The Chicago Cubs are in a strange transition that doesn’t make a ton of sense. On paper, they should be able to compete in a relatively weak National League Central Division, but their pitching and declining offensive production may force the front office to finally go full sell mode at the trade deadline.
The front office seems half in and half out when it comes to whether it wants to compete for a championship or do a complete tear-down.
This will be a defining year for the organizationt.
The 2020 Chicago Cubs went 34-26 in the 60-game season and won the National League Central Division before being eliminated in two games by the Wild-Card Miami Marlins in two games.
The first round of the 2020 MLB Playoffs was only a three-game series to accommodate the expansion of extra Wild Cards in each league due to the COVID-19 shortened season.
The Cubs managed to score one run in their short trip to the postseason, and that did not sit well with the front office.
Much like the rest of the National League Central counterparts, the Cubs did not make a ton of additions in the offseason.
The most significant addition they made was bringing back former Cubs ace Jake Arrieta on a 1-year deal for $6M with the option for the 2022 season.
This is not the same Cy Young award-winning Arrieta they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in free agency before the 2018 season. He has not been good of late and will essentially be a stop-gap to fill a rotation spot while the Cubs look to build their future pitching rotation with younger talent within the organization.
The other key addition is former Dodger outfielder Joc Pederson, who has been incredible in camp, smacking eight home runs and lighting up what has been a rather stagnant offense.
This is where the front office made some head-scratching moves. The biggest being trading team ace and top-end starting pitcher Yu Darvish.
Darvish was outstanding in 2020, narrowly losing out on the National League Cy Young Award to now-Dodger Trevor Bauer.
They lost Darvish’s rotation-mate Jose Quintana to free agency. Closing the book on the abysmal trade they made with the White Sox to which they lost star slugger Eloy Jiminez.
They also lost second basemen Daniel Descalso and second baseman Jason Kipnis to free agency, opening the door for prospect Nico Hoerner to take over the everyday second base job.
As the Cubs’ rotation stands now, it doesn’t look good. The ace of the staff, Kyle Hendricks, will get the Opening Day start, and he is a plus pitcher, but probably not an actual ace.
After Hendricks, however, it goes downhill fast. Arrieta, Zach Davies, Trevor Williams, and Adbert Alzolay will fill out the five-person rotation.
This starting rotation is not good enough to compete daily in most divisions, but in the National Central might be enough.
Their bullpen lacks top talent, and closer Craig Kimbrel is a bit of an enigma and a shell of his former self.
This where the Cubs “should” be good. The names on paper in this offense should be one of the strongest in the National League, let alone the National League Central.
With the addition of Pederson to names like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, and Ian Happ, this offense is loaded.
The problem is Bryant and Baez have not been themselves in a while now. Their 2020 seasons were awful, and so far, they’ve followed that up with a terrible Spring Training.
3 Key Players
Kris Bryant 3B
The Cubs need the former MVP, Bryant, back. He has been a disappointment since the end of the 2018 season, and he cites a lack of “fun” in playing as possibly a reason for his recent downturn in production.
Jake Arrieta SP
Arrieta will need to stay healthy and be a solid rotation anchor if they want to contend in the Central and not rush any young pitchers to the Major Leagues too soon.
Craig Kimbrel RP
Much like Arrieta, the Cubs need Kimbrel to stabilize a questionable bullpen heading into 2021. If he can be the Kimbrel, he was in Atlanta and Boston and provided the Cubs with some back-end security, that will go a long way in determining whether the Cubs can get back to the postseason.
The shortened season is behind us.The Cubs go back to playing 162 games, with roughly half of those coming against their NL Central Divison foes.
The Cubs will also play interleague matchups against the American League Central division, including their crosstown rival, the Chicago White Sox.
BetUS has the Cubs at -78 1/2 wins. If the offense can get going and be the force it should be, they can blow past this team total and get into the 80s. If you are new to sports betting, please check out our MLB betting hub page to get started.
NL Central Division Odds
BetUS has the Cubs with the fourth-best odds to win the National League Central Division at +450. These seem like really good odds for a team that just won the division with virtually the same team they have now, minus Yu Darvish.
World Series Odds
The Cubs have the 15th-best odds to win the 2021 World Series at +3800. Probably not a great bet as they do not have the starting pitching to win a World Series, but worthy of a dart throw in case something crazy happens.