The Chicago Cubs are coming off their first World Series championship in 108 years. They were down three games to one heading into Game Five. They won three straight in one of the best series in baseball history. After a short celebration period, it’s time to see how they can repeat their performance.
The Cubs decided not to pick up fifth starter Jason Hammel’s option. He will need to find a job elsewhere. Dexter Fowler also opted out of his final year in his contract. He has a chance to re-sign, but will get offers from others as well. The Cubs roster is built for the long haul. They are mostly losing role players to free agency, other than fireballer Aroldis Chapman. With that said, here are the Chicago Cubs 2016 offseason needs.
Chicago Cubs 2016 Offseason Needs
Resign Dexter Fowler
The Cubs number one priority should be to bring back Dexter Fowler. Fowler was a key cog in the Chicago machine. They had a “you go, we go” mentality and it worked. When Fowler had an RBI or run scored, the Cubs were nearly unbeatable.
The Cubs have options if Fowler signs somewhere else. Albert Almora would be the next man up to patrol center. He is a young prospect that filled in when Fowler was out with an injury. They could also shuffle other players around if needed. Kyle Schwarber will be back in left field next year. The Cubs could play Javier Baez at second, move Ben Zobrist over to right field, and shift Jason Heyward out to center field.
The Cubs have options if Fowler walks, however, bringing him back would still be a good choice. Fowler’s veteran presence is key on a team full of young players.
Convert Mike Montgomery to starter
With the Cubs likely moving on from Hammel, they need a fifth starter. They may have the answer internally. Montgomery was arguably the most reliable bullpen pitcher in the playoffs. He has made 23 starts in his short career, and has a 4.23 ERA in those games. As a reliever, his ERA drops to 2.10. If he could find the middle ground, he would be a perfect fit in the fifth starter role.
The Cubs have just one lefty starting pitcher, Jon Lester, in their rotation. Adding another left-handed pitcher would benefit them. The market for starting pitchers this offseason is also very slim. The Cubs would have to overpay. Instead, they should see what they have with Montgomery.
Solidify the Bullpen
The Cubs biggest issue in the World Series was the lack of trust in their bullpen. They had to overuse Aroldis Chapman in the final three games, instead of handing the ball to guys like Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon. Both played huge roles during the regular season.
The Cubs have some options when it comes to building up their pen. They have the pieces to have a good core. Carl Edwards showed that he is ready for a bigger role. Edwards throws the ball hard, hitting an average velocity of 95 mph on his fastball. Both Rondon and Strop will once again be in the middle of the bullpen next year.
The Cubs should also look to sign a big-name closer. They could try to sign Chapman to a long-term deal, though he’s asking for around $100 million. If they don’t want to pay that much, both Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon could be slightly cheaper options. Melancon’s numbers were nearly as good as Chapman’s in 2016. His ERA was just .2 points higher than Chapman’s. The Cubs could spend on a high-end closer this offseason, and it would likely be one of those three.
The Bold Prediction
If the Cubs wanted to take the league by storm, they could make a blockbuster trade in the offseason. Chicago has spent years building themselves up through good drafts and free agency acquisitions. They still have numerous tops prospects in their minor-league system.
The Cubs, to add a lefty starter, could trade for Chris Sale. The Chicago White Sox have contemplated going through a rebuilding stage, as they just can’t seem to make a major push in their division. They received calls for Sale at the deadline, but couldn’t find the right deal. The Cubs have a great deal of depth that may just be enough to pry Sale from the Sox grasp.
This deal is a stretch, as the Cubs have usually chosen to hang on to their prospects instead of trading them. However, their main core is locked up for years and this may be the time to make a major deal.