Three of those players — Rizzo, Baez and Bryant — will be free agents after 2021 and perhaps not with the team in 2022 and beyond.
That got me to thinking: In general, how many players remain with a team five years after they win a World Series?
Here’s the answer to that question, at least for the 15 years before 2016 — obviously, since then, five years haven’t elapsed yet. I looked at all the World Series winning team rosters from 2001-15 to see how many remained five years later. Note: I used the lists of players who played in each World Series as shown on baseball-reference. It is possible that there might be a few players who were on WS rosters but didn’t play, though there likely weren’t many of them.
Remaining in 2006: Craig Counsell*, Luis Gonzalez, Miguel Batista
The D-backs hit rock bottom just three years after winning the World Series, going 51-111 in 2004. They would win the NL West the following year, 2007. The asterisk next to Counsell’s name is because he left the D-backs for a year (2004), then returned.
Remaining in 2007: Garret Anderson, Chone Figgins, Jose Molina, Francisco Rodriguez
Remaining in 2008: No one. A curiosity: Luis Gonzalez, who was a Diamondback five years after they won the World Series, played for the 2008 Marlins.
Red Sox, 2004
Remaining in 2009: David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield
White Sox, 2005
Remaining in 2010: A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, Mark Buehrle, Bobby Jenks, Freddy Garcia*
* Garcia left the White Sox after 2006 and returned in 2009.
Remaining in 2011: Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter
Ten years later, Wainwright’s still on the Cardinals, and Molina still might return.
Red Sox, 2007
Remaining in 2012: David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis
Remaining in 2013: Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels
The Phillies tried to keep the band together a little too long. That ‘13 team lost 89 games and the Phillies haven’t had a winning record since 2011.
Remaining in 2014: Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, David Robertson
Alex Rodriguez would have been on the ‘14 Yankees, but that was the year he served his 162-game suspension for PED use.
Remaining in 2015: Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla
This was the first of the three Giants champions in the 2010s. By 2015 they were still contenders, but had won the last of those three titles.
Remaining in 2016: Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright
The Cardinals were in transition in 2016 — after losing the division series to the Cubs in 2015, they didn’t make the playoffs again until 2019.
Remaining in 2017: Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, George Kontos
Now you begin to see what happens when a team holds on to its core too long. The Giants did manage one more title in 2014, but after they lost the division series to the Cubs in 2016, they have not made the postseason since.
Red Sox, 2013
Remaining in 2018: Dustin Pedroia
That’s it, and Pedroia played in only three games for Boston in 2018. The team completely re-tooled after winning in ‘13, losing 91 games in 2014 and 84 in 2015 before returning to postseason play in 2016.
Remaining in 2019: Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval*, Madison Bumgarner
* Sandoval, of course, left the Giants right after this WS title and signed with the Red Sox. He played so poorly in Boston that they released him with three years left on his contract, upon which he returned to the Giants.
Remaining in 2020: Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, Danny Duffy
The Royals’ WS win was almost a “last gasp” of a core that also included Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Greg Holland was also on the 2015 and 2020 Royals (left and returned), but did not pitch in the 2015 postseason.
The average over the 15 seasons is four. The most any team retained five years later was eight, by the Giants in both 2010 and 2012; the fewest, none by the 2003 Marlins.
So the six players remaining on the 2021 Cubs from the 2016 World Series champions is somewhere in the middle of the pack, a bit above average. It’s been said that Theo Epstein was somewhat more enamored of keeping the band together than perhaps he should have been. Three members of that 2016 title team left the Cubs this winter — Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr.
The bottom line is that teams must adapt and change over time. As fans we all love the 2016 World Series champs, but there’s no way they could stay together forever, nor should the team have kept them together forever. The Giants kept more of their core together than most of these other teams — but they got three titles out of that. The Cubs have just the one, unless they can somehow pull one off in 2021.
By next year at this time it’s possible that just three Cubs will remain from that 2016 World Series winner, or maybe fewer if Jed Hoyer wants to make deals. It’s just the nature of baseball — nothing is forever.