Baseball

Where do the Chicago Cubs Go From Here?

Cubs relief pitcher Kyle Ryan (56) and right fielder Jason Heyward (22) are members of a Cubs team that just lost several stars over the last week. (Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports)

The Chicago Cubs cleaned out the leftovers of the 2016 World Series. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Báez all moved to different teams and have already made a bit of noise in their few plate appearances in their new homes.

Where might they go from here?

The only recognizable names left from the curse-breaking team are SP Kyle Hendricks, C Wilson Contreras, and OF Jason Heyward. In addition to SP Jake Arrieta coming back after a short stint with the Philadelphia Phillies, it seems like these are the few players who will be the veteran foundation for a very young roster.

The Cubs were almost unrecognizable for the game that followed the conclusion of the trade deadline; a 4-3 loss to the Washington Nationals. The leadoff hitter was CF Rafael Ortega. Ever heard of him? I didn’t think so. Ortega is a veteran who was last in the majors with the Atlanta Braves in 2019. In his career, he appeared with five teams for five different seasons: 2012 (COL), 2016 (LAA), 2018 (MIA), 2019, and this year with the Cubs. He never appeared in more than 70 games, and it looks like he has been nothing more than a career placeholder for average teams throughout his career.

The rest of the order looked like the following: C Wilson Contreras, LF Ian Happ, 1B Patrick Wisdom, 2B David Bote, RF Jason Heyward, 3B Matt Duffy, SS Sergio Alcantara, and SP Jake Arrieta.

Most of the other players have had some experience over the past few years with Manager David Ross at the helm, but with the trio of veterans pulled from the field, it made the team look as if their identity had just been snatched away from them. If success were to continue in the North Side of Chicago, they might have wanted to keep one of the three stars around. Instead, their rebuild immediately begins.

When it comes to their near future, the Cubs’ farm system ranks in the middle of the pack, as the team has some average-looking prospects compared to other average-looking teams. Might they still be recovering from their World Series appearance when they emptied everything to go win it all? That is a possibility, but it has been some time, and even the San Francisco Giants have recovered from winning just two years prior.

The Cubs didn’t give up these players for nothing, as the trades might pay off 2-4 years down the road. The Cubs are getting a solid haul back for the trio of star players, as well as the trades of closer Craig Kimbrel, OF Joc Pederson, and SP Andrew Chafin.

The Kris Bryant trade to San Francisco brings in prospects OF Alexander Canario and RHP Caleb Kilian. The Javier Baez trade to the NY Mets also saw the Cubs give up RHP Trevor Williams to get OF Pete Crow-Armstrong (2020 19th overall pick) in return. Anthony Rizzo went to the Yankees, seeing the pinstripes send back minor leaguers RHP Alexander Vizcaíno and OF Kevin Alcántara in return. Kimbrel’s trade to the Chicago White Sox netted the team 2B Nick Madrigal and RHP Codi Heuer. Pederson’s trade to the Atlanta Braves brought in 1B Bryce Ball to the Cubs, while Chafin was sent to the Oakland A’s in exchange for OF Greg Deichmann and RHP Daniel Palencia.

Although the team has very few assets remaining, it seems like they are stacked for the future and can make moves to get back into contention once these players have developed into the stars they look like they can be. David Ross seems to be the manager who can get them back into the playoffs, and it looks like he will experience his first transition period of a team for the remainder of the season.

For now, the NL Central will be led by a mixture of the Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, and St. Louis Cardinals, while Chicago will likely sit in the basement alongside the permanent basement occupants in the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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