The Chicago Cubs have had an active offseason and that has led to increased hope that the team may be ready to return to postseason contention. At least one MLB insider agrees as Mark Feinsand hopped on MLB Network to discuss who he believes could be a playoff contender this season.
While I agree you can never count the Milwaukee Brewers out due to the top of that stout pitching rotation, the Cubs did have a spectacular offseason in comparison. As stated in the past, due to the top-heavy national league consisting of the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and St. Louis Cardinals, the path to the postseason is more than likely through the Central Division.
As Brett Taylor of Bleacher Nation pointed out this winter, the Cubs added +8.7 WAR to their roster based on 2022 statistics. That has the Cubs hovering around a .500 team, so it will be imperative for certain players to have key seasons this year. For example, Cody Bellinger returns at least somewhat to his former self, the front office hits the nail on the head with Taillon, and he takes a big step forward, etc.
Though the Cubs initially missed on a couple of the targets they had circled at the top of their list, Jed Hoyer and his team did a great job reshaping this team. An Ian Happ extension should be next on the table as it's no secret they can afford to do so with all the salary coming off the books after the 2023 campaign. That gives them a solid core of Happ, Dansby Swanson, Seiya Suzuki, and Nico Hoerner moving forward. Losing Happ with the competitive window opening is a complete 180 in the wrong direction.
For the Cubs' hopes for the postseason to come to fruition, the pitching will have to pick up where it left off in the second half of 2022. In fact, anything near what they did collectively should be sufficient with a presumably upgraded offense. Hovering around contention by the deadline will be critical, and it will be nice to see the Cubs on the buying side of the deadline this year rather than selling off their assets.
Regardless, if the Cubs want to bolster their chances at a 2023 postseason, they need to pull off a trade that tilts the needle further toward contention this year. A trade with the Miami Marlins for one of their starting pitchers could get the job done. The Cubs can ill-afford to allow St. Louis to make a solid move via trade without at least first jacking the price sky-high. The offseason will be wrapping up soon, but with the hot-stove focused on the trade market, the Cubs still have a fantastic chance to add another player to put them over the top in the NL Central.