Chicago Cubs can learn a thing or two from the Washington Nationals

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Washington Nationals are one win from a championship – after letting the face of their franchise walk in free agency. Will the Chicago Cubs follow suit?

You’ve got to love baseball. I mean, obviously, I’m biased given what I do for a living – but still. In May, we were all wondering how much longer the Washington Nationals would stick with former Chicago Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez as their skipper.

But here we are in late October, with Martinez’s Nationals one win from a World Series title. We’ll know one way or the other on Wednesday night when Washington battles the Houston Astros in a winner-take-all Game 7. Regardless, it’s been a remarkable season in D.C.

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This spring, former number one overall pick Bryce Harper joined Washington’s division rival, the Philadelphia Phillies. He did so by inking a record-breaking 13-year, $330 million deal that will keep him with the Fightin’ Phils through 2031 – his age 38 season.

For years, the Nationals were Harper and Harper, the Nationals. But no longer. The front office took the money they didn’t spend on their franchise player and deployed it masterfully. Washington brought in Patrick Corbin and slotted him behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

They added key pieces, many of whom flew under the radar, including backstop Kurt Suzuki, Matt Adams, Anibal Sanchez and Brian Dozier, among others. And the Nationals have gone on to prove that this truly is a team that is the sum of all its parts – something the Cubs have failed to become since winning it all three years ago.

Of course, these two franchises went head-to-head two years ago in the NLDS, with Wade Davis triumphantly striking out Harper to close out the deciding game and send the Cubs to a third-straight League Championship Series. Now, Chicago may find themselves having to answer the same questions Washington pondered in the not-so-distant past.

Chicago has major decisions to make in the near future. Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo will all hit free agency after the 2021 season, barring another move. Several other guys will follow suit in following years, as well.

Is a mega-deal to keep someone like Bryant or Baez in the cards? It’s not out of the question. The Cubs have a ton of money coming off the books fairly soon – but the question isn’t whether or not they will make such a move. It’s whether or not they should.

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No one has the answer to such a question. But, if nothing else, the Washington Nationals’ unexpected run to the brink of a championship gives Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs plenty to chew on as they eye the next chapter on the North Side.