In the words of poet laureate Shawn Carter known to most as Jay-Z..."men lie...women lie...numbers don't". I don't necessarily deem the last 1/3 of that aphorism to be true but I'm also not a neighborhood hustler turned billionaire either so there's that! In the case of the Chicago Cubs, I'll let you decide if the numbers lie. As of today the Cubs are 34-54 in fourth place in the N.L. Central, 14.5 games behind the first place Milwaukee Brewers. They're in the top half of Major League Baseball in OPS (14th at .716) OBP (10th at .320) SLG (15th at .396) AVG (13th at .245) TB (13th at 1,184) & SB (4th at 59). There is some needed pop in the lineup as they're 19th in HR with 88. Manager David Ross has talked about the teams lack of talent on numerous occasions and admitted that he's had to be more creative this year than in past seasons. "You see us playing matchups a lot, pinch hitting a lot. We've run more this year than probably I've ever run because we're gonna have to create some things. We don't hit as many homers as we did when we had KB, Rizzo, Javy & those guys,". After their 7-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles (the O's 10th W in a row & the Cubs 6th straight L) and me looking at the current roster, I decided to throw my Jed Hoyer cap on. Baseball is won up the middle. In a Utopian world, resigning three-time All-Star #ILLWILL Willson Contreras is a no brainer. The growth, the leadership and the passion is what has drawn fans closest to the longest tenured Cub. With the addition of the DH, it's allowed Contreras some much needed time off of his 30 year old knees and will probably add 3-4 more years to his career. It would've been nice to see the debut of top prospect Miguel Amaya but Tommy John had a different plan. Nico Hoerner is hitting .385 with 13 runs, six doubles, two homers, nine RBI and a .978 OPS in his last 20 games. He's struck out once in every 9.21 plate appearances this season which is the second-best mark among N.L. hitters with at least 250 plate appearances. He's also proving the haters wrong as he's been better than advertised at shortstop and is looking like a mainstay. He 100% fits the mold of the type of player Hoyer wants to build with. Christopher Morel burst on the scene with a Cubs record 22 game on base streak to start his career. His enthusiasm and respect for the game is refreshing to see on a daily basis. His infield/outfield versatility has allowed David Ross to mix and match his lineups. I think he's a better fit as an everyday second baseman especially with the ability to turn the double play most guys at the 4 spot can't.
There's also a hell of a shortstop free agent crop for 2023 including Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson. Moving Hoerner to second base and leaving Morel in the outfield doesn't sound like the worst idea either. Are the Cubs ready to break that type of bread? If so, it'd probably be in the range of Swanson or Bogaerts.
Obviously Brennen Davis is on the mend right now (back surgery) but when he returns and if he pans out the way Cubs brass expects, the 2018 second round pick will be a bleacher bum favorite in center field. (There's also Pete Crow-Armstrong playing in next weeks MLB All-Star Futures Game & Nelson Velazquez getting a taste of everyday big league life) Ian Happ has been steady in left field and he's proving that he can be a big league switch hitter. His first All-Star nod is well deserved as he's been one of the most productive outfielders in the National League. #Happer "would love nothing more than to be a Cub for life." With one year of arbitration eligibility left after this season, it's extension time. The $85 million dollar man Seiya Suzuki has shown flashes of who/what he can be with some MLB seasoning. He'll continue to make the adjustments at the dish as the scouting reports grow. He's a plus defender in right field and will only prosper playing at Wrigley 81 times per year. #PWizzy Patrick Wisdom has some serious pop in his bat. He's a fastball killer and the word is out. The more he cuts down on the strikeouts and draws more walks, he's perfect in the 6th spot in a lineup ready to compete. He's been better than average at the hot corner but would be best served at first base. P.J. Higgins has done a fantastic job of staying ready and coming up big when his number is called. His flexibility to play behind the plate and both corners of the infield lend him an edge. Find a big bat in free agency at third base along with another veteran utility guy (preferably a switch hitter) and this could be an offensive lineup ready to compete for the division title sooner than later. Homegrown pitching has been a thorn in the Cubs side but with the ascension of Justin Steele (3-5/4.13 ERA) and Keegan Thompson (7-3/3.39 ERA) it looks like the tide could be turning. They've taken step one in the process and that's learning and preparing to take the bump every five days. Now comes taking the bumps and bruises that go along with it. Fighting when you don't have your best stuff, battling when the mechanics are off and overcoming the mental hurdles. Adbert Alzolay is another homegrown talent that looked like starter potential but he's been out since spring training due to a significant lat injury with no timetable for his return. Kyle Hendricks has been one of the most consistent and reliable pitchers in baseball over the last 5 years, He's a unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2024 season and he'll be 35 years old. If Marcus Stroman returns to form like the guy we saw for the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets, and Hoyer lands a free agent arm or two (Nathan Eovaldi, Clayton Kershaw, Joe Musgrove, Chris Bassitt are names that come to mind) with some backend bullpen help, that's a formidable pitching staff. Codi Heuer is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and the Cubs have high hopes for him. Scott Effross is more homegrown talent and has been David Ross's go to guy out of the pen when he needs out of an inning.
Maybe I'm tweaking but I know one thing! Men lie...women lie...and numbers do too. I will also take my eye test over any analytic measure. We've seen this team look like they're a couple of pieces away from competing for a division title and I'll leave it there.
Cubs fans deserve to be treated like a first class/third largest market support system. The only way to do that is to sustain success as shown by the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and the L.A. Dodgers and not return to that loveable loser phase.