The latest on the 2016 World Series champions:
- The Cubs have an enviable long-term core of position players that includes Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber. However, future rotation issues could prevent the team from becoming a dynasty, writes ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider required and recommended), who points out that Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and swingman/World Series Game 7 closer Mike Montgomery are their only starters signed beyond next season. Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Jason Hammel will be free agents a year from now, and rival talent evaluators feel that Chicago’s top pitching prospects are still far from potentially cracking the majors, per Olney. Thus, in order to fill out their rotation, the Cubs could turn to next year’s open market – Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka and Danny Duffy are among starters who could hit free agency then – and/or deal from their excellent group of position players to acquire pitching.
- With Heyward, Schwarber, Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. in the fold as outfield options, the Cubs could shop Jorge Soler this offseason. But FOX Sports’ CJ Nitkowski opines that Chicago missed its chance to trade Soler (Twitter link via MLB Network Radio). It wasn’t long ago that Soler looked like a surefire core piece, but the Cuba native has underwhelmed since bursting on the scene late in the 2014 campaign. He’s still just 24, though, and didn’t perform badly at the plate in 2016 (.238/.333/.436 with 12 home runs in 264 plate appearances). Soler is also controllable through the 2020 season. He’ll make a relative pittance ($3MM) in 2017 and will then have the opportunity to opt into arbitration.
- President of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s shrewd trading is one obvious reason the Cubs are in their current position, as Andrew Simon of MLB.com observes. Epstein has picked up several integral players that way, having landed Rizzo, Arrieta, Hendricks and Russell, to name a few. Nabbing Rizzo from the Padres in 2012 is the best deal Epstein has made since taking the helm of the franchise five years ago, posits Simon. The Cubs got the now-superstar first baseman for right-hander Andrew Cashner, who currently resembles more of a back-end starter than a major difference-maker.