Chicago Cubs News
After winning the franchise's first World Series trophy in 108 years, expectations for the next couple of years were high for the Chicago Cubs. But after some ill-advised trades and disappointing playoff exits resulted in the Cubs falling short of their lofty expectations. As a result, the Cubs fired their manager, Joe Madden, after failing to reach the postseason in 2019. Former catcher and World Series hero David Ross was hired as the new manager. The franchise was at a crossroads heading into the 2020 season with an aging core and star players such as Kris Bryant and Javier Baez due for extensions. The 2020 season would serve as one of the Cubs' last opportunities to rekindle their magic and make a championship run.
The season got off to an ominous start as the Major League season was delayed and cut down to 60 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The season began on July 24th, and the Cubs opened with a home matchup against the Brewers. Kyle Hendricks pitched a masterful complete-game shutout en route to a 3-0 Cubs victory. The Cubs finished the month with a 5-2 record. The Cubs continued their stellar play into August, going 13-3 in their first 16 games. They were able to do it despite some awful outings from their bullpen. Closer Craig Kimbrel was especially awful, finishing the season with a 5.28 ERA and lost his closing privileges midway through the season. The Cubs' offense was wildly inconsistent, which cost the Cubs a couple of games throughout the season. However, Yu Darvish put together a Cy-Young caliber season, and Ian Happ inserted his name into the MVP discussion with his early-season performance. On August 30th Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, and Kyle Schwarber each hit two home runs in the game marking the first time in MLB history to have three starting outfielders hit multiple home runs in the same game. The Cubs headed into September with a 20-14 record, which was still good enough for first place in the NL Central division.
On September 4th, the Cubs pushed their division lead to 4.5 games following another good outing from Yu Darvish. Darvish struck out 11 batters in seven innings against the Cardinals. The Cubs proceeded to drop a doubleheader to the Cardinals the next day. On September 6th, the Cubs lost their third straight game 7-3, after Jon Lester got shelled on Sunday Night Baseball. Kyle Hendricks righted the ship in the final game of the season against the Cardinals. The professor pitched eight innings and only allowed a single run. The Cubs would go on 5-1, and Anothy Rizzo contributed two RBI’s. The most memorable moment of the season came on September 13th when Alec Mills threw a no-hitter against the Brewers. Mills no-hitter made for a great underdog story, and the Cubs offense celebrated the occasion by scoring 12 runs in a blowout. Three days later, Javier Baez hit a walk-off single against the Cleveland Indians to improve the Cubs' record 30-20s. It was the first time the Cubs had been 10 games over .500 since they were 13–3 to start the season. The Cubs wrapped up the season by nearly blowing a 10-1 lead to their rival Chicago White Sox. The Cubs were able to hold onto a 10-8 victory. They finished with a 34-26 record and earned a date with the Miami Marlins in the postseason.
The Cubs' postseason stay was short-lived after they could only muster one run in two games against the Marlins, despite being the higher seed. The playoff series summed up the Cubs' offensive woes during the regular season. As a team, the Cubs ranked 27th in batting average, 20th in runs, 24th in slugging percentage, and 21st in OPS. Ian Happ led the team with 12 home runs. Meanwhile, Yu Darvish finished second in the Cy-Young voting behind Trevor Bauer.
Top 10 Cubs Players
Yu Darvish (Projected Rank #1)
Yu Darvish was not only the best pitcher on the Cubs last season, but he was also one of the best in baseball. The former all-star found his form once again in 2020 and dominated opposing hitters. He had a 2.01 ERA and struck out 11 batters per nine innings. With a large arsenal of pitches to work with, Darvish has the stuff to be in the Cy-Young conversation for years to come.
2. Anthony Rizzo (Projected Rank #2)
Anthony Rizzo has been the face of the Chicago Cubs for the better part of the last decade. The powerful left-hander has hit over 200 home runs in a Cubs uniform and was an intricate part of their World Series team in 2016. Rizzo has piled up his fair share of accolades. He is a three-time all-star who also has a silver slugger to his name and has finished in the top 20 for the MVP twice in his career. He also gets it done on the defensive side. The first baseman is a four-time gold glove winner. Despite a down year at the plate in 2020, he could still contribute defensively, earning his fourth gold glove this offseason.
3. Kyle Hendricks (Projected Rank #4)
The Cubs do not have a player who is more consistent than Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks has a career 3.12 ERA and has been in the top ten of the Cy-Young voting twice. The professor has the ability to pitch in big games, and his calm demeanor makes you feel comfortable every time he takes the ball. Hendricks has yet to have a season with an ERA over 4.00 in his career. This is in part due to his pinpoint control. Hendricks does not walk many hitters. He has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon either.
4. Kris Bryant (Projected Rank NA)
Kris Bryant will likely not be with the Cubs by the end of the season. But he deserves respect. Injuries have plagued Bryant in recent years, but he still deserves respect. Bryant is a former MVP, three-time all-star, and rookie of the year winner. In six seasons, Bryant has had an average of above .270 in all but one season. He has also hit at least 26 home runs or more in four out of six seasons. What's more, Bryant's defense has steadily improved each season. His ranking on this list is due to his massive drop off in 2020. However, I do think he will return to form next season, just likely not with the Cubs
5. Javier Baez (Projected Rank #3)
Javier Baez is easily the most fun player to watch on the Cubs. He has all the tools you want in a player: power, speed, a cannon of an arm, and a slick glove. Baez is electric on the basepaths, and his style of play has a way of energizing an entire team. His no-look tags, graceful defense, and bold baserunning have made Baez a fan favorite in Chicago. Baz has the talent to be the best player on the team, but poor plate discipline has set him back. Baez needs to cut down on the strikeouts if he wants to avoid another disappointing season, like the one he had in 2020.
6. Willson Contreras (Projected Rank #5)
Need to throw out a base runner? Wilson Conteras is your guy. Conteras can make a case as the best offensive catcher in the NL. The two-time all-star has lots of power. He hit 24 home runs in 2019. In three of his five seasons, Conteras has had a WAR higher than 3.0. While he does have a big arm behind the plate, his defense has room for improvement. He led the league in errors for catchers three seasons in a row from 2017-2019. His pitch framing could also be better.
7. Ian Happ (Projected Rank #8)
Ian Happ was sent down to the minor leagues before the 2019 season. He then proceeded to work his way back to the big leagues and come out of nowhere during the 2020 season. Happ opened the season on an MVP pace before fading late in the year. He still had a respectable season. In 57 games, he hit 12 home runs and drove in 28. Happ is still relatively young and can play multiple positions across the diamond. If he continues to develop as a hitter, he will become a valuable piece on the Cubs roster.
8. Jason Heyward (Projected Rank #7)
Heyward is a sure-handed outfielder. Just look at his four gold gloves as proof. The Cubs signed him to a massive contract in 2016, thinking he would be the final piece to put them over. The Cubs did win the World Series that year, but Heyward was very disappointing. His most memorable moment was an alleged speech he gave during a rain delay of Game 7 of the World Series. He did make some improvements at the plate during the 2020 season, but I don’t expect him to ever return to the offensive numbers he put up while in Atlanta.
9. Kyle Schwarber (Projected Rank #NA)
Kyle Schwarber is another player I do not expect to be with the Cubs by the end of the season. Schwarber hangs his hat on the ability to drive the ball out of the ballpark. Hitting home runs is something he does very well. He already has 121 homers in six seasons. Unfortunately, he does not hit for average and strikeouts out at a very high rate. Joe Madden liked to use Schwarber as a lead-off hitter, and the inability to put the ball in play is not usually quality of a good leadoff man. Schwarber has received some criticism over his defense, but he has gotten better over the years, and this criticism is no longer justified. By advanced metrics, he has actually considered an above average left fielder.
10. Jeremy Jeffress (Projected Rank #10)
Jeffress came over to Chicago during the 2019 offseason. He was coming off a horrible year in Milwaukee, but he turned into the Cubs' best relief pitcher in 2020. He had a 1.54 ERA and saved eight games. He looks to be the go-to guy for the Cubs in high leverage situations, late in games. This is not unprecedented for Jeffress. He was an All-Star in 2018 and has put together some nice seasons during his ten-year career. Unfortunately, he can be unpredictable from year to year. Following his all-star season in 2018, his ERA ballooned up to 5.02. The Cubs hope history doesn't repeat itself in the 2021 season.
Chicago Cubs FAQs
Why did Theo Epstein leave?
Theo was only going to stay with the Cubs for ten seasons at the most. After doing a good job for nine seasons at the helm, Theo decided to leave early because the organization was coming to a crossroads. Cubs management has some franchise-altering decisions to make this offseason that will affect the franchise's future for years to come. Knowing he would not be around to see the consequences of his decisions, he decided to let the next guy in charge make those decisions.
Are the Cubs about to rebuild?
It certainly looks that way. Kris Bryant is likely gone after this season, so the wisest thing to do if you're the Cubs is to trade him. After the pandemic wreaked havoc on the league's financials, the Rickets will also likely be looking to shed payroll elsewhere in the lineup.
Who are some players that will remain with the team?
Anthony Rizzo is probably not going anywhere. Javier Baez was close to signing an extension last season, so don’t be surprised if he receives a backloaded contract this season. Their young pieces Nico Horner and Ian Happ, will not be going anywhere either. Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber are going to be the first names on the chopping block.
What went wrong for the Cubs after winning the World Series?
The main issue was the star players that the Cubs relied on for hits stopped hitting. The Cubs' offense has been wildly inconsistent. Kris Bryant has dealt with injuries and has yet to return to his MVP form. Javier Baez had an uncharacteristic down season in 2020 where he could not hit anything. The Cubs also made some big moves that did not work out in their favor. The Cubs added Jose Quintana in 2017 to snag a solid pitcher to sure up the rotation for years to come. They got instead a mediocre pitcher that missed most of the 2020 season due to a fluke dishwashing accident. The Cubs also signed Craig Kimbrel to a large contract, and he has failed to deliver.
Can the Cubs get a good return in a Kris Bryant trade?
Yes. The Cubs have a lot of things going in their favor in terms of selling Bryant. He was a former MVP winner, he was an All-Star in 2019, and even though he only has one year left on his contract, the Cubs can flip him to a competitive team that wants to do a sign and trade. Despite the down year, a healthy Kris Bryant can still fetch a hefty return.
Why did Ryan Tepera get an MVP vote?
This was one of the more bizarre stories of the offseason so far. Tepera was an average reliever at best this season but still managed to get an MVP vote. Rick Hummel, who is a beat writer for the Cardinals, voted for him by mistake. He meant to vote for Trea Turner but misclicked his ballot and selected Terpera by mistake when submitting his votes. As a result, he joined Ian Happ and Yu Darvish as the only players to receive MVP votes.
What can we expect to see from the Cubs next season?
I believe the Cubs will still try and remain competitive next season. They still have the talent to work with on the roster, so they may decide to run it back one last time. Even if they do trade Bryant and Schwarber, any team with Yu Darvish, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez on it will not be a bad team? Realistically you can expect them to compete for a wildcard spot next season if they do not completely blow up the roster.