Game 7 of the World Series was one of the best baseball games ever played. It had the perfect storyline; the Cubs coming back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the series and force a decisive Game 7 against the suddenly surging Cleveland Indians. That victory for the Chicago Cubs gave the franchise its first World Series title in 108 years and gave its fans one of the most joyous moments in their lifetime.
Fast forward a couple months and here we are, just a few weeks away from Spring Training, and the roster that helped the Cubs win 103 games and a World Series title looks a lot different than it did when the offseason first started. Several players left in free agency (some still remained unsigned, but we’ll get into that later), others were traded away, and Grandpa Rossy retired from the game after going out a champion. Despite all of the losses, the Cubs were able to add some players that filled gaps in the roster. Letting go of players that helped win a World Series is hard, but retooling for another run is the main focus for this team, and bringing in players that fit a specific need is exactly what the Cubs set out to do this offseason. Let’s take a look at the notable departures from the Cubs:
OF Dexter Fowler
Fowler rejected the Qualifying Offer from the Cubs and negotiated with teams for a couple months before agreeing to a 5 year, $82.5 million dollar deal with the Cubs division rival, the St. Louis Cardinals. Fowler’s leadoff hitting and career .366 OBP will be missed in this lineup and his presence in the clubhouse will leave somewhat of a void. However, a platoon of Jon Jay and Albert Almora in CF will bring quality defense and decent offence to the Cubs lineup.
SP Jason Hammel (RHP)
The Cubs did Hammel a favor by not picking up his $10MM club option and allowing him to test his market. If Hammel had a do over, I’m fairly certain that he would have tried harder to convince the Cubs to pick up his option considering the horrific winter he has had as a free agent. Hammel has had no success finding anything close to the offer he was expecting from other clubs. A report from NBC Sports stated that many teams were not willing to offer Hammel anything more than a 1 year deal, which is somewhat surprising given his pitching track record in the last few years as a Cub. As a member of the Chicago Cubs during 2014, part of 2015, and 2016, Hammel has accumulated a 33-22 record with a 3.59 ERA over 446 innings pitched. Besides his recent injury, Hammel has been an effective starter during his tenure with Chicago, and the fact that teams reportedly won’t give him any more than a 1 year deal is stunning.
C David Ross
David Ross’ last game was one he will remember for the rest of his life. The 39 year old backup catcher homered off of Indians star reliever Andrew Miller and helped the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years. His veteran presence in the clubhouse and his overall friendly attitude was one of the reasons the Cubs clubhouse chemistry was so great. He brought the team together and was the glue that helped the Cubs young players develop and work so well together. Ross has joined the Cubs as an assistant to the general manager and he also recently signed a deal with ESPN to be an analyst for baseball games.
UTL Chris Coghlan
Coghlan spent the last few seasons as a member of the Cubs organization, bouncing back nicely from his ill-fated last few seasons with the Marlins. He was able to stay healthy and perform at a reasonable rate, which helped the Cubs to the postseason and eventually to the World Series. Coghlan recently signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, which I wrote an article on. His clubhouse presence will be missed and his lefty bat was a big plus for the Cubs roster.
CL Aroldis Chapman (LHP)
The Cubs gave up a lot to get Chapman at the trade deadline, but it proved the right move as Chapman’s dominating pitching in the postseason helped the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years. The Cubs knew that they would not be in the bidding for his services in free agency come the offseason, as he was expected to get the biggest contract for a relieving pitcher in baseball history. This proved to be true as Chapman returned to the Yankees (the team that traded him to the Cubs) for a 5 year, $95 million dollar contract (a record deal for a reliever).
OF Jorge Soler
Glimpses of untapped potential followed by enormous strikeout rates and an obvious lack of hustle. That is what Jorge Soler’s Cubs career pretty much looked like. He was never really a full time player and was injured often so both of those factors could have played a huge role in his slow development. The Cubs took advantage of their surplus of outfielders and dealt Soler to the Kansas City Royals for closer Wade Davis, a qualified closer that the Cubs need.
RP Travis Wood (LHP)
Wood was the longest tenured member of the organization up until he left as a free agent in November. Over the last several seasons, Wood has performed as a starter and as a reliever on the Cubs roster. He was mainly a starter during the dark days of the Cubs organization, but to little success. He really found his groove in the bullpen where he flourished as a reliever and the primary lefty option out of the pen.
Now let’s take a look at the notable acquisitions the Cubs made this offseason:
CL Wade Davis
(Trade with Kansas City Royals)
No offense to Hector Rondon, but the Cubs need a lockdown closer who can effectively shut the door in the 9th inning for an entire season. Enter 2015 World Series champion Wade Davis. Acquired in a trade that sent OF Jorge Soler to the Royals, Davis brings a winning mentality and plenty of postseason experience to the roster. His presence at the back of the rotation will give the Cubs a lockdown closer for a whole season (barring an injury) for the first time in quite a while. Should the Cubs make it back to the postseason again, Davis’ 0.84 ERA through 32.1 innings in the post season should give the Cubs a confidence boost heading into the late innings.
SP Brett Anderson (RHP)
(Free Agent Signing, 1 year/$3.5MM)
The Cubs are taking an interesting flyer on the often injured Brett Anderson. His injury history is extensive, causing him to miss a lot of games over his career. He can be effective when put in the right situations, but if you dig deeper into his splits, some extremely disturbing stats will pop out. Below I will list some of his most shocking splits according to BaseballReference.com :
Balls hit into the Infield: .119/.119/.121 (1220 plate appearances)
Balls hit into the Outfield: .609/.602/.948 (960 plate appearances)
Ground Balls: .248/.248/.262 (1248 plate appearances)
Fly Balls: .210/.207/.587 (469 plate appearances)
Line Drives: .747/.717/.1.041 (420 plate appearances)
If these splits do not scare, amaze, terrify you as a Cubs fan, then you need to take a harder look. I’m sure the Cubs have looked at these splits and are very aware of what they need to do to limit damage (having one of the league’s best defenses behind him should help somewhat).
OF Jon Jay
(Free Agent Signing, 1 year/$8MM)
The Cubs knew that if they wanted to retain Dexter Fowler, they would have to stretch their budget to fit him into their plans for the future with a long term contract. Rather than spending that money on just Fowler, the Cubs decided to make several smaller signings to help bolster the roster, primarily the bullpen. It didn’t take long to find a replacement for Fowler, as the Cubs picked up former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay. Replacing Fowler’s OBP and defense in the outfield isn’t easy, but a platoon of Jay and Albert Almora should provide adequate defense (Jay is a career -0.2 dWAR defender but his negative status is defined by two really bad seasons). Having Jay in the outfield with Almora will help him grow as a player, with Jon being his mentor.
RP Brian Duensing (LHP)
(Free Agent Signing, 1 year/$2MM)
Quality left handed pitching is hard to come by so teams often take flyers on fringe lefties that have a good shot at turning into a productive member of their pen. The Cubs decided to pick up Duensing to see if his stuff would be a good fit for the roster. Originally a starter, Brian has found more success as a reliever in recent years, contributing solid results in limited major league time.
RP Koji Uehara (RHP)
(Free Agent Signing, 1 year/$6MM)
As if adding one World Series closer isn’t good enough, the Cubs signed veteran closer Koji Uehara to help set up for new closer Wade Davis. Uehara has plenty of experience in late innings with the Orioles, Rangers, and Red Sox over several seasons. His career 2.53 ERA and 10.7 K/9 ratio are some of the most impressive numbers from his stats book. He should accommodate Davis nicely at the back of the pen, possibly being an 8th inning setup man.
After all of the moves that were made this offseason, the Cubs are prepared to enter spring training as the world series favorites once again. Yes, losing a lot of your core players hurts, but finding adequate replacements for them is a great move from the Cubs brilliant front office. Adding these talented players to the Cubs young core will only help the team grow and move towards the postseason once again.
Anthony Rizzo will take over as the total leader of this team, aiming for another impressive all around season. Kris Bryant can only get better from here, if he can continue to cut his strikeout rate and improve his power, he can compete for NL MVP again. If Joe Maddon can figure out how to use Javier Baez correctly, his glove will be a huge defensive weapon in the infield. My biggest hope for a player this season is that Jason Heyward regains his offensive ability with his new swing and can contribute to the offense. I am really looking forward to a full season of Kyle Schwarber and seeing what position he primarily plays. If he can catch again, his versatility will be such a gift to the Cubs. I can see this team breaking last years win total, and running away with the NL central once again.
Most Improved Player: OF Jason Heyward
Most Regressed Player: SP John Lackey
Breakout Season: 2B Javier Baez
Surprise Performance: SP Brett Anderson
Biggest Let Down: OF Jon Jay
MVP Candidate: 1B Anthony Rizzo
My Projected Cubs Opening Day Roster
- Jon Lester (LHP)
- Jake Arrieta (RHP)
- Kyle Hendricks (RHP)
- John Lackey (RHP)
- Brett Anderson (LHP)
- Mike Montgomery (LHP)
- Brian Duensing (LHP)
- Carl Edwards Jr. (RHP)
- Hector Rondon (RHP)
- Pedro Strop (RHP)
- Wade Davis (RHP)
- Koji Uehara (RHP)
- Justin Grimm (RHP)
C: Wilson Contreras
1B: Anthony Rizzo
2B: Ben Zobrist
3B: Kris Bryant
SS: Addison Russell
OF: Albert Almora Jr.