With the offseason only a few weeks away at the very most I have been thinking a lot this past week about two comments Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer made throughout last offseason. The general summary of both comments is that they were not rebuilding but instead “retooling” as he called it and putting together the next team of great Cubs.
Fast forward to July a few days before the trade deadline… many thought the Cubs were going to be sellers and kick the tires down the road and saying wait until next year. Then Jed over heard a players only meeting taking place in the clubhouse and decided to keep the most trade worthy guys Marcus Stroman and Codi Bellinger here in Chicago. This mean they were going to go out and be “soft” buyers as I explained in my articles around, and following, the trade deadline moves.
With that… let’s discuss this idea of win now versus win later. Right now it feels like this group of Cubs players is right where the 2014 or 2015 team was at this point of the season. It is hart to compare because I see parallels to the teams from both of those years. The best examples I can think of where this team compares to 2014 are the debuts of Javy Baez and Kyle Hendricks. Among other things in 2014 that are not as obvious parallels these two guys made it clear the Cubs were a couple years off from being true contenders.
These appear as parallels to me for two reasons: First, and foremost, while Dansby Swanson is not a rookie by any stretch of the imagination it is definitely his debut season with the Cubs and he will be here for six more seasons. Second, Hendricks came back on June 25th after missing the second half of last season due to a shoulder injury which removed him from trade conversations last season. Many may not remember but he was definitely being highly touted last season as the trade deadline got closer. Before he was placed on the Injured list with the shoulder injury there was even one rumor that had him and Willson Contrares being traded to the same unnamed team for a haul of major league ready players.
Now, let’s look at how this years team compares to the 2015 team. As of this post there are three weeks left in the 2023 season; while the Cubs will not win 97 games this year, like they did in 2015, they are in the playoff race holding second place in the Wild Card Race and the National League (NL) Central Division. Thank you to the new playoff structure with six teams making the playoffs instead of four it looks more likely by the day that the Cubs will play in the Wild Card round the only question is, “Will they be the NL Central Division Champions or one of the three Wild Card teams?” We will not know the answer to this question until the last weekend of the season when they play the Milwaukee Brewers.
For reasons I do not think any fans, including myself, are willing to admit the landscape of the game has caused Hoyer and the Ricketts ownership to constantly talk about winning later since 2016 when the Cubs surprised the entire world ending their 108 year championship draught. Here’s the thing folks: if the Cubs do not go all in sometime in the next three or, at most, four seasons they will lose the chance to win again with the amazing likes of the five homegrown pitchers I discussed in my article the other day.
This is the only type of “later” conversation that I am willing to have as a fan of any team because if the “later” does not become a “now” soon then I am one of those fans who would blame ownership before the front office, coaches, or players.
With that… let’s not forget that anything can happen once the playoffs start!
If you cannot play with them, root for them!