Cubs ready to break camp embracing their underdog label

(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

No one really knows what the next six months will bring for the Chicago Cubs.

With three key players – Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant – all set to reach free agency at season’s end, a trade of any of them is definitely possible. A patchwork rotation featuring an aging Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams and, potentially, Shelby Miller has potential, but lacks certainty.

After the rival St. Louis Cardinals went out and landed Nolan Arenado in a ridiculously lopsided trade, most believe the Redbirds are the team to beat in the NL Central. That’s just fine if you ask Chicago’s seasoned veterans, who are happy to play the role of spoiler this year.

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"“Our focus is always the same coming in here,” Kyle Hendricks told “We try to limit that outside noise. We’re really, really excited with the group we have in this clubhouse right now.”"

Hendricks, who will get the ball on Opening Day next Thursday, has been much more vocal this spring, embracing his role as the undisputed leader of this pitching staff. With guys like Williams, Miller and slugging outfielder Joc Pederson in tow – all looking to prove they’re far from role players – the Cubs seem to be feeding off people counting them out.

Cubs seem to have a ton of optimism

After trading last year’s NL Cy Young runner-up and watching fan favorites like Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber leave town, pessimism ran high in Wrigleyville early this offseason. But late-winter moves, headlined by the signing of Pederson, renewed optimism in fans – and in the clubhouse.

"“And I think there’s a lot of guys with a chip on their shoulder, guys with something to prove in a way. And definitely, as a group, we feel like that.”"

According to Odds Shark, the Cubs rank in the bottom third of the league in World Series odds at +5500. Given the uncertainty surrounding this roster and the fact the team’s success is riding on a number of reclamation projects, these odds make a ton of sense. It’s not to say Chicago couldn’t upset the order, but it’s certainly going to be a tall task.

Next. Key depth players performing well this spring. dark

And if you ask them, that’s just fine.