Let’s take a little break from Illini news and see what’s been going on with the World Champion Chicago Cubs. I still can’t quite believe they won it all last year. The shock of the election results coming right on the heels of the biggest Cubs win in more than a century dampened a bit of the enjoyment for me. But hey, the Cubs won the World Series, Donald Trump is the President-Elect, the polar ice caps are melting, maybe we are living in the End Times? If so, I’m glad I’ll at least go down knowing what a Cubs World Series victory feels like!
Assuming Armageddon holds off for another month, Cubs pitchers and catchers will report to Arizona on February 14th. It’s almost baseball season again! We can forget bigger worries and settle into the rhythm of daily baseball for 8 months. The Cubs roster has changed a bit since November, but most of the core group will return to defend their title. First: a look at guys who won’t be back.
Guys Who Will Not Return
|Free Agency||Trade||Team Declined Option||Player Declined Option||Retired|
|Trevor Cahill (RHP)||Jorge Soler (OF)||Jason Hammel (RHP)||Dexter Fowler (OF)||David Ross (C)|
|Aroldis Chapman (LHP)|
|Chris Coghlan (INF/OF)|
|Joe Smith (RHP)|
|Travis Wood (LHP)|
About half of these guys were role players with the Cubs last season. Trevor Cahill and Joe Smith were lightly used relief pitchers. Travis Wood is a bit of a fan favorite for his athleticism and versatility. He pitched pretty darn well out of the bullpen this year, appearing in 77 games and throwing 61 innings. He went 4-0 and had a 2.95 ERA. He also is known as a good hitting pitcher. In fact, in 280 career at bats – about half a season’s worth for a regular starter – Wood has 9 homeruns. That’s a homerun every 31.1 at bats, which would put him in 98th place on the 2016 list, right between two guys you may have heard of: Boston’s Xander Bogaerts and LA’s Adrian Gonzalez. Wood also plays a mean left field. His catch against the ivy in the pivotal game versus the Mariners on July 31st became an instant classic. There’s so much to love in that game; it would be worth watch on replay. The Cubs were down 6-0, tied it at 6 with three runs in the 9th, and won it in the 12th on a Jon Lester bunt. Amazing! Too bad Adam and my dad left in the 7th to pick me up at the airport. Seriously. That happened. We don’t talk about it. But because it turned into such a great game, we should watch the highlights again (or for the first time…):
This post has turned into a bit of a Travis Wood lovefest. What can I say? I’m a fan. He’s still unsigned and may yet return to the Cubs. He’s a great guy for a Joe Maddon team; I’ll be hoping we get to see more of him next season in Chicago.
Jason Hammel and Aroldis Chapman were significant pitchers for the Cubs. Hammel, the Cubs number four starter, got off to a hot start before struggling toward the end of the season. He still won 15 games and pitched 166.2 innings. Chapman was acquired in a trade with the Yankees on July 25. The Cubs gave up their top prospect, SS Gleyber Torres, for half a season of Chapman. Because we won it all, and that is, after all, the goal, it appears to have worked out for the Cubs, but Torres is tearing up the Yankees farm system and looks like a good player for years to come. The trade may be tough to swallow later on, but we’ll always have 2016, and Chapman was a big part of that.
On the position player side, the Cubs lost Chris Coghlan, Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler, and David Ross. Coghlan played pretty well off the bench for the Cubs after the team reacquired him from the Athletics. Fowler, of course, was a catalyst at the top of the lineup. He led the team in stolen bases and played a solid center field (it doesn’t hurt to have perennial gold-glover Jason Heyward next to you in right). His decision to seek a longer term contract after the season was totally understandable. It’s just too bad it came from the Cardinals. Fowler’s absence will lead to a new look for the Cubs next season. There’s talk of having Schwarber lead off. That would be a break from the traditional slap-hitting, speedy leadoff man, but these Cubs are all about trying new things. Could be fun!
Soler was traded to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for closer Wade Davis. More on Davis in a later post. Soler showed potential with the bat when healthy, but he struggled to stay healthy. He’s also not a great defender in left, but if he can stay on the field and maximize his offensive talent, Soler could be a really good, young player for the Royals. The Cubs have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to young position players, and some of these guys are going to have to find playing time elsewhere.
David Ross. What more is there to say about a guy who appeared to be the heart and soul of the Cubs? He is the example of what mentorship should look like. And he actually had a pretty good season on the field, too! The Cubs will miss him, but what a way to end a career:
But wait! We may not have seen the last of Ross just yet. Rumor is he’s considering joining the Cubs front office in some capacity. Ross has expressed an interest in the administrative side of the game, and the Cubs have been clear in their desire to keep him in the fold. We’ll see what he decides to do.
Well, that’s probably plenty on the 2016 Cubs you won’t see in the blue pinstripes next season. Cross your fingers I can take Travis Wood off this list before opening day!
Marquee photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images via Sbnation. http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2016/11/3/13506800/cubs-world-series-champions-results
Ross photo: Getty Images via Yahoo Sports. http://l3.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/pbtxVs0fk8zHn.rAr7dxYw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjtzbT0xO3c9NzQ0O2g9NDk2/http://media.zenfs.com/en/homerun/feed_manager_auto_publish_494/0a1f94f8c655c65f8b1a01f8db7c22b1