The Chicago Cubs made significant strides toward a competitive future in 2023. Despite faltering down the stretch and missing the playoffs, they stayed in the hunt and contention much longer than anticipated and more so than the three seasons prior. It certainly gives hope that the championship window is beginning to open, and the best is still to come for this set of core players on the North Side of Chicago.
Hope continued to rise after President Jed Hoyer replaced manager David Ross with former Milwaukee Brewers skipper Craig Counsell. This move came immediately following the season’s conclusion with no warning, shocking the baseball world. At $40 million over five years, Counsell becomes the highest-paid manager in baseball. This move was believed to set the tone for an offseason of spending and moving, but the expectations were set too high based on just one move.
Hoyer, general manager Carter Hawkins, and the rest of the Cubs front office could not lure superstar Shohei Ohtani to Chicago over Los Angeles. Still, they did land prized left-hander Shota Imanaga from Japan. Imanaga has incredible movement on his pitches to induce outs at a great rate.
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The Cubs also traded with the Dodgers for top-infield prospect Michael Busch and assessed the issues in the bullpen by signing Hector Neris. Their work this offseason is not done, however. Many predict they will eventually reunite with Cody Bellinger, who received MVP considerations after a great year with the Cubs. There are rumors about potential trades, maybe involving slugger Christopher Morel in pursuit of additional pitching.
Combining what we expect to happen with a deeper bullpen and a change in manager, the rise of expectations can be justified. But as currently constructed while considering the moves made, Cubs fans may need to pump the brakes a tad.
Prediction Shows Cubs Further Away From Competing Than Expected
Baseball Prospectus has released its PECOTA standings prediction for the 2024 season. They use a specific algorithm to project and predict how the baseball season will turn out based on a series of simulations. After running the numbers, they have the Cubs finishing second to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central division and missing out on a playoff spot, posting a losing record of 80-82.
Baseball Prospectus believes the Cubs are further from competing than initially thought when the offseason started. The truth is the higher expectations rely on signings and moves the Cubs could/should make rather than what is on the roster right now.
Youngsters like newly acquired Busch, left-handed pitcher Jordan Wicks, and top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong will all likely make the Opening Day roster but still need to prove their success in the minors will translate to the majors. As of right now, Patrick Wisdom is the everyday first baseman. The lineup is missing (at least) one power bat to make it feel dangerous.
Signing Bellinger and him replicating what he did last year is likely worth some extra wins in 2024, but it still hasn’t happened. As currently constructed, these predictions are probably right in the wheelhouse.