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It’s been a rollercoaster decade for fans of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubbies looked to be on the verge of a dynasty with a young, star-studded core following their dramatic Game 7 World Series win in 2016, but they never managed to make it back to the promised land as trades failed and stars got injured or didn’t live up to expectations.
The Cubs were forced to blow it up over the past two seasons, trading former faces of the franchise like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo while letting fellow stars and heartbeats of the team Javier Baez and Willson Contreras walk in free agency. The Cubs have been adamant that they’re retooling, not rebuilding, and expect to get back to winning soon.
While general manager Jed Hoyer has made some savvy moves this offseason to reignite the Cubs’ championship window, the FanDuel sportsbook doesn’t expect the moves to pay off this season: Chicago’s +8000 odds of winning the World Series place them solidly in the bottom half. Be sure to use one of FanDuel’s promo codes if you want to wager on the Cubs or any other sporting event this season.
The Cubs have been pretty awful for the past two seasons, going a combined 145-179 (in a dismal National League Central, no less). Being in a bad division isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. It’d be much easier for the Cubs to make a couple of moves and sneak into the playoffs as the winner of a bad division. Once the playoffs start, anything can happen: look at the Phillies’ miracle run last season, where they defied the odds to come within two games of winning the World Series after few expected them to make it out of the Wild Card round.
They’ve made a couple of moves to improve the roster, but it’ll still be an uphill climb to make the playoffs for the first time since the COVID-altered 2020 season.
Hoyer shelled out nearly $300 million in free agency. Here’s a look at the moves he made and how they could impact the team moving forward.
Dansby Swanson – seven years, $177 million
The Cubs went out and got one of the top shortstops on the market in the form of a former first-overall pick and World Series champion. Swanson’s bat has improved with each season he’s been in the big leagues, and he’s an excellent defender as well, winning a Gold Glove last season. Paired with second baseman Nico Hoerner, the move gives the Cubs one of the best middle infields of any team in the majors, and they didn’t break the bank to bring him in.
Cody Bellinger – one year, $12.5 million with a club option/buyout for 2024
This is the kind of deal that could get the Cubs’ retool off the ground in a hurry and won’t sink the team’s chances moving forward if it doesn’t pan out. The 2019 NL MVP, Bellinger’s bat hasn’t been the same since he dislocated his shoulder in Game 7 of the 2020 NLCS with the Dodgers and suffered a fractured leg early in 2021. Bellinger’s been working hard to fix his mechanics, and if he’s able to resurrect his career on the shores of Lake Michigan, a 27-year-old MVP-caliber player could put the Cubs in the division race the next two seasons, especially within hitter-friendly Wrigley Field. The speedy outfielder won a Gold Glove in right field during his MVP season, although the Dodgers may have asked him to do too much, moving him to center after that campaign: his dWAR lagged in each of the next three seasons.
Jameson Taillon – four years, $68 million
The pitching equivalent of the Bellinger deal but with a lot more risk involved. The former second-overall pick has shown flashes of greatness during six years of service time, but he’s never been able to put it together for long, with injuries frequently hampering his performance. He’s had Tommy John surgery twice and is entering his age 31 season, and it’s been a long time since his 3.20 ERA 2018 season was the best of his career. $17 million AAV is about the going rate for a middle-of-the-order arm, but four years is a lengthy commitment to an aging starter who struggled to stay on the field in his prime.
Those are the headliners: among other moves, the Cubs also retained pitcher Drew Smyly after a strong 2022 campaign and brought in veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart. Barnhart’s never been a world-beater with his bat, but he’s excellent defensively and calls a great game. The Cubs clearly want to prioritize defense behind the plate, letting the slugging Contreras walk in favor of Barnhart and Yan Gomes.