2017 Fantasy Recap: The Chicago Cubs
The reign of the Chicago Cubs as defending World Series champions is over or at least it will be when someone else wins the World Series. After winning the National League Central and taking a dramatic National League Division Series (NLDS) from the 97-win Washington Nationals, the 2017 Cubs are no more. They ran into a 2017-sized Los Angeles Dodgers buzzsaw in the National League Championship Series (NLCS), getting trounced in five games.
Now, with their offseason starting a lot sooner than they would have preferred, they’ll have to get to work sooner rather than later.
The pitching staff, which was the backbone of this team’s championship run, faces major questions. Namely, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey head to free agency, so there are two natural holes here. Well, maybe. Behind Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Jose Quintana, could Mike Montgomery slot in here? In 14 starts this season, Montgomery had a 4.15 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. His strikeout rate was actually higher as a starter than reliever and he’s put together some very good outings. It’s feasible that he could be a quality fifth starter on a good team, but he seems better suited in the role the Cubs have been using, which is long relief and an injury-replacement starter.
The pitching questions also extend to the beleaguered bullpen. Wade Davis hits free agency and there’s a very good discussion to be had about retaining him. With 32 saves this year and a 2.30 ERA, he was one of the better closers in the game. The thought process in trading for him seemed to be that he was a one-year stop-gap until Carl Edwards Jr. was ready to take over as a full-time closer, but Edwards has been fickle enough with control to seriously question making him the top dog in the bullpen of a contender. Edwards took Game 2 of the NLDS against the Nationals on the chin, allowing three earned runs in the eighth inning, which blew open the game.
Unlike with pitching, the Cubs are loaded up on position players for the foreseeable future. Ben Zobrist is still around for two more years and the following players are locked up through at least 2020: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Albert Almora, Jason Heyward, Tommy La Stella and Kyle Schwarber.
Schwarber got off to a miserable start in the 2017 season, to the point that he was demoted to the minors. After coming back, Schwarber hit .255/.338/.565 with 18 homers in 200 at-bats after returning and that seems reasonable for how he’ll perform moving forward.
One season removed from winning the National Leage MVP award, Bryant’s slash line of .295/.409/.537 was actually an improvement from last year’s batting totals, even if his home run and RBI count went down.
The Cubs’ incredible pitching and defensive performance last season fell back down to earth in 2017. There is good news for Cubs fans: Several of the All-Stars from last season’s World Series-winning outfit will return again next year. Since the difference between the wild card winner and the World Series champion often comes down to luck, the Cubs might only have to wait until next year instead of 107 years from now before they celebrate once again.