By Lauren Grimaldi
After failing to reach the World Series, the Chicago Cubs have already made a number of changes. Following their loss to the Dodgers in the NLCS, pitching coach Chris Bosio was fired from his position after five years with the team. Hitting coach John Mallee and third base coach Gary Jones will also not be returning in 2018.
The North Siders were certainly able to make upgrades in these positions. Mallee was replaced by Chili Davis who formerly coached in the same position for the Boston Red Sox. He’s known for a laid back approach to helping hitters find their groove. He was able to help Boston’s young hitters improve and adjust to the majors. His laid back approach will certainly gel well with manager Joe Maddon’s style. But the coaching staff can only do so much. If the Cubs wish to return to the Fall Classic, the responsibility lies within the players to do so.
The Cubs will likely lose both Jake Arrieta and John Lackey this offseason. The two pitchers were key components of the pitching rotation in recent years.
Though he is deteriorating, Jake Arrieta brought invaluable assets to the Cubs. The 2015 Cy Young winner posted the best numbers of his career with Chicago. Fans will remember that season as a historically great. He posted a 0.75 ERA in the second half which still stands as the best post All Star break figure in the history of baseball. Arrieta became one of the game’s best in 2014 at a time when being a Cubs fan was dismal. The dark days of baseball at Wrigley were brightened by his transformation into one of the game’s best pitchers. Their turnaround just a year later was certainly not solely because of Arrieta, but his performance will never be forgotten. His numbers have dipped since, but there is no question that he will be missed. He’s likely to sign a fairly significant contract this winter and it is well deserved. It is within the Cubs best interest to let him go and invest in a new, fresh arm, but this departure will sting for Cubs fans given how much Arrieta was able to impact the franchise.
The Cubs will also need to see improvement from their best hitters in 2018 as well. Though they’ve already won the World Series, the team is still made up of very young and talented but ultimately unreliable hitters. Ben Zobrist has a stellar 2016, but his latest season was plagued with injuries and missed opportunities. The veteran infielder knows he needs to step up and should be able to make the necessary adjustments to do so. His experience will help him get away from these struggles, but the same cannot be said for the younger players on the team.
Javier Baez is stellar on defense. His performance this season in that area built up his already impressive highlight reel. But his offense is sputtering at best. He can either be phenomenal or downright awful. Most of his at bats this postseason were hard to stomach. While he kept the team from getting swept in the NLCS by hitting two home runs in Game 4, his spot in the lineup is always more of a liability than it is an asset.
Though Kyle Schwarber improved following his return from Triple-A Iowa, he too remains a question mark in the Cubs lineup. It’s no secret that he’s more suited to be a designated hitter, but parting ways with Schwarber would be a major move for the team. His monstrous home run against St. Louis in the 2015 playoffs has forever etched his name into Cubs history. But he has yet to fully play to the level that he should be at. If he has another poor start, the Cubs could look to trade him.
The core of the team will still be intact in 2018. But changes need to be made if glory is to be restored on the North Side.