- There were several reasons for that.
- Young Talent Exceeded Expectations
- Lester signing shifted to winning now
- Maddon signing did the same
- Yes, the Cubs had a little luck with convergence of the aforementioned items
Now that the trophy is in tow, what’s next?
I think “next” can be easily divided into short and long-term goals.
With Arrieta and Lackey set to conclude their contracts at the end of the 2017 season, the immediate need for starting pitching has begun. The Cubs acquired Eddie Butler. Although, there needs to be some work done when it comes to his command. Brett Anderson also signed, and hopefully, he can stay healthy on his one year deal. Yesterday, it was rumored the Cubs were checking out Sean Maness.
Short Term Options
1. Free agency – The big-name next winter is not Jake Arrieta. It is Shohei Otani. And I’m pretty sure the Cubs are stockpiling money to sign him because it’s going to cost $200+ million for six years plus the posting fee. If the Cubs are able to sign him, he would become the anchor and ace of the staff for the next six years. It’s too bad we won’t get to see him in the upcoming World Baseball Classic due to an ankle injury.
2. From Within – I think there are six or seven starters in the Cub’s system who could help out the big league club over the next two years. Trevor Clifton, Zach Hedges, Ryan Williams, Oscar de la Cruz, Thomas Hatch, Dylan Cease, and Jose Albertos all could be arriving in Wrigley over the next few years. For now, they are middle of the rotation or back end starters. I could see Cease, Albertos, or de la Cruz moving up to a #2 or #3.
Long Term Goals
The Cubs are pretty close to being self-sustaining when it comes to position players for the next 10 years. It is going to take a couple of drafts and some more international free agents to build some depth. I don’t see them plopping down another $150-$200 million in free agency again unless it is to re-sign one of their own.
1. Continue talent acquisition through the draft and International Free Agency
While this year’s draft is heavy on high school talent, next year’s draft will be heavy on college bats. McLeod could get a couple of nice high school players at 27 and 30 this year, and one or two more next year with an Arrieta compensation pick.
2. The new CBA levels the playing field in IFA. It almost turns it into a “scouting contest” according to Jason McLeod. The 2017-18 signing season will be the Cubs last season with restrictions. After that, they will play by the same rules as everybody else next year. I also think we’ll see a change in International Free Agency as more Cubans will wait until they are 23 to capitalize on not having any spending limits.
The Cubs have made new scouting inroads in Mexico and Brazil and I think they we could see some exciting finds from Brazil this year and next.
There were several parts of the first plan that failed. Don’t let that deter you, though.
1. The homegrown pitching thing hasn’t caught on yet. Relief pitching has been outstanding, but the lack of even a backend starter has been a little troubling.
2. When you sign kids at 16, you have to wait a long time until they’re ready to play professionally in the big leagues. Outside of Jorge Soler and Eloy, I think we’re only beginning to see what the players signed in 2013 can do now that they are 19 and 20 years old. And there’s a lot more coming after Eloy.
Not every trade worked out, not every signing worked out, and the same will hold true in the future in the future.
When Theo, Jed, and Jason conclude their contracts in 2021, the cupboards will be fully stocked for whoever comes in, stays, or takes over next. The 2015 and 2016 teams are just the beginning of a long, long, sustained run of success.