Owner: The Ricketts Family, $2.3 billion
World Series Titles: 1907-08, 2016.
Greatest Player: SS/1B Ernie Banks
Division: NL Central
Payroll: 11th, $173,815,500.
2022 Result: 74-88, 3rd place.
General Manager: Carter Hawkins.
Manager: David Ross, 45, 179-205.
Home Field: Wrigley Field, capacity 41,649.
Key Additions: The Cubs got in late on the bonanza shortstop free agent market, but they got in. They landed Dansby Swanson who seemed destined to be a lifelong Brave, hitting 102 home runs, driving in 411 RBI, and batted .255. Did the Cubs overpay? Well, the market is what the market is. But Chicago needs to have gotten this right.
The Cubs also signed veterans Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer to try to fill the void still left by Anthony Rizzo at first.
Key Losses: The loss of catcher Willson Contreras is a double whammy for the Cubs. Not only did they lose their veteran backstop who had handled the pitching staff and directed the infield, but they lost him to the rival Cardinals. The Cubs will go with a platoon system of light-hitting Tucker Barnhart and defensive veteran Yan Gomes. It’s serviceable but hardly spectacular.
Key Injury: Pitcher Kyle Hendricks has been a mainstay in the Cubs rotation since 2016, eating up 1312.2 innings and going 87-61 with a 3.46 ERA. His stuff has fallen off the last two seasons as the ERA ballooned to 4.77 and 4.80 but Kendricks has been dependable and certainly knows how to pitch. He missed the final three months off last season after suffering a capsular tear in his right shoulder. It’s by far the most serious injury of his career. Kendricks will not be ready for the start of the season and the Cubs don’t have a ready replacement.
Prospect alert: Pete Crow-Armstrong has done nothing but wow the organization since he was acquired via trade from the Mets. The 20-year-old outfielder has gotten it done on both sides of the line. He’s considered one of the Top 10 outfielders in the minors and the lefty hits to all fields, screaming liners. Crow-Armstrong is a year away but the Cubs are close to be in need of young talent.
Scouting Report:Over/Under Wins: 76.5, 3rd place in NL Central.
The Cubs are in no man’s land. They are not good enough to challenge the Cardinals and Brewers at the top of the division, but good enough to finish ahead of the Pirates and Reds. Not even the expanded playoff format can help them.
The teams at the top of the division are in win-now mode and have the clubhouses to do it. The Red and Pirates have made decisions to build with young talent and both have done an intriguing job of stockpiling young talent. As a big-market franchise, going into full rebuild mode is a tough pill to swallow. But is treading water any better.
The best example of the Cubs scenario is the starting pitching. They’re counting on players that other teams deemed not valuable to resign. Former Mets Marcus Stroman and former Yankee Jameson Taillon are both 31 and they combined to go 20-22 and last season. There’s not a firm expectation as to when Kendricks will be very to start.
The infield is similar. Dansby is a headline signing but was it wise to give a 29-year-old a seven-year deal with a full no-trade clause? Dansby is a good player, no doubt, but he had much more protection in the Braves lineup than he has in Chicago.
Is the duo of Mancini (30) and Hosmer (33) at first the answer? For that matter, is the duo of Barnhart (32) and Gomes (35) the longtime answer behind the plate?
They have Ian Happ (28) in right, who’s coming off a terrific season in which he hit 17 home runs and drove in a career-high 72 RBI. Nice. But they have former Dodgers Cody Bellinger (27) in center. He had been a shell of the player who hit 47 homers and drove in 115 while batting .305 in 2019. This reclamation project written all over it.
This is a franchise that needs to decide what the future will be. Do they continue to bring in players other teams have opted to retain (the Braves elected not to retain Swanson, who grew up in Kennesaw, Ga., and had been the hometown boy makes good) or do they tear it down. The Cubs do have the 10th-rated farm system based on prospects.
The small-market Reds and second-in-town Pirates (see: Steelers) were able to tear it down without a lot of public outcry. The Cubs are big-market and have an incredible culture rivalry with the White Sox. Consider this: The Cubs have the 11th highest payroll; the White Sox have the 12th. Just like the Yankees and Mets in New York and Dodgers and Angles in L.A., Chicago is predominantly a Cubs town. How long will that continue if the Cubs keep taking one step forward and two steps back?
BetBasics Best Bet: The Cubs have staked a lot of their present and future on Swanson. He’s coming off his best full season, hitting a career-high .277 with a career-high 96 RBI and 25 homers, second-best. He must have a monster season for the Cubs to maintain their standing ahead of the Reds and Pirates. Can he put up personal-best Triple Crown numbers – 30/100/.290? Sorry, Cubs. We don’t see it.