Chicago Cubs (92-70)
Additions: SP Yu Darvish, SP Tyler Chatwood, SP Drew Smyly, RP Brandon Morrow, RP Brian Duensing, RP Steve Cishek, RP Shae Simmons, RP Dario Alvarez, OF Peter Bourjos (minor-league deal), C Taylor Davis (minor-league deal), C Chris Gimenez (minor-league deal)
Subtractions: SP Jake Arrieta, SP John Lackey, RP Wade Davis, RP Koji Uehara, RP Justin Grimm, RP Hector Rondon, C Alex Avila, C Rene Rivera, OF Jon Jay, OF Leonys Martin
The Cubs’ 2017 season didn’t end with a World Series title like in 2016, but they still were able to win over 90 games and reach the NLCS for the third straight year. However, the goal for them is to get back to the top of the baseball world and avoid any championship droughts. After all, they had owned the longest one in the history of North American sports before winning it all two years ago.
To get back to the playoffs again and try to come away with the ultimate prize, the Cubs felt they had to address their biggest need: pitching. After all, ace Jake Arrieta and top reliever Wade Davis both turned down their $17.4 million qualifying offers and elected for free agency. In addition, veteran starter John Lackey and relievers Koji Uehara, Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon were all let go at season’s end.
As tough as it was to see these hurlers go, the Cubs managed to reload by signing some talented arms.
They signed top free-agent starter Yu Darvish to a six-year, $126 million deal to fill the top of the rotation anchored by Arrieta, a 2015 NL Cy Young winner, and inked former Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million deal to slide into Lackey’s spot in the rotation. Darvish and Chatwood join a rotation that includes Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks, making this staff one that could compete with the Dodgers — the team that beat them in five games in the NLCS last October — for the best one in the National League.
As far as relievers go, they signed Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek plus brought back Brian Duensing. Morrow, who was a workhorse for the Dodgers during the postseason, will take over Davis’ spot as the closer after the Cubs signed him to a two-year, $21 million deal. Chisek, who signed a two-year, $13 million deal after doing well with the Rays and Cardinals last year, and Duensing, who signed a two-year, $7 million deal after turning down other higher offers, will be among the many setup men they have in the bullpen, which also features Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Wilson. If all goes right, this bullpen should be one of the best, if not the best, in the NL as well.
The only other “need” the Cubs had this offseason was a true leadoff hitter after not getting a ton of production out of Kyle Schwarber in that spot in his first full season. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein did call this position one of “luxury not of necessity” heading into the offseason and they made that a point when they didn’t sign anyone to take over that spot. The Cubs will look to a player-by-committee approach, with Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ or Ben Zobrist being the most likely candidates.
With the season less than a week away, the Cubs look set with their club and will not look to make any more moves. Their rotation, bullpen and lineup, headlined by Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Schwarber and Javier Baez, give them a team that can not only win a third straight NL Central title, but also have a chance to win a second World Series crown in three years.