The Cubs have been one of the most effective teams this off season. They snagged Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler and other top free agents. They already went to the NLCS in 2015, who knows how powerful they’ll be in 2016. This article looks at all the moves this team made to fill the cracks from the 2016 NLCS and look at some question marks at camp. Can this team win their first ring in ages?
The Cubs had a pretty effective off season. They got stars, prospects and everything else they need to win a pennant. The Cubs came in to the off season with clear needs: rotation and bullpen help, an outfielder and maybe a middle infielder.
You could’ve never seen what was coming based on how slow the Cubs were to begin the off season. They got Spencer Patton in a trade with Texas, who will compete for a roster spot now that Rex Brothers is gone. Oh, by the way, they got him in November via free agency and released him at camp. All the sudden, on the first day of the Winter Meetings, they got super busy! They traded Starlin Castro to the Yankees for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan and signed Ben Zobrist in his place, moving Addison Russell to short. They later released Ryan and he signed with the Nats, but they held on to Warren. Still not much in return for their star shortstop who might be a second baseman in New York. Throughout the winter meetings they got some minor deals in.
They signed relievers Brandon Gomes and Jean Machi and resigned Trevor Cahill. But their biggest splash was at he end of the meetings. There was a tight race for Jason Heyward. Many teams, including the Cardinals, Nationals and Cubs were interested, until the Cubbies struck an eight year deal with the prime-age outfielder. After the Meetings it was quiet in Chicago. They did however get Edgar Olmos off waivers while waiving quality reliever Yoervis Medina. Medina must’ve not fit in the Cubbies’ system.
The same took place in January, they did however get Kristopher Negron, Munenori Kawasaki among others signed to minor league contracts. It wasn’t until late February when the Cubs got active again. They made a minor trade to get Chris Coghlan out of the way and receive spot starter Aaron Brooks in return. They signed Manny Parra and Shane Victorino, key players to minors deals, but the biggest and most surprising signing was a resigning of Dexter Fowler. they had J-Hey locked up in center, now he would move to right, kicking Jorge Soler out of his starting role. Now that was an iffy signing unless the Cubs can find Kyle Schwarber an infield or catching position opening.
Soler was worthy of the starting position, but Schwarber is too good to bench for him. The Cubs signed good players, but the bad thing about this team is that the players signed may not fit correctly in Chicago. There are so many players on this team that will be benched and deserve opportunities. I gave them a pretty good grade because if they just have players they should have starting sitting on their bench, and yet they additionally have powerful starters, it makes for a good team, but a) If the team is too crammed, it could hurt them and b) The team, especially its youth isn’t reaching its full potential.
Off Season Grade: A-
Spring Training Questions
Is the bullpen all set?
I’ve been a little worried about the depth of this bullpen. The late inning relief in Chicago is satisfying, but the long relief sector of the bullpen could be short on players. Sure, they got a lot of good, older minor league relievers but the only reliever that isn’t some washed up older guy besides the set up and closing pitchers is Travis Wood, who could also be needed as a spot starter! Sure, they have Aaron Brooks now, but some of their rotation is injury prone, and they need a better bullpen to back them up.
Who will come out of the tight position battles?
The one issue with the Cubs is that the powerful youth of this team isn’t getting its shot, staying in the shadows of the big name players. Here I will go over a couple clustered areas in the Cubs lineup, most showcasing a young guy competing with a veteran. Note: Some of these are only significant enough for the young guy to get some playing time, not necessarily the starting job.
2B/SS: Ben Zobrist, Tommy La Stella, Addison Russell, Javier Baez + 2 others
It’s clear who gets the starts here. Time from the bench, that’s debatable. I think Javier Baez, Jonathan Herrera and maybe even Munenori Kawasaki and Tommy La Stella should get playing time. Baez was nearly as strong a prospect as Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, just didn’t power forward as quickly. Baez deserves some serious consideration, possibly even to platoon with Addison Russell at short, but the other guys need to prove themselves legitimately before getting any significant time. Sure, La Stella may get a couple games and injury fill-in time, but no more than that. The other guys are lucky to get a 40-man roster spot, let alone major league appearances.
LF: Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Shane Victorino
This is the toughest position battle in the NL. Schwarber or Soler? Wait, why is Victorino even here? He’s more of a backup then fighting for a position. But if rumors of Kyle Schwarber moving positions are true, Victorino will be considered. That’s a whole other story, I won’t even get in to that one. Victorino is better in center and right anyways. So, back to Soler and Schwarber. Schwarber quickly found his way to the majors and into a good position on the roster, looking like a multi-year veteran. He was only a rookie who snuck on to the roster. He goes up against a rookie who started the year in a full time position and kept it since J-Hey wasn’t here. Soler wasn’t as broad of a prospect, but was clearly majors ready going into last season.
Will their off season moves be worth it?
Yes and no. Yes they will, because they have an improved lineup with more veterans, not just a bunch of strong rookies, but still have good balance. Personally I thought Dexter Fowler wasn’t a great fit in Chicago, and he was better in Houston, and it would have been a great fit if he signed with the Cardinals. With that the Cards would have revenge on their rivals. That gets in to the no part. Some of the guys they signed don’t fit right, and it would’ve been better just to leave the young sensations in those positions. Jorge Soler losing his job to an outfield trio of Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward and young Kyle Schwarber is a perfect example.
Hector Rondon (CL)
- Dexter Fowler (CF)
- Kyle Schwarber (LF)
- Anthony Rizzo (1B)
- Jason Heyward (RF)
- Kris Bryant (3B)
- Ben Zobrist (2B)
- Miguel Montero (C)
- Addison Russell (SS)
Tommy La Stella
That’s all for today. See my next scouting report tomorrow on the other Chicago team, the White Sox.