As much trash talk as Chicago Cubs fans like to give their neighbors on the other end of the I-94 rivalry, it’s been the Milwaukee Brewers – not the Cubs – who’ve been on an impressive run of success of late.
Milwaukee is currently tied up one game apiece in an NLDS matchup with the Atlanta Braves, looking to advance to its second League Championship Series since 2018. The team fell to the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals in the NL Wild Card game in 2019 – meaning the Brew Crew has played in October in three of the last four years.
This year, they’ve got perhaps their strongest roster during that span, led by something the Cubs haven’t enjoyed in years – a dominant trio of starting pitchers atop the rotation. Throw in one of the game’s best closers in Josh Hader and it’s easy to see why runs are hard to come by against Milwaukee.
The roster was buoyed by a midseason trade for Willy Adames, who has thrived since the deal, but I want to look back at an offseason move the team made last year that might have been forgotten by now: the signing of longtime Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong.
The Brewers inked Wong to a two-year, $18 million deal with an option for 2023. Despite having an obvious need at second base, Chicago was too busy tightening its purse strings to seriously pursue the Gold Glover – instead going with Eric Sogard as its offseason pickup at second base.
Let’s not forget. That ended with the Cubs releasing him in late July after he mustered a 61 OPS+ in 78 games.
Chicago Cubs: Kolten Wong could have made a difference at second base
After the trade of Javier Baez at the trade deadline, Chicago’s need at second base is even more glaring now. David Bote has failed to live up to the hype that once surrounded him and looks like little more than a role player at this point. Nico Hoerner battled injuries all season long and can’t be counted on as an everyday piece right now, either. Of course, Nick Madrigal came over in the Craig Kimbrel trade – but Chicago could still stand to improve the middle infield depth.
Imagine for a second that Wong had come to the North Side last winter instead of signing that deal with the Brewers. He’d have given David Ross a Gold Glove-caliber defender up the middle – one who was an above-average bat this year and could have served as a mentor for those young guys like Madrigal and Hoerner in 2022 and beyond.
At the end of the day, the team’s lackluster pitching was fatal. Wong obviously wouldn’t have been a remedy to that. But he would have made this Chicago Cubs team better – and is just another reminder of how unacceptable last winter’s course of action really was.