Pickings are pretty slim out on the FA market. Will be interesting to see what the FO does.

  • In reply to Elmorto34:

    I would like to see the Cubs at least experiment with having Almora as leadoff guy next season. His last couple of months of the season he was pulling an OBP in the range of 0.340-0.350 and hitting the ball with authority most of the time. If he could get his BB rate up just a little bit and get the OBP consistently closer to 0.370 - that's a decent range for a lead-off man. He's generally a smart base runner as well.

    Add to that his superior defense in CF or either of the corners that's a guy you want to see play 5 games a week.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Almora had an identical walk rate to Javy Baez. I know Baez's was propped up a bit by hitting 8th a lot, but Almora is not likely a solution to leadoff spot, at least against righties

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    We agree... I can see AA Jr against lefties if they don't go outside the org for 1. But they would still be in the same boat as this year pretty much during the playoffs... While I'm not blaming their exit on that, it sure was a weekness all year & post season in my opinion.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I don't see a leadoff hitter on the 40 man. And an excellent point was made earlier about the effect not having a real lead off man had on Bryant. He gets pitched a lot differently with no one on. After a while he ended up chasing pitches that he used to lay off.

  • In reply to refugee:

    No denying it - the Cubs missed Dexter Fowler this season - in a lot of ways.

    Unless the Cubs want to do something that might be foolish - like trying Bryant out as a leadoff hitter (he did have an OBP north of 0.400), they need to find or manufacture the 'next Fowler' for next season.

    Almora may not be that guy. As Michael has already pointed out in this string - he's not currently a guy who's going to take a lot of pitches. Jay might be a good choice - at least part time/platooned - but who is there the rest of the time?

  • In reply to Elmorto34:

    Shaw would be a nice get. Lynn is starting to scare me, he fell off a lot in the 2nd half last year, Cobb might be doable on a contract similiar to what we gave Lackey 2 years ago, and has a good track record of success in the AL East.

  • Great perspective. For me, given the struggles of / holes in this team, anything beyond the NLDS was gravy for me. I don't like Joe as an in-game tactician, but Theo is dead on that this series wasn't won/lost because of managing.

    We all know the pieces are there for a few more years and Theo/Jed and Ricketts are willing to be aggressive. Not every prospect is Kris Bryant or Aaron Judge and I don't think it's fair to judge the development of Schwarber, Almora, Baez and Happ exclusively on what we've seen through this year. Next year though, I don't think I'll be quite as patient....

  • I still like the Quintana trade. I know he struggled some, but he going to be a huge addition to this championship window, and has been already. He is simply a reliable above average starting pitcher.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Q is who he is. A solid mid-rotation guy wholl over the course of a season be 2-3 wins above .500 on a good team, and give you a decent amount of innings.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I would disagree. He’s a solid 2 that gives you a consistent 4 WAR (at least) year in and year out. I couldn’t care less about his W-L record. He is, in essence, a younger Jon Lester.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    The facts do not bear out your analysis. Sounds more like you just want to be negative.

  • I'm curious what everyone thinks about Zo's outlook for next year. Are we looking at somebody who is entering an accelerated decline phase or were a lot of his struggles attributable to that wrist injury, as we all know how pesky wrist injuries can be hitters? A lot was made of his bad splits this yr vs RHP , after that being a non-issue for most of his career. That issue , in particular, can very likely be explained by the injury being to his left hand, which is likely to be negatively impacted when batting righty.

    If Zo can regain a semblance of his past form, it'll go a long way toward taking the sting out of what is likely an inevitable trade of one of your young , core bats- most likely Happ IMO. Regardless of who gets dealt, we'll still have plenty of platoon issues to manage (Schwarber, Almora, Heyward, even Baez) and Zo with level splits & renewed vigor goes a long way toward making that manageable. Any way you slice it , he'll back at a hefty salary, so it behooves Joe to find positions for him to succeed in.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    At his age why would you think he can regain a semblance of his former self. That's just wishing and hoping. They need to DFA Z and save the $1M of guaranteed annual and move on. Once it's over, it's over and they just need to move on. I would suggest a $10-12M retirement package and save another $4M. Since we're stuck with Heyward for the next 6 years, a team can only carry so much dead wood. That was the problem with EJax. They could never let him go and he just took up space.

  • In reply to veteran:

    I am confused what you are saying about Zobrist. I believe he is owed $29M for 2018-19. That money is guaranteed. Also, I think Zobrist will play a lesser role the next 2 years and have value. To DFA and eat the $29M does not sound like a good idea to me.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I'll be surprised if Zobrist regains his 2016 form, but he doesn't have to. He can play a bench / utility role and be a leader / mentor for the younger players, much as David Ross did in his last years.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I will always appreciate Zobrist, but I hope the Cubs do keep him primarily as a bench/utility/pinch hitter next year. He doesn't bring much value playing defense and I thought his bat looked very slow this year. The wrist may have had something to do with it, but lots of hitters' bats slow down around his age and I think that has a big part to play in what his performance was like this year.

    He absolutely, though, has a role on the team as a leader and David Ross type. Well said, Cliff1969.

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    Consider the great Atlanta Braves teams that did all that winning in the late 80's through 90's. ONE world series title. It ain't easy folks.

  • You can’t really find much to complain about when a teams last 5 first 1st round picks are all contributing on a WS caliber team. Add in Russell and Contreras, who have a low floor and plenty of upside.

    The Chicago Cubs have been the most successful team in the majors over the last three years. They’ve won more playoff games from 2015-17 than they won from 1909-2014, combined.

    From 2015-2016 all of Arrieta, Hendricks, Lackey and Lester were top 20 in innings pitched (including post-season), as was Q. Only one team in this years playoffs, had even 2, Sale and Price.
    Kershaw and Keuchel are still standing.

    Zach Godley would look nice in a Cubs uniform, oh wait, what?
    As good as the FO has been at trading for cost-controlled starting pitching (Arrieta, Hendricks, and now Q), they have also traded their fare share of pitchers now contributing at the MLB level.

    The FO attacking pitching with #’s, also calls in to question the ability to develop said pitching. But regardless, it was still was expected to take longer to come to fruition.
    Tseng has now been the Cubs MiLB pitcher of the year 2x. He’ll get a shot.
    As my momma used to say, ‘keep stuffing the tube and something will come out…’
    De La Cruz, Alzolay, Albertos, Little, Lange, Mills and Hatch to start with. Late 2018 is realistic for one or two in some role. But 2019 is more realistic.
    On the reliever side, Dillon Maples’s stuff is nasty. Good Edwards Jr. is un-hittable. And they have some other great arms in the pipeline and all of the above who could contribute in 2018.

    The FO will attack pitching the same as they always have, sign one big FA and closer and fill in the rest.
    I would also never rule out This FO’s ability to give a pitch; And land Ohtani.

    On the offensive side, having great offensive players is one thing. Having balance in your line-up is something else (and I don’t mean LRLR, which is nice too).
    The reason the Cubs signed Heyward, Fowler and Zobrist was to bring that balance; to provide that contact.
    Zobrist, hopefully that wrist was a thing and he bounces back next year. But that was always going to be a contract more about the beginning over the end of it.
    Fowler, Theo may have underestimated how hard it is to find a true lead-off man.
    But, I think AA will be more then fine in CF and adds that contact.

    Heyward is going to be a black-hole for years to come. And dictate some painful moves. First casualty being Schwarber.

    As it stands:
    A team could do a lot worse then an outfield of Bryant (led 3rd basemen in errors), AA and Heyward.
    First to third with Rizzo, TLS (the contact sorely needed), Russell and Baez.
    And the flexibility of Happ (contact issues) and Zobrist off the ‘bench’. But the flexability we know love, may have an inherent small window.
    Sound crazy?
    Theo:
    “We’ve really benefited from having two or three extra starting caliber players on the roster. That’s as big a part of the club as anything. Sooner or later you reach a point where you have to consider sacrificing some of that depth to address other needs on the club. I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open to that if it makes the outlook of the team and the organization better.”

  • Also from Theo:
    “The leadoff hitter thing, it’s always nice to have an established lead-off hitter. In certain situations depending on your outlook, it can start to slide toward luxury, not necessity. I would rather have one, but I’m not going to sit here and say by Opening Day we’ll have one. We scored the second-most runs in the league this year without a true leadoff hitter.
    “More important than identifying one guy, we have to continue on that arc, that will lead to tough, consistent, team at bats where we perform with situational hitting, and a dependable 2-strike approach, and where we’re no fun to pitch against.
    “To be a consistent championship organization, you have to get to a point where your at bats are so mature and so consistent that you even give the good pitchers fits,” Epstein continued. “If we’re honest about it, we didn’t get to that point this year. We’re young but we still need to progress. We can’t just count on experience. We have to look ourselves in the eye as an organization.”

    If I learned one thing from The Late Great John Arguello, it is that Theo's end of the season press conference is a blueprint.

  • Sounds like it is going to be an interesting hot stove league in 2017-18.

  • It's so wonderful having such a smart GM who is also able to be honest and identify the warts. That "giving good pitchers fits" thing is dead on.

  • Zach Godley was a miss, and would be nice to have on the current team, but you can't take away the other great trades. Most notably getting Arrieta for next to nothing. He was a major piece for the Cubs the last few years. I don't think Schwarber or Happ are going anywhere unless they get an offer that blows them away. I believe that Schwarber can play an adequate LF and his offensive upside is undeniable. I think Theo is keeping all of his options open which he should do.

  • I am concerned about what moves the cubs can make. The FA class this year is kind of weak. Darvish Lynn Aretta are 3 best arms with Martinez as hitter. We need to arms in rotation. And I am tired of going after Butler and Anderson. I think infield is intact. Since we have no middle infield depth be hard to trade Baez or Addi. The of is over crowded. But the wrong 2 can’t be moved. Zo and JHey can’t be moved. Don’t think Happ or schwarbs are good enough to bring back a TOR arm or a good table setter. I can’t wait to see how creative Theo and Jed have to get to up grade this team.

  • I believe Zo has no trade protection this off-season but not next. I would still try to talk him into accepting a trade to a team that could use his experience and leadership while turning the corner - like the Chisox or Dbacks. That would save some money to spend on the bullpen.

  • Also I see no reason Almora can't hang sleep leading off against left handlers. And against RHers, I'd go with Happ there and see how it progresses. He will be a good hitter and I can live with a few strikeouts due to his ability

  • In reply to cubbustible:

    'Almora can handle lead off' ... spell check, sorry.

  • Congratulations to all of us for the success of the last 3 years. Most of us who visit this site bought into the plan and waited for this and it's been a great 3 years with the window wide open for even more.

    But within that window has been the idea that the 2017 offseason would probably bring some significant decisions and changes, such as major changes to the starting rotation and the possibility that this is the offseason when someone from the core group is moved.

    So looking forward to this offseason and what those around here think about it.

  • Zo and J-Hey have no trade contracts. How about a Addison Russell for Dee Gordan trade?

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    That would be a tough one. 25 BB and nearly a 100 K from a no power "contact" hitter is not a great leadoff man. Dependent upon his BA. Even with a .308 avg he only had a .340 OBP. He would add a speed element lacking to play some small ball. Not sure on this one. Interesting.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    I think, in general, the need for a prototypical leadoff hitter is overrated. I'd rather have a lineup that makes the pitchers work, drive up pitch counts and make a pitcher use his entire arsenal.

    A lot of "prototypical" leadoff hitters are just fast.

    Gordon's ops+ is below league average. His on-base of .341 last year was 12 pts. higher than his career average and when you add in 16 CS, that's even more outs.

    Russell, and his potential ceiling, should be worth a lot more than Gordon.

  • Well somebody is definitely about to get traded.I hope it's schwarber and not happ or baez.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Schwarber unfortunately is a DH. Either the NL needs to adopt the DH or we get 30HR and sub par defense. Unless we get a staff of all K pitchers or 50% plus Ground ball rates, hes a laibility in the field. Question is, who in the AL can use him?

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    That’s the narrative but the stats don’t bear that out. He makes the occasional awful play but statistically he’s just below league average in LF. His UZR of 3.4 actually suggests that he’s slightly above average.

  • In reply to TC154:

    A lot of false narratives unfortunately. I don't think Schearber alone fetches anything remotely interesting that our $65MM cannot buy. Why give up an asset when you have cash to burn? You would have to package another valuable asset to get the type of pitcher everyone covets.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I like the defense runs saved stats, and Schwarber was -9,which for a part time player is very bad.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Schwarber is more like a 45 HR guy when he is right and plays a full season. We don't need gold glovers all over the field to be successful. Almora in CF and Heyward in RF are gold glover type players.

  • On the pitching front, an intriguing bullpen or BOR arm would be Mike Minor of the Royals (former 1st pick of the Braves). The Royals hold a 10M option but seem unlikely to exercise it due to budget concerns. Pitched really well done the stretch (had 6 saves late in the year) and has a good K/BB rate. There is enough uncertainty about his ability to transition back to being a starter (though he has had no noticeable setbacks since his return from a torn labrum) that he may be able to be had for a relative value. As is, he remains an intriguing closer option.

  • Chris Bosio has been fired. Lots of speculation that Jim Hickey, Maddon’s long time pitching coach in TB, will replace him.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Jim Hickey is well thought of but frankly so is Bosio. Kinda sounds like the buddy system to me. If Hickey can get the cub relievers to stop walking hitters then maybe a good move.

  • In reply to TC154:

    No surprise that Chris Bosio got canned. The Cubs led the playoffs in walks by a large margin which drove up the pitches thrown.
    The hitting was well below par in the playoffs. It seemed like no adjustments were made. Is it time for a new hitting coach ?

  • In reply to TC154:

    Is Gregg Maddux ready to work for the Cubs again? He certainly out thought the hitters when he pitched.

  • I'm shocked Bosio was fired before mallee

  • In reply to bolla:

    Now that the buzzards are circling, I would not mind seeing David Ross replace Dave Martinez as the bench coach next season.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Not seeing that happen due to the relationship Maddon has with Martinez.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Exactly, Mallee needs to go..

  • In reply to bolla:

    I'm sure the timing had more to do with the availability of Hickey than with which coach deserved to be fired first. The Cubs needed to move before he signs with another team.

  • Did my eyes deceive me or did Jose Altuve reach across the plate and "one hand swat" that ball into the LF seats?

  • Bosio was fired cause he decided it was a good idea to go drinking with Lackey at Murphy’s Wednesday night. Surprised the video of Lackey being so drunk he couldn’t walk hasn’t hit the internet yet.

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    I can certainly understand a retiring pitcher having a few drinks with a long-term pitching coach, even if they overdo it, but claiming that it's the reason for his firing? What's your source?

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    A pitching coach going out drinking with a departing veteran pitcher who he has worked with for two seasons has nothing to do with being fired. I also don't see Lackey getting drunk having any bearing on the situation either. He may call it a career. Let him celebrate, or wallow, however you choose to look at it.

  • Know many people that work bartending and waitressing in the Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville area. They actually said a majority of the team was out until at least 5am. Can’t say with confidence that part is true but there is video of Lackey not being able to walk in the early Thursday hours out there somewhere.

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    I would say with confidence that none of it is.
    The majority of the team? 5AM?.....

  • I have no problem with anyone going out for a few after a game. But with game 5 of the NLCS the next night and you’re off either until Saturday or February after game 5 nobody should be hammered Wednesday night

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    I've seen other current players sloppy drunk with my own eyes. It happens. But I see your point. Bosio's dismissal had much more to do with the staff's inability to throw strikes than a few (several?) drinks with Lackey. The Cubs pitching staff needs an overhaul, and apparently the FO thought it should go with a different coach.

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    This is the sentence that gives me pause: "Bosio was fired cause he decided it was a good idea to go drinking with Lackey at Murphy’s Wednesday night."

    I understand the concern about the appropriateness of getting sloppy drunk the night before a playoff game, but, without a source, claiming that it was the reason for Bosio being fired seems to be a stretch.

  • I was venting cause it pissed me off when I heard that. Obviously he wasn’t let go because of that.

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    Fair enough. Watching this staff, especially the pen, walk us into oblivion is enough to make anyone want to vent. There will be significant turnover in the entire pitching staff, and I think the FO just wants to go with a different approach coaching-wise.

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    I don't think the fact that Lackey couldn't walk at 5am is the reason Bosio was fired, as everyone has said it's because all the opponents could walk on our pitching staff. It's not only the bullpen, although that's very important, but the starters walked their share and that increased their pitch counts so they couldn't pitch deeper in the game.
    We have a great core and the oldest is Rizzo and he's 28. I do think that Happ or Schwarbs will be traded. My preference is trading Schwarber because of his potential. Theo said it best--he became a slugger and got away from being a hitter. That's why Joe thought he'd be a good lead off man. In 2015 his OBP was .355, and last year in the post season it was .500 (very sss). So why wouldn't he fill that role. We'd take a .355 OBP but that never happened. Our position players are good to go but pitching and leadoff need upgrading.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Love the way you worked in the fact that even if Lackey couldn't walk the Cubs staff had no problem issuing them. Well done. And happy belated birthday, Jonathan. 67? That must have been a large pecan pie to hold all those candles. :)

  • I beleive the Cubs looked so bad in the playoffs is because BRYZZO did NOT hit like we know they can and the leadoff men didn't help.

    Has anyone noticed how much Bryant is squatting down in the batters box before each pitch. He comes up to swing the bat. Doesn't that screw up his line of site causing him to miss the ball? Am I the only one to think this? Where is the coaching?

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