The future is bright, yes, but the big league product has left plenty to be desired this year for Cubs fans who, if projections hold up, will have seen the fifth-worst record the club has put up in the last 20 years by season’s end.
Fangraphs has the Cubs projected to close out the year with a mark of 68-94. While at least they seem likely to avoid the 100-loss plateau the franchise has eclipsed only a handful of times, it’s still not something to celebrate. While a reloading of the farm system was absolutely imperative, the lack of major spending to supplement the major league roster has been frustrating, to say the least.
The last time the Cubs lost this many games? 2013, when the North Siders went 66-96 which was actually a five-game improvement over the woeful 61-101 mark the year prior. Obviously, a couple years later, the team turned the corner in dramatic fashion, making a surprise run to the NLCS but, at the time, it didn’t make tuning in to watch those teams any easier.
This year’s ballclub was flawed from the start. Everything was riding on the starting rotation, which featured a ton of new faces in Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley, Drew Smyly (we’ll call him new even though he’d been a member of the organization prior). They were supposed to team up with Kyle Hendricks to eat the bulk of the team’s starts.
Instead, things quickly went off the rails. Stroman had a rocky start to his Cubs tenure, battling injuries and COVID in the first half before settling in later in the year. Miley has been a near-total non-factor to this point and Hendricks followed up a rough showing in 2021 with an equally disappointing 2022 that ended early due to injury.
That led to a musical chairs approach to the rotation and, while there were positives in guys like Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson (both of whom are now also on the IL), there was a lot of mediocrity, as well.
After jettisoning its most reliable relievers for the second straight year at the trade deadline, the bullpen has taken on a similar approach since early August, becoming more of an audition stage for young guys with something to prove than an area where shutdown arms wait to slam the door on opponents.
Cubs lineup has lacked serious thump all season long
Shockingly, the Cubs opted to hold onto three-time All-Star catcher Willson Contreras rather than trade him – a decision that could still prove costly down the road barring an extension – but even with his bat in the lineup, this is an offense that has lacked the impact bats needed to remain competitive.
Chicago ranks 15th in baseball in OPS and 17th in slugging. Adding a power bat like Franmil Reyes is a no-lose move, sure, but he’s a supplementary presence on a major market lineup – not the guy you’re building the batting order around on a nightly basis.
This offseason has the potential to be transformative for the Cubs. With mountains of money to spend and a farm system dripping with depth Hoyer could look to for trade chips, it seems safe to say we shouldn’t have to bear witness to another 90+ loss team in 2023. At least, I hope not.