Tha Sports Junkies 101

Chicago Cubs: New Year, New Team

Chicago Cubs: New Year, New Team Joe Bermudez


Chicago Cubs

As most sports fans know by now, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series. It was the Cubs first world championship in 108 years, and ushered a winning culture into Wrigley Field that had been lacking for many years.

When Theo Epstein was hired as the General Manager in 2011 the Cubs were a below .500 team. Five short years later, they are a 103-win team and favorites to repeat as world champions in 2017.

For much of 2016, the Cubs were the best team in baseball. Part of that success was due in part to the Cubs fantastic pitching staff led by ace Jake Arrieta. Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award in 2015, and carried that same success into the 2016 season. He started out the season 9-0, and finished 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA and 190 strikeouts. Jake was not a finalist for the Cy Young Award in 2016, but two of his teammates were.

Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester both turned in great 2016 campaigns. Lester, a seasoned veteran, won 19 games for the Cubs in 2016 to go along with his 2.44 ERA and 197 strikeouts. The 32-year old Lester proved to be a workhorse for the Cubs, giving them over 200 innings and holding opposing batters to a .211 batting average.

Perhaps even more impressive than Lester’s performance during the 2016 season was the performance turned in by Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks started out the season as the Cubs fifth starter, but quickly proved that he belonged higher in the rotation. After finishing the month of July with a 9-7 record, and a 2.39 ERA, people started to take notice. He would only improve, finishing the season with a 16-8 record, 2.13 ERA, and 170 strikeouts. His lowly ERA led all of baseball, and vaulted him into Cy Young talks.

In the end, both Lester and Hendricks missed out on the National League Cy Young Award, but they did headline a Cubs pitching staff that led the league in ERA, WHIP and batting average against.

Just as good as the Cubs pitching was the Cubs offense. The north-siders finished third in the league with 808 runs scored, fourteenth in the league with a .256 team batting average, and second in the league with a .343 OBP. Leading the charge for that powerful offense was National League MVP Kris Bryant. Bryant smashed 39 home runs, and had 102 RBI’s in 2016 to bring home MVP honors. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Kris Bryant in 2016 was that he played multiple positions. His natural position is third base, but in 2016, he played third base, left field, right field, and even first base.

Behind “KB” in the batting order was All-star first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo led the Cubs with 109 RBI’s in 2016, and tied with Bryant for the team lead in batting average with a .292 mark. Anthony hit 32 home runs last season, and provided Bryant with great protection in the lineup.

Off-Season Moves:

At the 2016 trade deadline, the Cubs traded for New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. Chapman, and his 105 MPH fastball helped propel the Cubs into, and through the playoffs. In 28 appearances with the Cubs in 2016, Chapman had a 1.01 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 26.2 innings. He brought stability to the closer role for the Cubs in the last half of the 2016 season.

This off-season, the fire-balling closer signed a five-year contract to re-join the Yankees and leave the team that he won his first World Series with. Chapman leaving did not shock many people, but it did leave a little bit of a hole for the Cubs. Hector Rondon was the Cubs closer before Chapman, and was the obvious choice to replace him in 2017. The Cubs front office, however, had different plans. Instead of going with Rondon as the closer for 2017, Epstein and company went out and traded for Kansas City Royals closer Wade Davis. Davis is 31 years old and is coming off of a season in which he appeared in 45 games for the Royals and converted 27 out of 30 save opportunities.

In order to land Davis, the Cubs had to give up outfielder Jorge Soler. With Kyle Schwarber returning from a knee injury, and the emergence of Albert Almora, Soler simply did not have a spot on the team. Soler will bring a little bit of pop with him to Kansas City as he hit 12 home runs in 227 at-bats for the Cubs in 2016. Given the chance to play everyday, Soler has the talent to be an All-star. With the Cubs, he would never be able to start full-time, but should get that opportunity with the Royals.

Perhaps the biggest move of the off-season for the Cubs was actually a move that they did not make. That move that they failed to make was the re-signing of All-star center fielder Dexter Fowler. Folwer was the glue for the Cubs in 2016. His skills as a lead-off hitter proved invaluable as he led the team with a .393 OBP. In addition to his great OBP, the 30 year old center fielder smashed 13 home runs and drove in 48 runs.

Fowler will definitely be missed, but perhaps more so since he signed with the rival St. Louis Cardinals. Even with the addition of Fowler, the Cardinals still have some ground to make-up if they want to compete for the NL Central division title.

Also brought in by the Chicago Cubs this off-season was veteran outfielder Jon Jay. Jay will likely replace Fowler in center field, but will split time with Albert Almora. Jay played in 90 games for the San Diego Padres last season, and hit two home runs to go along with his 26 RBI’s. The Cubs and Jay agreed on a one-year, $8 million deal that seems like a low risk, high reward signing for the Cubs.

Expectations For 2017:

The Cubs will likely win over 100 games in 2017. They will be getting back Kyle Schwarber who can easily hit 30 home runs in 2017. The NL Central is one of the weakest divisions in all of baseball, so it is safe to say that the Cubs will win the division next season. As far as playoffs go, once you get to October anything can happen, but the Cubs should be able to ride great pitching and timely hitting deep into the playoffs.

If Wade Davis can provide Chapman-like numbers for the Cubs in 2017, it will be hard to beat this team. The Cubs starting rotation is looking to continue its success from the 2016 season, and the Cubs young bats are hungry for another world championship. Young position players like Javier Baez, Addison Russell, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo will carry the Cubs in 2017 and beyond.


Theo Epstein has built the Chicago Cubs franchise into a powerhouse full of young players ready to compete at a high level. Even though this team will be missing Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman next season, they are still positioned to be very successful.

The 2017 Chicago Cubs may have many of the same players as the 2016 Chicago Cubs, but the 2017 version will have a different mindset going into next season. Instead of having tons of pressure placed on them to win a World Series, they will be loose and looking to repeat as world champions.