Assembling the next championship Cubs team is a tall task

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

After a somewhat underwhelming trade deadline, Jed Hoyer came out to address various media outlets regarding the trades and the future. As is necessary in his job, he is incredibly smooth at being evasive in his answers, often referring to ‘the next great Cubs team’ in responses.

Let’s begin by stating that it is very difficult to win a championship in professional sports. Many, but not all teams compete, and in this day and age you must spend big money to do this. My apologies to the Chicago sports radio voice I cannot attribute this to, but we Cubs’ fans are going through our second rebuild in a decade. We’re the only major market team in the Central Division, but…

Before considering which of a growing list of prospects are going to make it, and which won’t,  let’s think back on how was the last (only?) great Cubs team of the last century put together. Nearly six years have passed – did you really think that the Cubs would only win it all once? Dynasty was a word bandied about, but that didn’t come to fruition. Why? That may be answered someday in a book, not a blog.

Teams are built through the draft, trades and international signings. The amateur draft started in 1965 and I did a little research as to the Cubs selections. In too many cases, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I have a pretty good memory, and when Gene Hiser and Roger Metzger are the only names I recognize from 1965-1980, well that tells you all you need to know. .

The 2016 World Series champions had six former first-round position players on the roster. The Cubs drafted Javier Baez in 2011 (ninth overall), Albert Almora 2012 (sixth overall), Kris Bryant 2013 (second overall) and Kyle Schwarber 2014 (fourth overall). In addition to those four Cubs’ first-rounders, Jason Heyward was selected 14th  overall by the Braves in 2007 and Addison Russell was selected 11th by the A’s in 2012.

Right now, the Cubs have three first-round position players on their roster. Ian Happ was selected ninth overall in 2015, Nick Madrigal (White Sox) and Nico Hoerner were chosen fourth and 24th, respectively, back in 2018.

As far as guys still working their way through the system, outfielder Pete Crow Armstrong was the first-round pick of the Mets in 2020 (19th overall) and Chicago grabbed infielder Ed Howard that year. At Iowa, Greg Deichmann is a former second-round pick of the A’s (2017) and Brennen Davis was also a second-round selection in 2018. Owen Cassie and James Triantos were both second-rounders, as well, but are still in Single A.

Quality players can filter into an organization from later rounds as well as trades. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist were picked in the sixth round, and Dexter Fowler went as late as the 14th. Reserves Matt Szczur (fifth round), and Tommy La Stella (eighth round) are two prime examples, as well. All came to the Cubs via trade with the exception of Szczur, and by all indications they contributed in the clubhouse as much as on the field. Rizzo became a team captain.

Looking at today’s prospects, Matt Mervis, one of the Cubs’ hottest-hitting bats in all Minor League Baseball this season, was selected in the 36th round. It looks likely he’ll get a chance to win the first base job come spring.

Outside of the draft, the international market dominates the sport and has produced some of MLB’s biggest superstars. From 2016 both Miguel Montero and Willson Contreras reached the majors via that route, as did Jorge Soler. Christopher Morel is a one such current Cub, as is July Minor League player of the month Alexander Canario.

Cubs know that not every move winds up being a winner

My fellow contributor Richard Johnson recently gave his insights into 2026 which I recommend reading. The key takeaway from his piece? You just don’t know which players will hit and which won’t. Let’s not forget: Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer also traded away Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez, AL Cy Young candidate Dylan Cease, and I am sure other names I have forgotten, or repressed. There will be trades and free agents in the blue pinstripes we can’t fathom quite yet.

A championship needs talent, luck, player development, health, luck and an array of other contributing factors. I can tell you this about every name I have typed here; you just don’t know. First-round picks can be a bust, and Mervis might become the next Anthony Rizzo. I hope he is.

Next. Jason Heyward, Cubs reach the end of the line. dark

I’d like to see another ‘great Cubs team,’ because in 2016 that game ended late and I had to work the next day. Several co-workers wondered in amazement why I came to work, shocked, but I was a classroom teacher then and the kids came first. I am retired now, and if they win it again, I will be like I was in September of 1984 when the Cubs beat the Pirates. I celebrate in an epic fashion, as that night it seemed like the thing to do at the time.

We don’t just want one, Jed – we want more.