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2021 Chicago Cubs: A Train Wreck in the Making

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Several readers have asked me what I thought about the 2021 Chicago Cubs, and all I can say is that this is a train wreck in the making. After winning it all in 2016, that group should have made at least one more World Series appearance, yet declined each year from 2017 through 2019, then exited October ball during the Wild Card Round last year.

Looking back, they lost the NLCS to the Dodgers in 2017, followed by a Wild Card loss to the Rockies in 2018. From there, Joe Maddon‘s Cubs sat at home in October of 2019, never earning a playoff spot, then under the direction of David Ross, lost the Wild Card round to the Marlins last October.

Former Cubs President of Baseball Ops, Theo Epstein, had vowed change since 2018, but those big changes never came (short of not renewing Maddon’s deal) until the offseason started a few months ago. I do get a little inside information, and I have it on good authority that part of Epstein’s reasons for an early departure from the team were because he knew the fire-sale was coming.

2021 Chicago Cubs: The Departures

After non-tendering several players (including Kyle Svhwarber and Albert Almora Jr.), the Cubs began their big sell-off. To date, the team has lost the following players this offseason:

Pitchers

The Cubs starting rotation is a shell of what it was last year, with only Kyle Hendricks and Alec Mills remaining. Even that decimated, credible rumors are now circulating that Kyle Hendricks may wind up in Toronto.

Jon Lester‘s option wasn’t picked up, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood walked as free agents, and Yu Darvish was traded to the Padres. In the middle of all of this, the Cubs also non-tendered or released some relievers from an already weak bullpen.

Thus far, the only “big-name” return has been Zach Davies, who came over from the Padres in the Darvish/Caratini deal.

So far as replacements are concerned, Adbert Alzolay isn’t ready to be a full-time starter, and although Brailyn Marquez may get a shot, neither is he. This pitching rotation and bullpen are a complete mess.

Infielders

Thus far, Victor Caratini has been the only long-time infielder to pack his bags, as he was traded with Yu Darvish to the Padres, but rumors continue to swirl about Kris Bryant (named as a possible trade chip in the deal that could send Hendricks to Toronto). Bryant has also been tied to rumors regarding the Mets.

The Cubs have also parted ways with Jason Kipnis (2B).

Bryant should have been traded the minute that he lost his service time grievance, but the cubs hung onto him, hoping for a rebound. While Bryant did have a decent 2019, his 2020 season was horrific. Injuries sidelined him for about half of the season last year, and when he did play, his offense was terrible (.206 batting average in 2020).

Bryant has kept a very professional attitude toward the Cubs following his service time grievance loss, but you can’t blame the guy if he’s bitter (and I suspect he is) on the inside. Had the Cubs traded him prior to the start of 2019, they’d have had a rich return, as KB still had trade value then, and the new team would have had two years of controllability before having to deal with Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras. Now, though? The Cubs are willing to package Hendricks just to be able to escape Bryants $19.5M contract for 2021.

A recent ESPN article (written by Jesse Rogers) about Bryant said he was no longer having much fun playing the game, and it outwardly shows. A change of scenery would do both Bryant and the Cubs well, it’s just a shame that he won’t fetch much in return – and probably nothing if the Cubs don’t package Hendricks or Willson Contreras.

So far as Contreras is concerned, recent rumors have tied an interest from the Yankees, but a lot of that will depend on Gary Sanchez and what the Yanks decide to do with him.

Outfielders

As of now, it’s Schwarber and Almora who are absent, but there’s little doubt that Tom Ricketts and Jed Hoyer would enjoy finding a buyer for Jason Heyward and his albatross contract. Ian Happ stands ready to man centerfield, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see rookie, Ian Miller get his shot in left. Unless the Cubs lose Heyward, he’ll undoubtedly cover rightfield.

2021 Chicago Cubs: The Additions

To date, there haven’t been very many notable names to add to this list, in fact, none, unless you want to count Davies. The Cubs have picked up some prospects along the way, but that will do little good for the 2021 Chicago Cubs roster – or record.

The Cubs did pick up veteran catcher, Austin Romine, but he’ll do little good replacing the power of Caratini’s bat, or gasp- that of Contreras, should the Cubs actually trade him. A career .239 hitter, Romine adds little to an offense that has already taken some steps backward this winter.

Make no mistake, the Cubs have signed a ton of free-agents, but there isn’t much name value there. Instead of a “Who’s who?”, this list reads more like a “Who’s that?”

01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent P David Olivo.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent P Kenneddy Delgado.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent OF Daniel Ferreira.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent P Joel Sierra.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent P Ronny Corniell.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent P Gabriel Agrazal.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent C Fredy Montenegro.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent P Welington Quintero.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent P Adrian Martinez.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent SS Cristian Hernandez.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent C Moises Ballesteros.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent OF Oferman Hernandez.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent C Carlos Ramos.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent SS Pedro Ramirez.
01/15/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent P Zhiorman Imbriano.
01/05/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent 3B Patrick Wisdom.
01/04/21Chicago Cubs released P Colin Rea.
01/02/21Chicago Cubs signed free agent LF Nick Martini.

For the sake of Cubs fans, let’s hope it’s not another 108 years, but barring a miracle I wouldn’t hold my breath on the Cubs winning more than about 70-80 games this season. Ricketts, himself has said that they didn’t plan on contending this year, but at the rate the 2021 Cubs roster is being (not) built, I wouldn’t plan on seeing much out of them for at least another two years.

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Ken Allison is the senior of two MLB Department Heads, as well as a writer and editor for Overtime Heroics. A life-long MLB fan, he's also written for CubsHQ and had the opportunity to try out for the Chicago Cubs in 1986.

1 comment

  • Tim Welcher says:

    And here we still mired in mediocrity in a big Chicago market. And we can’t get unstuck out of the muck again. At lease when we had Harry Carry, Chip Carry, Steve Stone, Ron Santo, and Pat Hughes, it was entertaining on the air! Poor Pat..we love you and you are stuck calling these poor games again…

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