Were the 2016 (or even 2015) Chicago Cubs the beginning of a dynasty?
We’ve seen the question posed multiple times over the past few weeks, but it’s rightfully difficult to answer (or it should be, anyway).
People tend to shy away from the dynasty tag, I believe, for fear that the word is being thrown around too lightly.
If a team is poised to become a dynasty (or has already been identified as one), they need not only be a good and winning franchise, they need to be historic and unique over a long period of time. Given the structure of baseball, that probably means that you need to have multiple good, young players syncing up all at once.
Fortunately for the Cubs, that might just be the case.
At the Athletic, Rob Arthur notes that the 2016 Chicago Cubs posted the fourth most collective team WAR since 1988. The only teams above them, he writes, were the 1997-1998 Atlanta Braves and the 2001 Seattle Mariners – if you know your baseball history, you know that’s exceptionally good company.
But, as Arthur also points out, the Cubs weren’t just good … they were young – really young – especially considering how good they were:
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticChi) November 26, 2016
The 2016 Chicago Cubs were essentially an outlier – the kind of performance so far beyond the norm it can almost be thrown out of the sample. The Cubs were outliers because of how equally good and young they were throughout the 2016 season. Of the top four teams, only the 1997 Braves were both younger and better. The Cubs were younger than the 2001 Mariners, and both younger and better than the 2002 New York Yankees.
That is just such a powerful chart, it’s almost unbelievable. Some of the more recently identified “dynasties” include the Atlanta Braves in 1990s, the Yankees in the late-1990s/early 2000s, and the Giants in the first half of the 2010s.
Fortunately for the Cubs, they may be on a similar path. Unlike the Mariners or Yankees teams from 2001-2002, the Cubs’ average age in 2016 was on the right side of 30 years old. And, as it tends to be with younger players, the Cubs have most of their core under control for a very long time (through the 2021 season).
Check out the free agent eligibility of some of Chicago’s young, core players, together with how much WAR they contributed in 2016:
- Kyle Hendricks: 2021 (4.5)
- Jorge Soler: 2021 (0.7)
- Anthony Rizzo: 2022 (5.2)
- Kris Bryant: 2022 (8.4)
- Addison Russell: 2022 (3.9)
- Kyle Schwarber: 2022 (-0.1)
- Javy Baez: 2022 (2.7)
- Willson Contreras: 2023 (2.2)
That’s 27.5 total WAR from eight players under control through at least the next four full seasons (2017-2020), and Anthony Rizzo is the oldest at 27 years old. Or, put another way, those eight Cubs (which is really like 6.5 Cubs given the injuries to Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler), recored 55% of the team’s total WAR in 2016. That’s unbelievably promising.
Although Kyle Hendricks, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant have probably reached their peaks (which still could mean good things in 2017), there is undoubtedly room to grow for each of Soler, Russell, Schwarber, Baez, and Contreras. The Cubs, frankly, are loaded.
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