Chicago Cubs might have their own “Last Dance” in 2020

Michael Jordan / Chicago Cubs (DANIEL LIPPITT/AFP via Getty Images)
Michael Jordan / Chicago Cubs (DANIEL LIPPITT/AFP via Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs fans are desperately hoping MLB and the players find a way to play this season – because this might be the final year the team’s core remains intact.

The Chicago Cubs were thought to be on the verge of a potential dynasty when they won the World Series in 2016, but it did not happen. Sure, the Cubs reached the NLCS for the third consecutive season in 2017, but despite winning 95 games, they collapsed at the end of 2018 and missed the playoffs entirely last season.

Now, after a winter full of trade speculation and budget concerns, it is hard not to draw comparisons between this Cubs team and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls, the focus of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” docuseries.

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Those Bulls went on to win the title in 1998, but management did not renew head coach Phil Jackson’s contract, eventually prompting Michael Jordan to retire and leading to the breakup of one of the greatest dynasties in NBA history.

As previously stated, the Cubs never reached dynasty status. Still, they have the third-most wins in baseball since 2015. This is a group which has reached unparalleled heights in franchise history.

For all the uncertainty surrounding those Bulls, just as much uncertainty surrounds these Cubs.

It is entirely possible, if they get off to a slow start, the Cubs try to restart trade talks regarding Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras.

Bryant has been one of the best players in the game since he debuted in 2015, but he also figures to be paid in excess of $20 million in 2021 before hitting free agency next winter. The Cubs would much rather cash in on his remaining value rather than potentially allowing him to walk, especially if they are struggling for wins.

Contreras is one of the best backstops in baseball, but the Cubs also have Victor Caratini and might look to maximize their return for “Willy.” Of course, if two of the team’s best players are susceptible, then just about everyone else is, too.

Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo figure to remain in Chicago for the long haul and Kyle Hendricks will also be around through at least 2023 after signing an extension last year. But those are the only building blocks fans can really feel comfortable about. There are tons of question marks.

Given his age and salary, the Cubs are highly unlikely to pick up Jon Lester‘s team option for 2021. Jason Heyward is still owed $86 million through 2023, but perhaps the Cubs look to get his salary off payroll. In fact, Heyward himself recently acknowledged there is a “Last Dance” vibe surrounding this year’s team.

"“A group like ours, we got some guys right now possibly going into free agency, some guys with contract talks, some guys — (Jon) Lester — pushing for the Hall of Fame. Everybody’s kind of in a different spot right now. We talked about ‘The Last Dance’ kind of vibe. The front office is in a different spot.”"

Additionally, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora could each be deemed expendable, depending on performance and expected market value.

This is all to say, the 2020 campaign could be a seminal moment in recent Cubs history. Given roster outlook and a host of other factors, it might be the last opportunity for the 2016 holdovers to make one last run at a World Series.

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So, for Cubs fans watching “The Last Dance,” take stock. This might be the final year the band is all together.