Those days will be filled with moves, or lack of same, and the Cubs team that takes the field next spring will look quite different from the one we last saw in St. Louis in September.
Here are five bold predictions for the Cubs for next year
1) Kris Bryant will be traded before Opening Day
I’ve written about this a couple of times already this offseason, most recently this past Monday. The Braves are the team I’ve focused on, but there might be other fits for KB, including the Mets and possibly even the Nationals, if Anthony Rendon doesn’t re-sign there (I suspect Rendon will, though). Also involved here is an arbitrator’s ruling, expected soon, on whether the Cubs violated the CBA by holding Bryant in the minor leagues for a few games in 2015 to give them an extra year of team control. If Bryant wins that grievance, he could be a free agent after 2020 instead of 2021. My feeling is the ruling will go in favor of the Cubs. No inside info, just a hunch.
At this time I’m not 100 percent sure who KB will be playing for in 2020. But it seems very likely it won’t be the Cubs.
2) Javier Baez will be given a five-year, $95 million contract extension
Baez made $5.2 million in 2019, his first arbitration-eligible season, and MLB Trade Rumors projects he’ll make $9.3 million in 2020.
Baez turns 27 next month. The next five years should be his peak seasons, and the Cubs should reward him and keep him around. At the end of those five years, he’ll be 32 and many of the skills that make him who he is might begin to erode a bit. He’d also have 11 years in a Cubs uniform at that point and be firmly cemented in team history.
3) Craig Kimbrel will rebound and be the reliever he was pre-2019
Kimbrel had the worst year of his career in 2019, and I believe it was at least partly due to not having a normal spring training, building up his arm strength and stamina, etc. He was signed June 7, did some workouts in Mesa, made four appearances for Triple-A Iowa and was in a big-league game for the Cubs 20 days later.
That’s not nearly enough preparation, and Kimbrel wound up with two separate stints on the injured list, one for knee inflammation and the other with elbow trouble.
With a full spring training regimen in 2020, Kimbrel should be able to get back to his previous level of performance.
4) Tyler Chatwood will become Kimbrel’s primary setup man and be a huge success
From August 4 through the end of the season, Chatwood made 14 appearances, 13 in relief. He posted a 2.84 ERA, 0.987 WHIP and opposing hitters hit just .178/.267/.233 against him. This is the sort of thing I had thought he could do when I saw him throw in relief in spring training. He can touch 98 miles per hour — and look at the nasty curveball here:
Tyler Chatwood, Filthy 3 Pitch K (all curveballs). pic.twitter.com/y6oBRVlfnd— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 30, 2019
5) The Cubs’ home opener will draw under 40,000 for the first time in almost 20 years *
Between high ticket prices (the home opener is a “Diamond” game, the top pricing tier), the uncertainty about next year’s team and the fact that the home opener is on March 30, perhaps subject to cold and/or wet weather, the Cubs will struggle to sell this game out.
The last time the Cubs sold fewer than 40,000 tickets for the Wrigley Field opener was April 2, 2001, when 38,466 paid to see them lose 5-4 to the Montreal Expos. That opener was coming off two straight 95-loss seasons, so the somewhat smaller Opening Day crowd was understandable.
* The asterisk is because the home (and season) opener April 5, 2015 had a paid attendance of just 35,055. Obviously that’s under 40,000, but the reason for the low attendance that night was the Wrigley renovations. The reconstructed bleachers, which would eventually open in May with a capacity of about 5,500, were not open for Opening Day 2015. If they had been, the game would have almost certainly had 40,000 tickets sold.
Got some bold Cubs predictions of your own? Post them in the comments.
Which of these bold predictions is most likely to happen?
This poll is closed
Kris Bryant is traded before Opening Day
Javier Baez will be signed to a long-term contract extension
Craig Kimbrel becomes a dominant reliever again
Tyler Chatwood becomes the Cubs’ top setup man
The Cubs sell fewer than 40,000 tickets to the home opener