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How Far Can the Cubs Go Next Season?

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How Far Can the Cubs Go Next Season?
Yu Darvish #11 of the Chicago Cubs. Kirk Irwin/Getty Images/AFP

The Chicago Cubs went 34-26 in the 2020 MLB season and led the NL Central into the playoffs as the division winners. You wouldn’t know that now with the Cubs reportedly willing to listen to offers on any veteran.  Buster Olney reported earlier this week that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will be forced to hold a “garage sale.”

This means that the Cubs are in conversations with other teams to potentially have significant turnover on their roster. They’re willing to part with literally any veteran on the team for the right price including Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo. I would be shocked if Anthony Rizzo was traded but Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber could absolutely land somewhere else before the 2021 season begins. 

It’s hard to know exactly what the Cubs lineup will look like but last season we saw just how inconsistent the Cubs bats could be. Javier Baez hit .203 with just eight home and 75 strikeouts compared to seven walks. Who is willing to trade for that? Anthony Rizzo hit .222 with 11 home runs but just six doubles on the season.

Kyle Schwarber hit a whopping .188 with 11 home runs but 66 strikeouts and Kris Bryant finished with a .206 average in just 36 games played. Ian Happ might’ve been the only consistent hitter on the Cubs and he hit .258 with 12 home runs. The leading RBI batter was David Bote, who had 29 last season, yet he hit .200 in 45 games played. This is why the Cubs are considering rebuilding their offense. The pitching is the only reason why the Cubs stuck around at the top of the NL Central. The MLB odds board at BetOnline has them at +3300 to win the World Series next year.

2021 Pitching Staff 

Yu Darvish was a Cy Young candidate who finished with a 2.01 ERA on the season through 76 innings pitched. He has 10 quality starts in 12 games and looked fantastic all season long. Kyle Hendricks stayed consistent as well in 2020 and held a 2.88 ERA in 12 starts with nine quality starts after throwing a team-high 81.1 innings. However, after those two, things got interesting. Alec Mills threw a no-hitter last season but also had a 4.48 ERA through 11 starts. 

Former all-star pitcher, Jon Lester started 12 games but had just four quality starts and an ERA of 5.16. He’s going to be a free agent and likely won’t be back with Chicago. Maybe the young right-hander Adbert Alzolay progresses and becomes a stud in the rotation but nonetheless, the Cubs are in trouble. Alzolay did go 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in six games (four starts). There’s no doubt that Alzolay will get the opportunity to start in 2021 and be a part of the Cubs rotation next season.

So that leaves one spot open in the starting rotation. The Cubs will need depth and will absolutely look at the free agent market when it comes down to it. They need a fifth arm that they can trust. Interesting names that could be on the table include Corey Kluber, Jake Odorizzi, and Anthony DeSclafani. 

What to Expect from the Bullpen

This will be David Ross’ second year as manager for the Cubs. It wasn’t so bad his first season. He took an inconsistent baseball team into the playoffs and won a tough division in the NL Central, with not a single player hitting even close to .300. Having Yu Darvish was special every fifth day.

The bullpen was also solid behind closer Jeremy Jeffress who finished with a 1.54 ERA and eight saves last season. However, the middle relievers weren’t fantastic. Craig Kimbrel pitched a 5.28 ERA while Duane Underwood Jr. had a 5.66 ERA. Meanwhile, Jason Adam showed off his strikeout stuff and held batters to a 3.29 ERA in 13 games last season. 

The fact of the matter is, the Cubs will need to add a couple bullpen arms. Especially when it comes to the playoffs, these arms matter. The Rays might have overused their bullpen but if you look at the Cubs and Dodgers, you can see how important it is to have as many quality arms as you can. The Cubs weren’t deep in their bullpen and it showed at times. 

The Cubs usually find a way into the playoffs. But the offense has not been consistent recently. A loss to the Marlins in the playoffs in 2020 tells you everything you need to know. As far as MLB picks, keep in mind that the Cubs are far from contention and now the rebuild might come and push everything back for the Cubs.