Cubs poised to be in same frustrating, middling position again in 2023
The Chicago Cubs have found no shortage of ways to disappoint this season and, now on a seven-game losing streak, they keep digging deeper. Eyes are starting to turn toward 2023 and what the future could hold for the organization.
While the long-term future looks rosy, what’s most frustrating of all this season is that the team is slowly positioning themselves to do for 2023 what was originally promised for 2022 – be somewhat competitive, screw around and see what happens.
The problem is that the Cubs simply aren’t finding enough answers this season and a combination of injuries and disappointing play is making a definitively good 2023 team seem unlikely. It all starts with Brennen Davis who, after his season-ending back surgery, won’t get a crack at the majors until next year. The hope was that they’d figure out where he fits into this team long-term, whether it be as a regular starter or someone in need of more time, and they instead got nothing.
There’s also the issue of how they’re deploying the players they actually have. Jason Heyward, despite providing no future value to the next great Cubs team, is still here. I can’t think of a reasonable explanation to keep trudging him out there when Nelson Velazquez could use another look at the majors or Clint Frazier, who was DFAd so those at-bats could go to Heyward, could’ve potentially proven himself a useful, cost-controlled player. Add in injuries and adjustments for Seiya Suzuki and we still don’t have solid answers in the outfield.
On the pitching end, in particular, there are still so many things that need to go right between now and Opening Day 2023 to instill confidence. Marcus Stroman needs to get healthy, pitch better, and, most importantly, not get traded. Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson, for as good as they’ve been, have to show they can be competent starters. Steele is making strides on that front, proving himself one of the best at missing barrels per Baseball Savant, but Thompson has so far struggled in that role.
This is all without noting regression from Kyle Hendricks, injuries to Codi Heuer and Adbert Alzolay, Nick Madrigal struggling mightily and being injured, and oh so much more that clouds the water.
The Cubs have too many questions and not enough answers for 2023
There’s still time to turn some of this around. A good deadline that brings back near-major league-ready talent for the likes of Willson Contreras, David Robertson, and the rest can change the calculus a bit. Moreover, if Caleb Killian absolutely shoves down the stretch, that would at least solve a rotation spot. Even then though, will it be enough to be comfortable with this team next year?
Let’s assume the Cubs make good on the rumors that they’ll pursue a big-ticket shortstop. The outfield still could use another surefire name like Brandon Nimmo to shore things up while Davis makes his way up. They’ll also have a hole at catcher with Contreras on the way out and a rotation full of question marks again beyond Stroman and maybe Steele. What you end up with is a team that still needs a lot to go right to be truly competitive, even if they’re better on paper. Sounds an awful lot like the expectations for 2022 pre-season.
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Make no mistake: this Cubs team isn’t a couple of pieces away from magically being good. They still lack clarity on who can come up and be immediate, solid contributors for the future and they so far haven’t learned enough about the players already on the major league roster. It’s not something they can easily throw money at. Even if they land a Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, or even an Aaron Judge next season, they still have so much to figure out before they can turn the page.