The offseason introspection has already begun for the Cubs in the wake of last night’s 13-inning loss to the Rockies in the NL wild card game, and the team’s early exit from the postseason caught many inside and outside the Cubs organization by surprise. Here is some of the initial aftermath of Chicago’s loss, and what questions the club will be facing this winter…
- One of the more pressing matters could be Joe Maddon’s future, as the manager’s contract is up after the 2019 season. According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required), “talk has persisted within the industry that [Theo] Epstein and Maddon are not always on the same page,” and the Cubs’ elimination could allow a reason for a change in the dugout. As Rosenthal notes, however, Maddon did well to lead the Cubs to 95 wins despite a number of down years from several hitters and a lack of production (either due to injury or under-performance) from Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, and Brandon Morrow — the front office’s three big signings from the 2017-18 offseason.
- Maddon received votes of confidence from players such as Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant, and Javy Baez, who all praised the manager to reporters (including Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times). Despite the Cubs’ issues this season, Rizzo said that “we still figured out a way to win. That’s all credit to [Maddon]. Without his leadership here, guys aren’t playing the way they play. [Rookie] David Bote is not coming up here and playing the way he plays without Joe’s leadership.”
- Cole Hamels is hoping the Cubs pick up his $20MM option for 2019, telling The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney (Twitter link) and other reporters “Hopefully, I did everything I can to convince them that [exercising the option] would be something that would be valuable.” Few trade deadline acquisitions had a bigger impact than Hamels this season, as the southpaw posted a 2.36 ERA, 8.7 K/9, and 3.22 K/BB rate over 76 1/3 IP after coming to Chicago in a deal with the Rangers. The $20MM club option can be bought out for $6MM, leaving the Cubs with a $14MM decision on the veteran lefty’s services. The Cubs already have over $70.5MM committed to Darvish, Chatwood, Jon Lester, and Jose Quintana (assuming Quintana’s own club option is exercised) next season, though even with that heavy investment in the rotation, one would think Chicago is leaning towards retaining Hamels given how well he pitched.
- Another midseason trade acquisition was even more adamant about returning to the Cubs, as ESPN.com’s Marly Rivera reports (via Twitter) that Jesse Chavez was telling teammates “If I’m not wearing this [uniform] next year, I’m done.” Chavez, also acquired from the Rangers in a separate July trade, was almost untouchable over 39 innings out of Chicago’s bullpen, posting an eye-popping 1.15 ERA and 8.4 K/BB rate, striking out 42 batters and issuing just five walks. Chavez turned 35 last August, though it would be surprising to see him hang up his glove if a return to Chicago wasn’t in the cards, as one would imagine several teams would have interest in the impending free agent. It could also be that Chavez was simply speaking in the heat of the moment, after the grueling elimination game.