Yes, the Cubs Project to Be Pretty Competitive If They "Just Run It Back" This Offseason

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Yes, the Cubs Project to Be Pretty Competitive If They “Just Run It Back” This Offseason

Chicago Cubs

Having already dumped out my initial thoughts on the direction for the Cubs this offseason – in short, I think threading the needle between building for the future while also staying upper-tier competitive in 2021 is obviously the most desirable, but it’s probably not realistic – I want to touch on something Mike Petriello put out at MLB.com this week.

The gist was to put together current team rosters with their WAR projections for 2021, thus seeing where the obvious holes might be, and also seeing how the teams stack up relative to each other.

In so doing, you are reminded why the allure of just “running it back on more time” is going to be strong for the Cubs. The group under control through 2021 remains very talented, for all their offensive foibles, and could very easily be competitive without many changes:

(via MLB.com)

You can see that the Cubs don’t currently project as one of the top tier teams, but they are clearly competitive, right there tied with the Braves at the middle mark of the league. With a likely 14 playoff teams in 2021, that’s a postseason run. They have the highest current projected WAR in the NL Central.

And that’s before any movement … which, well, could cut both ways, I suppose, but in a world where the Cubs are running it back, they’d be doing minor additions, not subtractions (doing so with the current roster and making minimal, buy-low additions *MAY* be financially feasible, given the contracts that came off the books organically). From a projections standpoint, the Cubs currently would need another starting pitcher or two, and a boost in the infield (likely at second base). Modest financial additions there – remember, the market is going to have some quality options available on the relative cheap – could boost the Cubs further into projected contention.

Let me reiterate that I don’t endorse this approach to the offseason. I look at the balance of the offense, and I remain concerned (like you) that they’ll underperform again in 2021. Moreover, running it back necessarily means you stand to fall off a talent cliff after 2021, something I’ve been dying for the Cubs to avoid for two years now (it’s not like any of this timing is catching them by surprise!).

I do not want the Cubs to just run back the roster as is, with only a couple minor additions.

I’m saying only that it is *more plausible* that they run it back than they find those unicorn trades that build for the future and also reshape the team in a very positive way for 2021. Hey, if you can pull it off, God bless, do it. But if you can’t, then you either need to just sell way more aggressively, or you run it back. That’s just reality.

So anyway, the point here is not to SUPPORT running it back, but only to point out that, well, yeah, the Cubs could probably be pretty competitive again in 2021 IF THEY DO run it back. That is logical on its face, of course, since this group did just win the NL Central despite getting absolutely nothing from so many key players.

We’ve got an offseason to play out and other teams in the Central might reshape considerably, but when you drill down on each of them, that seems unlikely. The Cardinals are already crying poverty and are getting very long in the tooth, the Brewers would seem to be pretty maxed out and likely wish they could trade Josh Hader, the Reds are losing Trevor Bauer and underwhelmed in 2020, and the Pirates are deep in the rebuild.

Thus, again, yeah, I’m saying this team could run it back and win the Central again. Of course they could. But let’s see how the offseason plays out.



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.