The Chicago Cubs are arguably the worst team in baseball after moving on from their stars at the trade deadline. The club decided to take the route of building for the future, as they picked up some prospects with incredibly high upside in said trades.
The Cubs’ 2022 roster is becoming easier and easier to project, as the new faces have started to produce. Players like Patrick Wisdom, Frank Schwindel, and Rafael Ortega have been nice surprises in 2021. Meanwhile, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, and other tenured Cubs have struggled this season.
The Cubs will enter this offseason as a rebuilding team for the first time in years, and although they are a big-market team with an empty payroll, Chicago is not expected to be very active in free agency this offseason. They could even ship off catcher Willson Contreras this offseason if the front office wants to add even more assets to the farm system.
The team no longer has any notable upcoming free agents, as they were all traded away at the trade deadline. The only remaining impending free agents are Zach Davies and veterans like Austin Romine, Andrew Romine, Robinson Chirinos, and Matt Duffy.
It will likely be a quiet offseason for Chicago, who should try to sign some one-year, tradable contracts. The Cubs could have an offseason similar to the 2020 Giants, who added Alex Wood, Anthony DeSclafani, and more on cheap, one-year contracts. Of course, it’s extremely unlikely that they have the success that San Francisco has, but it’s not unlikely that a one-year reclamation project could work out in their favor.
Next year, pending any trades, Heyward, Happ, David Bote, and Kyle Hendricks will all be back in 2022. The Cubs have no choice but to wait out the rest of Heyward’s deal, but Hendricks and Bote could be valuable trade assets should the Cubs look that way. Ian Happ has gotten hot as of late and could be back to form in 2021, which would be very helpful for the success of the team.
Although they are not veterans, Ortega, Wisdom, and Schwindel are all 29 or 30 years old, but they could be very productive, very cheap options if their 2020 success carries over.
The Youth Movement
The Cubs sent a message by trading away Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez: they are not going to be winning anytime soon and instead are building for the future. Pieces of this future include Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal, who should be the Cubs’ middle infield for the next five to six years. They are very similar players, but Hoerner is the better defender and has more power. Hoerner projects well as a leadoff hitter, as he gets on base at a .388 clip with a 9.9 BB% in his limited 2021 action.
Madrigal, acquired in the Craig Kimbrel deal, suffered a hamstring injury in June, but he should be back for opening day in 2022. He’s already one of baseball’s best contact hitters, and profiles as a .300 hitter for years to come. He has no power, with just two career home runs, but he has a career 114 wRC+ regardless.
On the mound, Adbert Alzolay, Keegan Thompson, and Justin Steele should continue to get time to develop into true rotational starters. Alzolay was off to an incredible start to 2021, but control issues and injuries have held him back in the past few months. Thompson and Steele both got their first MLB experience as relievers this year, and have been stretched out to starters in the last month.
The 2022 Cubs
The Cubs are going to suck next year, it is nearly a foregone conclusion. That does not mean that it cannot be a successful year for the rebuild. Finding diamonds in the rough can be critical to speeding up a team’s rebuild, and 2022 will be Chicago’s perfect year to do that. Next year, we will find out which current Cubs are the real deal, and who is just having a hot month.
The Cubs may lose 100 games next year, but it’s gonna be a huge year of development for Alzolay, Thompson, Steele, and more young arms. The young pieces in the farm system like Reginald Preciado, Kevin Alcantara, and Pete Crow-Armstrong will all gain an extra year of minor league experience. Next year will be a huge year for the Cubs, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the surface level.
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