After a dreary 2021, the Cubs need production from a new-look team. The success of these five players will be the most important this coming season:
Kyle Hendricks and Marcus Stroman, RHPs
Starting pitching was the Cubs’ biggest weakness last year, and that included Hendricks. He pitched well most of the first half, but after a series of deflating trades at the July 30 deadline, he had a hard time replicating the early success.
No one is concerned that Hendricks — always considered a consistent piece of the rotation — can’t be the ace again. But he can’t do it all by himself, so team president Jed Hoyer brought in Stroman, formerly of the Mets, to be Hendricks’ running mate. Stroman has a pitching style similar to Hendricks’, but the way he manipulates the ball gives him a different look.
The addition of veteran lefty Wade Miley also should lead to more wins for the rotation.
Willson Contreras, C
The Cubs lost tons of power in their lineup with their deadline trades but hung on to Contreras, who managed to finish with 28 homers in 129 games despite battling injuries that hampered him at the plate.
Adding backup catcher Yan Gomes this offseason should help Contreras to stay fresh, something both he and manager David Ross have said is important.
“Obviously, I want to play every single day,” Contreras said in October. “But I also understand that my body needs rest, because catching every single day — night and day games — is not easy.”
Contreras is a candidate for a contract extension, but it remains to be seen whether the Cubs are interested in opening talks.
Patrick Wisdom, 3B
Wisdom, a true power threat, was a bright spot in a season in which the Cubs lost 90-plus games for the first time since 2014. He hit 29 homers, breaking Kris Bryant’s 2015 record of 26 by a Cubs rookie, and showed he’s an excellent defender at third, ensuring he’ll stay in the lineup.
Now that opposing teams have had time to adjust to Wisdom, 30, he’ll have to show he can adjust right back. As currently assembled, the Cubs don’t have much power in their lineup, putting pressure on him to continue what he’s been doing.
Insert free-agent shortstop here
Carlos Correa, come on down!
OK, the two-time Astros All-Star may be a long shot at this point, but the Cubs could use one more big signing. Several marquee names are still on the free-agent market since the lockout began, and there’s a real opportunity to make a splash.
Shortstop has been an area of need for the Cubs since they traded Javy Baez to the Mets last summer, with Nico Hoerner considered a winning player who’s been difficult to get on the field because of injuries. Correa and Trevor Story, a two-time All-Star with the Rockies, are available. Even journeyman Freddy Galvis, who played with the Orioles and Phillies last season, would be an upgrade.