Whenever the front office talks about the Cubs current window of contention, you might hear them mention their perceived “seven-year window,” that opened up in 2015, which should take them through 2021.
That end point makes at least some logical sense, given how much of the Cubs’ core is eligible to hit free agency (including the front office) after 2021.
But until then … they should be really, really good, right?
Well, this week at ESPN, three baseball minds – Buster Olney, Dan Szymborski, and Keith Law – got together to reveal their “MLB Future Power Rankings,” which attempt to project the best teams over the next five years and the Cubs did pretty well … even if I have some questions.
Here’s a look at the top of the rankings (it’s ESPN Insider content, so for the full list, the individual scores out of 30, and the attendant write-ups, be sure to pop over and check it out):
- New York Yankees (28.6)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (27.9)
- Houston Astros (23.4)
- St. Louis Cardinals (22.4)
- Atlanta Braves (21.5)
- Chicago Cubs (20.2)
Now, despite financial support playing a role in these calculations/rankings, I don’t think anyone would say that the Yankees and Dodgers don’t deserve to be near/at the very top. Both teams flex significant financial might, sure, but they are each also loaded with young talent and solid farm systems. If we’re doing future power rankings, I have no problem with those two leading the way.
The Astors arguably rival each team in terms of young talent, but have financial limitations relative to the top two teams. Needless to say, I have absolutely no concerns with the way the top three have shaken out. But the Cardinals at number 4 – and in front of the Cubs – is odd, to say the least, and I don’t see any way around it.
While the Cardinals have a better crop of prospects than the Cubs, they don’t have a better system than the Braves, and don’t have as much financial might as Chicago. Moreover, the Cardinals are on the cusp of losing guys like Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina to age/ineffectiveness, and it’s not like Matt Carpenter, 32, is getting any younger.
Also, I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but Tommy Pham and Jose Martinez both had BY FAR their best seasons last year … at the age of 29. I’m not saying they’re due for a hard regression, but how many players break out that late in the game and sustain that level of production for five more seasons? Even their big offseason acquisition, Marcell Ozuna, had an unusually good season in 2017. He’s 27, but he’s also a free agent after 2019.
Law seems to be relatively high on prospects like Alex Reyes, but I’ll remind you that he’s basically the same age as guys like Ian Happ and Albert Almora. Just because those guys aren’t still considered “prospects” doesn’t mean the system, as a whole, should take a hit for it (in terms of five-year power rankings). That doesn’t really make any sense when they’re the same age and under control for almost as long.
And, again, they’re not the only ones …
On Opening Day 2018 …
Albert Almora will be 23 years, 11 months, & 13 days old
Ian Happ 23y, 7m, 17d
Addison Russell 24y, 2m, 6d
Kyle Schwarber 25y, 0m, 24d
Javy Baez will be 25y, 3m, 28d
Willson Contreras 25y, 10m, 16d
Kris Bryant 26 years, 2m, 25d
This team is plenty young.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) January 28, 2018
On Opening Day in five years, if the band stays together, the Cubs’ OLDEST member of that group will be a 31-year-old Kris Bryant … I just don’t see how, in any way shape or form, you can call the Cardinals’ overall organization better suited for success during the next five seasons. I don’t see it.
Indeed, the biggest projected “dilemma” for the Cubs is both Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward never taking any meaningful strides, which, sure, is a distinct possibility … and also exactly what happened in 2017 when the Cubs came three wins away from another World Series trip.
If you can’t tell, I’m worked up. Let’s bring this back down.
The one issue brought up by the group at ESPN that I can very much understand is that, eventually, this Cubs team is going to get very expensive. If the Cubs hope to extend some of their younger stars, while others continue to break out, the extensions, high-dollar arbitration deals, and lack of homegrown pitching could turn into something too pricey to sustain … but even that strikes me as something that might only become a problem in year 4 or 5 of this stretch.
And moreover, the Cubs’ rotation still boasts three arms under 30 (Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, and Tyler Chatwood), all of whom are under control for at least three more seasons, so, again … how are they somehow below the Cardinals? They shouldn’t be.
What do you think? Do you think the Cubs are in roughly the right spot? Where should the Cardinals rank? Why didn’t the Brewers (11th) make the top 10? Let’s hear it.