Last year, after the Cubs sold off the players who led them to the 2016 World Series title, I did a weekly update on their performances.
Since many Cubs fans still follow these players and enjoy watching them play, I thought I’d update you again on how they’re doing. I’m not going to do this every week, but as the current Cubs have an off day Thursday, I thought this would be a good time to look at Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber. Of course, Schwarber wasn’t traded, he was non-tendered before the 2021 season and that, I believe, was a major mistake by Jed Hoyer. At least the Cubs received good prospect value for the other three.
Of these four players, three of them are with different teams than the ones they finished 2021 with. Let’s have a look at how they’re doing.
Javy spent time on the 10-day injured list earlier this season with what was termed “right thumb soreness.” He played just five games before that happened and was hitting .316/.350/.526 (6-for-19) with a home run.
Since his return, he’s batting just .197/.243/.303 (13-for-66) in 16 games, with 18 strikeouts. He has no stolen bases — and no SB attempts — this year.
Bryant was hitting .281/.338/.351 (16-for-57) with no home runs in 15 games when he went on the injured list April 29 with back soreness. There hasn’t been a published update on this injury since May 1, when he said:
“I guess, in the past, I’ve been in situations where you say you are coming off on this day, and then it doesn’t happen and it creates more of a story than you want it to be,” he said. “I guess I’m hesitant to put (a timeline) on it. I’m just working day-to-day, but I’m optimistic (I’ll be) ready when I can be.”
Bryant turned 30 in January. The Rockies have him for six more years after 2022.
Rizzo started this year on fire. After his three-homer game April 26 against the Orioles (the first three-homer game of his career), he was batting .283/.411/.733 (17-for-60) with eight home runs in 17 games.
Since then? .159/.260/.273 (7-for-44) with one home run in 12 games.
Now how many times did we see that in Rizzo’s decade as a Cub? A hot hitter for a few weeks, then ice-cold.
About that three-homer game:
Anthony Rizzo has hit 3 HR tonight with an avg dist of 350 feet— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 27, 2022
That's the shortest avg HR distance in a 3+ HR game tracked by Statcast (since 2015)
Rizzo’s three home runs went 346 (3rd inning), 378 (5th inning) and 327 feet (8th inning). While the middle blast easily reached the seats, the first and third were classic Yankee Stadium homers. The first longball had an expected batting average of .180, while the final one, which just stayed fair as it got over the short right field porch, had an xBA of just .010.
I’m not sure any of those homers would have been out of Wrigley Field, and for sure at least one of them would not:
Rizzo appears to have landed in the perfect spot for him. That uppercut swing seems just made for the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium. Rizzo’s current OPS is .887, a bit above his career mark of .851. He might set a career high for homers this year, though.
Schwarber was given the leadoff spot for the Phillies on Opening Day and he began Philadelphia’s season with a home run [VIDEO].
Schwarber has hit six more home runs — including a two-homer game against the Mets May 1 — but since going 2-for-4 on Opening Day he’s hitting .180/.281/.400 (18-for-100) with 36 strikeouts.
It didn’t help him when Angel Hernandez made this horrendous strike three call against him April 24 [VIDEO].
Overall, these players are performing at or below their best Cubs levels. I’m glad for them that they got paid but I don’t think I would have spent the money on them, except, perhaps, for Rizzo. Cubs first base defense has been lacking this year and Rizzo’s leadership did mean something.
Also remember the total return for the three who were traded. The Cubs now have in their system as a result of these deals Caleb Kilian, Pete Crow-Armstrong, Alexander Canario, Kevin Alcántara and Alexander Vizcaino (though Vizcaino is currently on the restricted list). Of those, Kilian could make a MLB impact this year and the consensus seems to be that PCA is a future star. Canario and Alcántara could also be useful MLB players.
And those four players will forever be Cubs World Series champions. There’s a good article by Jayson Stark in The Athletic in which he talked to these four about the Cubs and what life is like for them now. Worth your time.
From time to time this year — not every week like last year — I’ll post further updates on these four popular former Cubs.