Chicago Cubs: Key free agent moves since 2016 – expectation vs. reality

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: They spent big bucks to land the guys they wanted in Free Agency before the World Series season.

John Lackey

Expectation: A durable veteran starter with solid command that could anchor the middle of the rotation who was coming off a fantastic year in St. Louis (2.77 ERA, 1.2 WHIP in 33 starts). Lackey had a reputation for being a force in the postseason.

Reality: In the 2016 regular season, he lived up to expectations. He pitched to a 3.35 ERA and 1.1 WHIP in 29 starts. His postseason was not great, but it did not hurt them in the end. His final season in 2017 was not very good, pitching to a 4.59 ERA (5.30 FIP) in 31 games. His final moments as a Cub included Justin Turner hitting a walk-off homer off him in the NLCS that year. In the end he did not get a haircut, but got jewelry and that was enough.

Final Grade: C+

Ben Zobrist

Expectation: A super-utility man who is both a professional teammate and hitter. Zobrist played many years for Joe Maddon in Tampa, was an All-Star twice (2009, 2013) and a World Series champion with the Royals in 2015. The Cubs won the Zobrist sweepstakes over the Mets and got him on a four-year deal.

Reality: Everything and more. Hit .269/.362/.411 as a Cub, made his third All-Star team in 2016 and was the 2016 World Series MVP. What more can you say?

Final Grade: A

Jason Heyward

Expectation: The once highly-touted Atlanta Braves prospect had a fantastic year in 2015 with the Cardinals, hitting .293/.359/.439 and winning his third Gold Glove at age 25. Cubs gave Heyward a massive $184 million deal hoping to get the very best of him as he was hitting his prime age.

Reality: Not quite what the fans had hoped, though not as awful as some might try to make it out to be. No question his 2016 regular season was awful, hitting just .230/.306/.325 in 142 games, but he won another Gold Glove and made the great “rain delay speech” in the World Series.

Since 2017 he has continued to be a Gold Glove-caliber defender and has hit .260/.335/.406 with 40 homers in 400 games. Not $20+ million a year good, but those numbers are slightly above average. He is a solid ballplayer who has done some good things for the team even if being a bit overpaid.

Current Grade: B-

Dexter Fowler

Expectation: The guy who had a .346 OBP and hit 17 homers for the Cubs in 2015 was heading to Baltimore.

Reality: SURPRISE! He came back on a one-year deal, had a career-high .393 OBP in the regular season, made the All-Star team and hit a leadoff homer in Game 7 of the World Series. You go, we go…to the World Series victory parade!

Final Grade: A