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Old Jan 23, 2017, 09:04 AM   #1
IanKEvans2
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"Here's the 0-1. This is going to be a tough play. Bryant...The Cubs...have won the World Series! Bryant makes the play! It's over! And the Cubs...have finally won it all; 8-7 in 10!"




What a year!

The Chicago Cubs will open the 2017 season as defending World Series champions, and will bring a nearly identical roster to spring training.

Notable Departures:
1) Dexter Fowler (OF): Signed with the St. Louis Cardinals.
2) David Ross (C): Retirement.
3) Jorge Soler (OF): Traded to the Kansas City Royals.
4) Aroldis Chapman (RP): Signed with the New York Yankees.
5) Jason Hammel (SP): Free agent.
6) Travis Wood (RP): Free agent.
7) Trevor Cahill (RP): Signed with the San Diego Padres.
8) Chris Coghlan (OF): Free agent.
9) Joe Smith (RP): Free agent.

Notable Additions/Returns:
1) Wade Davis (RP): Received in trade with Kansas City Royals. Assumes closer role.
2) Koji Uehara (RP): Free agent signing for bullpen depth.
3) Jon Jay (OF): Free agent signing. Likely will platoon in the OF.
4) Munenori Kawasaki (IF): Returns on a minor league contract.

2016 Hardware:
-Kris Bryant: NL MVP
-Anthony Rizzo: NL 1B Gold Glove
-Jason Heyward: NL RF Gold Glove
-NL Cy Young: Jon Lester (#2), Kyle Hendricks (#3), Jake Arrieta (#9)

Stories to follow for 2017:
A) Mike Montgomery transitions from bullpen role to 5th starter.
B) Willson Contreras assumes starting catcher position.
C) Leadoff position: Joe Maddon alluded to Kyle Schwarber filling the large space left at the top of the lineup following Fowler's departure.
D) Who plays CF? Does Jason Heyward take over? Or is it a platoon between Albert Almora/Jon Jay?
E) Does Heyward's bat bounce back after a dismal 2016 season?
F) How does Schwarber's knee hold up?

Pitchers and catchers report on February 14th!

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Old Jan 23, 2017, 04:14 PM   #2
Illiniaaron
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To your list of stories to watch I would add do they keep platooning at second base or will Baez play most games. I think he needs to be there at least 140 games.
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Old Jan 23, 2017, 08:30 PM   #3
champaignchris
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To your list of stories to watch I would add do they keep platooning at second base or will Baez play most games. I think he needs to be there at least 140 games.
I think it's going to really depend on the bat, especially against right handers. If he can be an average offensive performer - OPS about .735 - he should be in there against all but the toughest right handers and get 500-ish plate appearances. If he can push that OPS into the .750s, he's not just an everyday player, he's an All-Star.

I'd love to see him come out of spring training healthy this year. Something he didn't manage in either of the last two seasons. (The death of his sister in '15 didn't help as well.). I just have the feeling that after his coming out party in the NLCS, he's going to have a real break out season.
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Old Jan 23, 2017, 09:00 PM   #4
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champaignchris, you make some excellent points on Baez. The defensive flexibility of this team will yet again be a huge strength this season.

In other news, Cubs agreed to a deal with SP/RP Brett Anderson. Nice depth add, along with a great Twitter follow.

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Old Jan 24, 2017, 02:52 PM   #5
Illiniaaron
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Originally Posted by champaignchris View Post
I think it's going to really depend on the bat, especially against right handers. If he can be an average offensive performer - OPS about .735 - he should be in there against all but the toughest right handers and get 500-ish plate appearances. If he can push that OPS into the .750s, he's not just an everyday player, he's an All-Star.

I'd love to see him come out of spring training healthy this year. Something he didn't manage in either of the last two seasons. (The death of his sister in '15 didn't help as well.). I just have the feeling that after his coming out party in the NLCS, he's going to have a real break out season.


I suppose it also depends whether or not Maddon feels he is more valuable playing multiple positions and still playing most games or staying at second.
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Old Jan 25, 2017, 08:17 AM   #6
Shane Walsh
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Now that is how you open a new thread.
Let's play two!

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Old Jan 25, 2017, 03:47 PM   #7
Illiniaaron
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Now that is how you open a new thread.
Let's play two!


Let's win two (World Series, that is)
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Old Jan 26, 2017, 07:53 PM   #8
South Farms
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I recd the MLB produced Cubs DVD for Christmas and have watched it a couple times. I might again this weekend as its a fairly dead "real" sports weekend. No hockey, no football.

But looking back, on that week from 11/2 - 11/8, anyone who was a Cub Fan and Trump voter, it was quite a week. Wow!

Old man Rickets and the boys must have been pretty happy.
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Old Jan 28, 2017, 09:30 AM   #9
bdutts
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I recd the MLB produced Cubs DVD for Christmas and have watched it a couple times. I might again this weekend as its a fairly dead "real" sports weekend. No hockey, no football.

But looking back, on that week from 11/2 - 11/8, anyone who was a Cub Fan and Trump voter, it was quite a week. Wow!

Old man Rickets and the boys must have been pretty happy.
I'll be honest: It still doesn't seem like they won. Seems like a dream or something. I guess the fact I don't like in Chicago/Illinois makes it feel less real (Houstonian). Would love for them to mirror the success of the Blackhawks.
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Old Feb 2, 2017, 03:02 PM   #10
champaignchris
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Just a little review of the last two weeks:

The Cubs picked up the following:

Brett Anderson, 29, only pitched 11 innings last year because of back surgery but pitched 180 innings with a 3.69 ERA in 2015. He's an extreme ground ball pitcher who could conceivably do very well with the Cubs infield behind him. IF he can stay healthy, which has been a consistent problem for a guy with a career 3.86 ERA/3.70 FIP over 685 innings.

Casey Kelly, 27, was the headline prospect in the trade that also sent Rizzo to San Diego from Boston in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez. He was a consensus top 100 pitching prospect as recently as 2013 and was still being ranked by some services in 2014 despite TJS. He's a non-roster invitee and will likely be given a shot to play at AAA.

Eddie Butler, 26, was a consensus top-100 prospect as recently as 2015 before getting shelled in Coors for 2 years. He has an option left and will likely start the year in AAA. He's still quite young and could very well look a lot better in a ballpark where every mistake doesn't end up in the seats.

I like the Cubs starting pitching depth much better now. I like trying to get 170-180 innings out of both Montgomery and Anderson instead of trying to get those innings out of just Montgomery.

I like taking a flyer on the two failed prospects. Maybe they're Justin Turner redux or maybe they're Jake Arrieta lottery tickets (or Andrew Miller if you want to stretch Theo's history back a little farther). Either way they cost the Cubs nothing in the field and very little in the pocketbook. The very definition of low risk-high reward targets.

So, adding a legit MLB level 6th starter plus two AAA prospects to Zastryzny and the others at Iowa, and I'm quite a bit more confident that the Cubs could weather some injuries to the top four starters if necessary.
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Old Feb 7, 2017, 10:45 AM   #11
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PECOTA has the Dodgers with 98 wins and the Cubs with 90. I find that hard to believe, but it goes to show how dangerous the Dodgers will most likely be this year.
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Old Feb 7, 2017, 11:17 AM   #12
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PECOTA has the Dodgers with 98 wins and the Cubs with 90. I find that hard to believe, but it goes to show how dangerous the Dodgers will most likely be this year.
They are projecting a 13 game regression? Interesting. They are also projecting the Cubs to have the only winning record in the NL Central. I find that hard to foresee.
http://www.baseballprospectus.com/fantasy/dc/

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Old Feb 7, 2017, 12:03 PM   #13
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Barring decimation by injuries, the Cubs will win 100 games again this year. Mark it down.

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Old Feb 7, 2017, 12:06 PM   #14
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I'm not surprised that anyone has the Dodgers ahead of the Cubs right now. They probably should be. But that big a difference is a bit surprising, especially given how much weaker the NL Central is likely to be compared to the NL West.

I'm also not surprised that anyone has the Cubs winning fewer games... It's really tough to win 100 games two seasons in a row.

Fangraphs has the Dodgers at 95 wins and the Cubs at 94, which I think will be closer to what actually happens.

I think the standings at the top of the NL are going to look remarkably similar to what they did at the end of '16, with the same three division winners, the Giants in the Wild Card, the Mets and Cardinals slugging it out for the last WC spot, and the Pirates just barely out of contention.

I think the AL has three clear divisional favorites in the Red Sox, Indians and Astros and then probably 8 teams that could make the two WC spots. The AL has much more of a middle class than the NL does.

I think the Brewers could have a historically bad offense this year, especially after the inevitable Braun trade.
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Old Feb 7, 2017, 12:13 PM   #15
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Barring decimation by injuries, the Cubs will win 100 games again this year. Mark it down.
I see 94-98.

My big 3 concerns are: 1) Will Schwarber can bounce back from injury and thrive in the leadoff role (Fowler's presence will be deeply missed)? 2) Can Heyward recover from a disastrous 2016 season? 3) What they will get out of Montgomery/Angerson in the 5th starter role?

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Old Feb 7, 2017, 12:23 PM   #16
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I see 94-98.

My big 3 concerns are: 1) Will Schwarber can bounce back from injury and thrive in the leadoff role (Fowler's presence will be deeply missed)? 2) Can Heyward recover from a disastrous 2016 season? 3) What they will get out of Montgomery/Angerson in the 5th starter role?
1) Yes, I believe he will. He'll have had an entire offseason (and most of last season) to recover now.
2) The law of averages says he will.
3) That is the big question which remains to be seen.

I still think they win 100. They were a shockingly young team last year, and have another year of maturity and seasoning under their belts, not to mention being battle hardened from the most epic playoff/championship run of all time!

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Old Feb 7, 2017, 03:55 PM   #17
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Starting pitching is really a bigger question for me heading into 2018 and beyond. As for 2017, the Cubs have as much depth and quality as anyone else in the Majors. Sure, a bunch of injuries can happen. You see injury clusters around the starters all the time. But other than not-exhausting your pitchers (something Theo, Maddon, and crew are very cognizant of), there's not a whole Hell of a lot you can do about it.

My biggest concerns are regression among some of the young hitters, Contreras, Russell and Baez in particular, and then whether they'll get any production out of center field.

I feel that Heyward will probably bounce back. There's no real reason to think that he's permanently broken. But obviously we won't be certain until the games start to happen.

I'd hate to see a situation where Bryant, Rizzo, and an older Zobrist are the only guys giving them consistent at bats. Dexter was just another steady veteran presence that a team like the Cubs shouldn't NEED, but was really nice to have.

On the flip side - it's perfectly reasonable to think Baez, Contreras, Russell, Schwarber, Almora and even Bryant will all improve. They're at the age where getting better is the natural progression of things. They probably don't all improve individually, but as an aggregate that group should be better than they were last year.

Heyward and Jay should have snap-back seasons. Jay was in the midst of a bounce back season last year when he got his hand broke by a wild pitch. Heyward has five years of evidence that would seem to indicate that he's a far better hitter than what we saw last year. Neither have to post career year numbers to make the Cubs better. They just have to not suck (to steal a phrase).

Wade Davis' WAR over the last 3 years (since he was put back in the pen): 8.9. Here is the entire list of relief pitchers who have been better over the same span of time: Zach Britton (9.3). If healthy (and Davis had been healthy his entire career until last year), Davis will be the best relief pitcher in the league.
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Old Feb 7, 2017, 05:31 PM   #18
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Starting pitching is really a bigger question for me heading into 2018 and beyond. As for 2017, the Cubs have as much depth and quality as anyone else in the Majors. Sure, a bunch of injuries can happen. You see injury clusters around the starters all the time. But other than not-exhausting your pitchers (something Theo, Maddon, and crew are very cognizant of), there's not a whole Hell of a lot you can do about it.

My biggest concerns are regression among some of the young hitters, Contreras, Russell and Baez in particular, and then whether they'll get any production out of center field.

I feel that Heyward will probably bounce back. There's no real reason to think that he's permanently broken. But obviously we won't be certain until the games start to happen.

I'd hate to see a situation where Bryant, Rizzo, and an older Zobrist are the only guys giving them consistent at bats. Dexter was just another steady veteran presence that a team like the Cubs shouldn't NEED, but was really nice to have.

On the flip side - it's perfectly reasonable to think Baez, Contreras, Russell, Schwarber, Almora and even Bryant will all improve. They're at the age where getting better is the natural progression of things. They probably don't all improve individually, but as an aggregate that group should be better than they were last year.

Heyward and Jay should have snap-back seasons. Jay was in the midst of a bounce back season last year when he got his hand broke by a wild pitch. Heyward has five years of evidence that would seem to indicate that he's a far better hitter than what we saw last year. Neither have to post career year numbers to make the Cubs better. They just have to not suck (to steal a phrase).

Wade Davis' WAR over the last 3 years (since he was put back in the pen): 8.9. Here is the entire list of relief pitchers who have been better over the same span of time: Zach Britton (9.3). If healthy (and Davis had been healthy his entire career until last year), Davis will be the best relief pitcher in the league.
Good analysis. I actually think Davis will be a step up from Chapman, and that's saying a lot.

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Old Feb 8, 2017, 09:52 AM   #19
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Starting pitching is really a bigger question for me heading into 2018 and beyond. As for 2017, the Cubs have as much depth and quality as anyone else in the Majors. Sure, a bunch of injuries can happen. You see injury clusters around the starters all the time. But other than not-exhausting your pitchers (something Theo, Maddon, and crew are very cognizant of), there's not a whole Hell of a lot you can do about it.

My biggest concerns are regression among some of the young hitters, Contreras, Russell and Baez in particular, and then whether they'll get any production out of center field.

I feel that Heyward will probably bounce back. There's no real reason to think that he's permanently broken. But obviously we won't be certain until the games start to happen.

I'd hate to see a situation where Bryant, Rizzo, and an older Zobrist are the only guys giving them consistent at bats. Dexter was just another steady veteran presence that a team like the Cubs shouldn't NEED, but was really nice to have.

On the flip side - it's perfectly reasonable to think Baez, Contreras, Russell, Schwarber, Almora and even Bryant will all improve. They're at the age where getting better is the natural progression of things. They probably don't all improve individually, but as an aggregate that group should be better than they were last year.

Heyward and Jay should have snap-back seasons. Jay was in the midst of a bounce back season last year when he got his hand broke by a wild pitch. Heyward has five years of evidence that would seem to indicate that he's a far better hitter than what we saw last year. Neither have to post career year numbers to make the Cubs better. They just have to not suck (to steal a phrase).

Wade Davis' WAR over the last 3 years (since he was put back in the pen): 8.9. Here is the entire list of relief pitchers who have been better over the same span of time: Zach Britton (9.3). If healthy (and Davis had been healthy his entire career until last year), Davis will be the best relief pitcher in the league.
Excellent analysis as always, champaignchris. I truly appreciate your insight. I'll try to react point by point.

1) Theo & Company have shown the value of stockpiling arms. Eddie Butler is an intriguing recent addition. Only 25-years-old and pitched at Coors his entire career. I'm not expecting an Arrieta-like revival, but he could serve as a contributing piece going forward.

2) I think Baez will continue to be an electric piece to the puzzle who will occasionally drive fans mad. I see Russell in the opposite light as someone who will be consistent. Contreras is so intriguing. He has a cannon for an arm and is still developing defensively (if I recall correctly, he is a converted infielder). I'm not sure what to expect from Jay, but I firmly believe Heyward will produce. Love his presence in the clubhouse.

3) The bullpen has reloaded. I'd take Davis, Rondon, Strop, Edwards Jr., Grimm, and Uehara against almost anyone in the league. I'd like to see an attempt to extend Davis, though the dominant closer market has proven to be pricey.

Additional comment: Regarding prospects, last year was the rise of Eloy Jimenez. This year I'll [hopefully] predict a major rise from RHP Dylan Cease (currently #98 overall on MLB.com). Others I'll be keeping an eye on: 1) OF Mark Zagunis, 2) RHP Duane Underwood, and 3) RHP Jose Paulino.

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Old Feb 9, 2017, 09:23 AM   #20
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Cubs made another deal with the Royals yesterday, trading OF Donnie Dewees (#12 Cubs prospect) for RHP Alec Mills (#8 Royals prospect).

Stockpiling arms.

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Old Feb 9, 2017, 10:11 AM   #21
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Cubs made another deal with the Royals yesterday, trading OF Donnie Dewees (#12 Cubs prospect) for RHP Alec Mills (#8 Royals prospect).

Stockpiling arms.
It's really going to be hilarious about 15 months from now when we start hearing, "How did the rest of MLB let the Cubs pick up this guy (whichever one who clicks) for virtually free!?!" Ignoring the fact that the Cubs also picked up 5 or 6 other guys with nearly identical profiles who didn't do squat, and that the Cubs broadcasted pretty loudly exactly what they were trying to do.

It continues to amaze me how, 1. Theo straight up tells everyone exactly what his plans are; 2. The rest of baseball lets him carry out his plans with virtually no interference; and 3. The rest of baseball then scratches their heads in wonder at how Theo accomplished his goals.

It's going to be like '12-'14 all over again...
Theo: "I'm going to pick up cheap free agent pitchers with inflated ERAs compared to their FIP and then flip them for prospects when their ERA normalizes."
The Rest of Baseball: "Ooooh! Lemme give you some prospects for that guy!!!"
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Old Feb 12, 2017, 08:18 PM   #22
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According to Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs have made an offer to bring back Travis Wood.

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Old Feb 12, 2017, 11:27 PM   #23
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According to Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs have made an offer to bring back Travis Wood.


Still young at 29 so that's a plus. By some of his numbers he had something of a career year last year. However, some of his periphery numbers left a bit to be desired. I know that there were times last year (trigger warning: Eye Test claim ahead) where it felt like he was having to work around situations a lot more than he should have. That being said I would have no issues if he was in the pen again this year.
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Old Feb 14, 2017, 10:29 AM   #24
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Pitchers and catchers report today!

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Old Feb 14, 2017, 10:41 AM   #25
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Still young at 29 so that's a plus. By some of his numbers he had something of a career year last year. However, some of his periphery numbers left a bit to be desired. I know that there were times last year (trigger warning: Eye Test claim ahead) where it felt like he was having to work around situations a lot more than he should have. That being said I would have no issues if he was in the pen again this year.
That eye test was born out by the peripherals. Probably no pitcher was helped out by the Cubs excellent D more than Wood was. The point is moot since he just signed with the Royals.

At the start of the post-season, I thought the Cubs and Royals matched up pretty well in terms of trades. The clubs ended up making two trades and the Royals signed two of the Cubs' free agents. So I guess I called that.

They might not be done. If the Royals season goes south, I could see the Cubs going after Lorenzo Cain for a half year rental. But I have a feeling the Royals are going to have a bounce back year and make a run at a Wild Card spot.
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