It’s no secret that it was a quiet winter for the Cubs, a team coming off a 2019 collapse and a disappointing 84 wins. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently took a deep dive into the Cubs’ unpopular offseason, in which they spent a meager $3.5MM on major league free agents and didn’t make any earth-shattering trades.
There was some expectation the Cubs would deal at least one high-profile player (third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, for instance), but having found no offers to their liking, they seem prepared to bring back a roster somewhat similar to last year’s. That is, minus a handful of notable players – Nick Castellanos, Cole Hamels, Steve Cishek and Brandon Kintzler – who performed well for Chicago in 2019 and then exited in free agency.
Despite those losses, there is still a case that the Cubs are more talented than your average club. Bryant, shortstop Javier Baez, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, catcher Willson Contreras and left fielder Kyle Schwarber are still around to drive their position player group. That unit finished top 10 in the majors in runs and fWAR last year (though Castellanos’ second-half tear contributed to both figures).
As with the loss of Castellanos, Hamels’ departure seems likely to hurt. Although injuries hampered Hamels in his last season as a Cub, he still racked up 141 2/3 innings of solid production (3.81 ERA). They’d love that this year from the beleaguered Tyler Chatwood or some other fifth starter (Alec Mills? Jharel Cotton? Adbert Alzolay?), but it’s tough to bet on it happening. The good news is that the club’s top four – Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana – should continue to at least post decent numbers. The same can’t really be said of the team’s bullpen, however. The unit received horrid production from the normally great Craig Kimbrel a year ago and, despite waving goodbye to Cishek and Kintzler (among others), didn’t do anything of significance to augment its relief corps in the winter.
Fortunately for the Cubs, the National League Central looks as if it’ll be almost anyone’s to win in 2020. The Pirates have almost no shot to contend for the crown, granted, though it could be a four-way race with the Cubs, Brewers and the reigning champion Cardinals vying against the much-improved Reds. If we’re to take this year’s PECOTA projections at face value, the Cubs will fall shy just of an NL Central title en route to 84-85 wins, yet they will earn a wild-card spot. But how do you feel about their chances under rookie manager David Ross? Do you expect a return to contention?
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