Chicago Cubs: Next year’s team will be ready to win, but look different

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Everything is on the table this offseason

Chicago faces a great many questions if they want to get back to the top of the National League Central in 2020. The starting rotation, which many believed would be a major asset to the club, looked inconsistent and tired. Jon Lester and Cole Hamels looked every bit of their 35 years at times – and Jose Quintana turned in a campaign that can only be described as maddening.

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Yu Darvish broke out in the second half, emerging as one of the most dominant arms in the league during that stretch. Heading into next season, one would expect to see his name penciled in near the top of the rotation right alongside former big league ERA champion Kyle Hendricks.

The bullpen? Well, that group told its own story this season. On the surface, the group pitched well. After all, Chicago relievers ranked fourth in the National League with a 3.98 ERA. But it’s the high-leverage numbers that really paint the picture of the 2019 pen.

Cubs pitchers blew 28 saves this season. Craig Kimbrel, who was supposed to come in and be the anointed savior, was an unmitigated disaster. You can debate the reasons all day, but he wasn’t effective – period. Pedro Strop was injured and ineffective for big chunks of the season and it took guys like Kyle Ryan and Brandon Kintzler stepping up to even keep things afloat.

So where do the Cubs and Epstein go from here?

"“You are likely to see change in this organization,” Epstein told The Athletic (subscription required). “I think this is a real opportunity when you fall short of your goals and fail to perform in the biggest moments as dramatically as we did. It provides a real opportunity if you’re willing to be honest with yourself and if you’re willing to take a hard look inside. There will be an opportunity for change. We’re not blowing anything up, per se, but we’re likely to see real change, real adjustments, at various levels, most levels of our baseball operations in some form or another.”"

What does that mean? Anything goes for Epstein – who is chasing his fourth World Series title as a front office executive. He’s staring the next two years in the eye, because after that, several franchise cornerstones will hit the open market (barring an extension with Chicago).

Next. The Cubs' next skipper is Epstein's most important move yet. dark

The window is rapidly closing for this Cubs team – it’s up to Epstein to force it back open and rewrite the narrative surrounding him in the Windy City. Once, we talked of a dynasty. Now, we’re looking for a return to true relevance.