With Wednesday's 8-3 loss to the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs were swept out of the postseason, falling short of making their first World Series since 1945. However, the Cubs were a major surprise, going 97-65 in their first season under manager Joe Maddon.
After a turnaround in 2015, where will the Cubs go from here? Here's a look at the Cubs' outlook going into 2016:
Where they stand: 2016 Cubs payroll obligations
The Cubs are a marquee franchise with a payroll to match. Their biggest payroll obligation in 2016 is the $25 million they owe to southpaw Jon Lester in the second year of his six-year, $155 million deal. They will also be paying $14 million to catcher Miguel Montero. Ace Jake Arrieta made $3.63 million this season and should see a significant raise in his second year of arbitration.
Chicago does have a couple of bargains on its payroll for next season, as first baseman Anthony Rizzo is set to make just $5 million and outfielder Jorge Soler will make just $3 million.
Pending free agents
With most of the team being either players that have not reached free agency yet or signed to long-term deals, the Cubs do not have many significant players from 2015 hitting free agency in the offseason. The biggest name from the Cubs that will be a free agent is center fielder Dexter Fowler, who hit .250/.346/.511 with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2015, his first season in Chicago.
The Cubs also have outfielder Austin Jackson, acquired in an August trade with Seattle, hitting free agency this winter, along with relievers Fernando Rodney, Tommy Hunter and Jason Motte.
The Cubs graduated each of their top four prospects according to Minor League Ball in 2015, with Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber all making an impact at the major league level. Even with those graduations, the Cubs placed five prospects in MLB Pipeline's top 100.
Of those five, the ones most likely to have an impact with the Cubs in 2016 are pitcher Carl Edwards Jr., who made his big league debut in September pitching out of Chicago's bullpen and outfielder Albert Almora, who hit .272/.327/.400 with six home runs in 106 games at Double-A Tennessee in 2015.
Where do the Cubs go from here?
Despite some hefty payroll obligations, the Cubs do have the financial might to sign a big-name free agent, as they did with Lester last winter. Whether that happens or not, they will go into 2016 with a strong corps of young hitters to complement a pitching staff led by Lester and Arrieta. If they can reinforce the bullpen, the Cubs should be a threat to win the National League once again next season.