Chicago Cubs: How many of these guys will be on the Opening Day roster?
While there are moving parts and myriad decisions that lie in store for the front office, here’s what I would attempt to do with the lineup if it were possible:
Francisco Lindor SS
Kris Bryant 3B
Javier Baez 2B
Ian Happ CF
Victor Caratini C
Jason Heyward RF
A lineup like that would maximize runs at the top and still offer a strong on-base presence throughout. It still has some swing-and-miss in it, but so does every lineup. If Nico Hoerner is still left after acquiring Lindor, he could also slot in at second base, allowing Baez to play third and Bryant to play RF against left-handed pitchers. If Happ is part of a deal to get Lindor, then Heyward could become your every-day center fielder, allowing Bryant to become your right fielder.
In the rotation, you’d have Cole, Hendricks, Darvish, Lester, and a fifth starter picked from the likes of Adbert Alzolay, Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills. My offseason plan would trade away Quintana’s salary as a way to afford Cole, essentially replacing Quintana’s and Cole Hamel’s salary from this past season with Gerrit Cole. If the Cubs can find a trade partner for Chatwood as well, all the better.
In the bullpen, the Cubs will start with Craig Kimbrel, Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck, Kyle Ryan, two of Chatwood/Mills/Alzolay and Duane Underwood Jr. Then, the Cubs will see if James Norwood, Dillon Maples, or Danny Hultzen can cut it, with the possibility that Pedro Strop could be back on a club-friendly deal after a disappointing season from the fan-favorite reliever. Throw in some Theo dumpster-dive specials and that’s a relatively cheap and much younger pen than in 2019.
While the core of the club would look similar to the past two “disappointing” squads, adding an MVP and Cy Young-caliber player to both the lineup and rotation would send a clear signal that the window of contention is still wide open for the Cubs and their new manager. Not only would the Cubs be the cream of the crop in the NL Central with that group, they’d be back amongst the elite in all of baseball.
Regardless of the players who are added and subtracted, change is coming. Let’s just hope the change that comes is positive and allows whomever the Cubs tap as their next skipper to deploy successful and productive lineups and pitchers at will.