The Cubs are yet to pick their own adventure heading into the 2021 campaign.
With preseason games less than three months away, the Chicago Cubs seem to be rowing in circles. Players are set to report to camp in Arizona in mid-February and that leaves Jed Hoyer a very small window to accomplish a whole heck of a lot when it comes to the roster.
But what exactly do they want to pull off here? Pitching? Maybe some timely hitting? Whichever course they plot, they need to think on their feet and find some real impact talent – on the cheap.
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The Cubs and contact – or lack thereof
The Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber hit 11 home runs in 2020 – but he batted .188 with a wRC+ of 90 – and subsequently got released. Albert Almora (.167, wRC+ 35) also struggled in the contact department (and on-base for that matter) – and it led to both players being non-tendered. As a whole, the offense fell flat – so what went wrong?
Too many strikeouts. No video playback between at-bats. Basically, it was a disaster waiting to happen. Cubs manager David Ross was adamant about his players having a more disciplined strike zone.
"“In general, maybe we can find a better way to prepare and train that would help us and different avenues against different pitchers,” said Ross."
This winter, the Cubs hired Chris Valaika for a role focused on blending traditional methods and analytical hitting. Of course, we’ve seen a coaching carousel in recent years on that front – and the results haven’t really changed. At least not yet.
The Cubs acquired Zach Davies in a seven-player deal with the Padres with Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini heading west. So that means Kyle Hendricks the No. 1, Davies is the No. 2 starter – with Alec Mills to be the No. 3 starter. After that? The team released Colin Rea. You have to have arms to get through 162 games. As of now? They don’t have enough in that department. Not even close.
Adbert Alzolay has developed a slider – a filthy one at that – and he could make a play for the No. 4 spot. But you have to have seven to 10 guys to make it through the rotation – not just five. The Cubs are going to have to bring in several players to make up the difference in the staff. Given the spending limitations coming from ownership, that’s obviously easier said than done.
The Cubs need a left fielder
Ian Happ has been respectable when it comes to center field. And Jason Heyward is at home in right. Phil Ervin has a spot in left field – for now. Those are the three outfielders. And Ervin obviously is new to the team. I like him for the North Siders – especially against left-handed pitching. That being said, you still need to get a left fielder who plays 85 percent of the time.
Personally, I really like Billy Hamilton. But he’s a ‘late-game at-bat’ that spends the eighth and ninth inning in the field. David Dahl would have looked good in pinstripes, but he signed with the Rangers. Jonathan Villar? Maybe Joc Pedersen? I just have no idea what to do and what funds are actually available to Hoyer and the front office.
Cubs haven’t been to arbitration since 2018
In 2018, Justin Grimm and the team went to arbitration – and the Cubs won. Eventually, he got released. Since then, the team has had a pretty good run at it. Now enter the 60-game season. The players didn’t perform as well as they should have – and arbitration should be interesting, to say the least.
Now, with a 162-game schedule, things can get back to normal. Look, we know there’s money to pay the arbitration-eligible guys. Let’s pay them and move on. Then we can get a ‘fresh’ start this spring with our eyes looking ahead. Is that too much to ask?