I'm usually on my college football shenanigans on Friday. Today, I'm talking about my real passion, baseball. The Chicago Cubs are my favorite team. They're turning into a dumpster fire right before my eyes. Why? A LOT of bad moves. I love Theo Epstein; he's a sure-fire Hall of Famer, but even he would agree that some of the moves he made were questionable. Tyler Chatwood for $13 million a year? That dude can barely hit the water standing from the dock. Daniel Descalso? Has he even played?? Craig Kimbrel? Terrible. I'm so grateful that Theo was able to break the curse, but this was supposed to be a dynasty, not a one-hit-wonder.
Theo stepped down a few weeks ago and the reigns have been given to his right-hand man Jed Hoyer. The Hoyer era has gotten off to a questionable start, in my opinion. He started off by not tendering a contract to power-hitting left fielder Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber is arguably the most popular player among the fan base and while he definitely has struggled over the past few years, I don't understand the move. The Albert Almora move was a good one. He's a terrific defensive player and is a great fourth or fifth outfielder, but it's clear that he needs a change of scenery.
In this piece, I'm going to be putting on my GM hat and going to try to put the Cubs in the best position to win down the line. I'm sorry Cubs fans; I'm a realist, so you're probably not going to like some of these moves. However, I'm an expert in the GM game. I've rebuilt so many teams in MLB: The Show, NBA 2K and Madden that I think I have a pretty good handle on this.
Rebuilding the Chicago Cubs
Re-sign Anthony Rizzo
This is an absolute no-brainer move. Rizzo should wear a Cubs uniform until the day he hangs up the cleats. He's been the face of the franchise pretty much since he arrived in Chicago back in 2012. Rizzo is still one of the best all-around first basemen in the game, too. His OPS is consistently in the high 800s-low 900s and plays terrific defense. Pay the man whatever he wants and make sure that he doesn't jump ship to the Miami Marlins.
Trade Yu Darvish at the 2021 Trade Deadline
Yu Darvish looks like he's finally figured everything out after his brutal start for the Cubs. He had a phenomenal 2020 campaign, one that saw him finish runner-up to Trevor Bauer in the N.L. Cy Young race. Darvish is definitely getting up there in age and has a very heavy contract, but interest should be high especially after the way he pitched last year. The Cubs should be able to at least acquire one high-level prospect and one or two medium-level prospects. The key to the Cubs' success going forward is to acquire as many assets as possible. To do that, you're going to have to trade your best players. Yu has been great, but he needs to be near the top of the trade list for Hoyer and co.
Eat the Jason Heyward Contract
Jason Heyward is one of the best leaders in baseball. Everyone remembers the rain delay speech during game seven of the 2016 World Series. Say what you want about it, but it really did mean a lot to his teammates, who ultimately won the game and the trophy. Heyward definitely isn't the player that he was with the Atlanta Braves or the St. Louis Cardinals, especially at that money. J-Hey is locked up until 2023, and I don't see a team wanting to add him at that price. Plus, the return wouldn't be good in the slightest. Still, I think Heyward could be a leader for the Cubs until his contract runs out. He should have no problem grooming the new era of Cubs baseball.
Move on from Willson Contreras
Willson Contreras has been outstanding in a Cubs uniform. The fire and passion that he plays with are unmatched. He's one of the hardest-working players I've ever seen. Unfortunately, he's one of the only current Cubs players that could hold any sort of value. Like I said above for Darvish, you're going to need to trade some of your best players and Contreras happens to be that. As one of the best catchers in baseball, Willy should have a ton of value for teams and could bring back a similar package to what Darvish can get you. Losing Contreras certainly will be tough, but the Cubs have Miguel Amaya, one of their top prospects, waiting in the wings. Furthermore, Victor Caratini is more than capable of being the starting catcher.
Bye-Bye Bryant and Baez
This one hurts, too. All of these potential trades hurt. However, they need to be done to get the Cubs back into rebuild mode. Both Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are scheduled to be free agents in 2021. They're incredibly talented players and will command a lot of money on the open market. While both have said they hope to be Chicago Cubs for the remainder of their careers, that just isn't likely at this point. I expect Baez to remain with the Cubs through the entire season, but I wouldn't be surprised if Bryant is traded soon. He still has a good amount of value and should be able to bring a nice haul back to the North Side. The Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies have remained the most likely suitors for Bryant. It will be interesting to see where he ends up, or if he even gets traded.
Build around Ian Happ
I never expected to be typing out this sentence in 2020, but that's 2020 for you. The Cubs NEED to build around Ian Happ. Happ was their best player last year. Not only was he the main source of offense in the regular season, he literally was the only source of offense in the postseason. While Happ's defense is still a work in progress, he's able to play multiple positions in the infield and outfield, which is extremely valuable nowadays. Pencil him in as the Cubs #2 hitter for the next several years and watch him work.
DRAFT YOUNG STARTING PITCHING!!!!!
To me, it's the most important one, so I made sure to put it in all caps and add a few exclamation points. This is where Theo went wrong. He continued to draft college hitter after college hitter. It ended up working out for them. However, it was at a cost, as it put their pitching depth in a horrific spot. The pitcher's they've drafted over the last few years have been college relievers. While relievers are definitely important, they need starting pitching. Year after year in the draft, there's a ton of starters at both the high school levels and college levels. We even saw Garret Crochet, a 2020 first-round pick, pitch effectively this season for the crosstown rival Chicago White Sox. If I had one piece of advice for Jed Hoyer, this would be it.
Cubs fans, brace yourselves: it's going to be a difficult few years. However, as the great Dom Frederic would say, "I'M NOT LEAVING." Rebuilds happen. Rough patches happen. Heck, the Cubs were in a rough patch for 108 years before they won in 2016. Stay the course, ride the wave and trust the process.