The lunch time sports radio is all about Cub disappointment.
And a storm cloud on the horizon future is the metaphor for the future.
Here's the preliminary Cubs autopsy:
LEFT FIELD: Is Schwarber's .236 BA, 25 HR, 61 RBI, 1.5 WAR
enough to keep a full time job in 2019? Probably not
if Bryant is going to move to LF to protect his lame shoulder.
Which leads to a bigger question: will Bryant fully recover
from his injuries or is he going to stay a singles hitter?
CENTER FIELD: Will Almora be given the full time job
or will Maddon continue to use Happ as his primary guy?
Almora .286 BA is good but lacks power (5 HR). His overall
1.7 WAR is surprisingly low for a defensive specialist
which equates to be a bench guy. But Happ is not the
answer either: .235 BA, 15 HR 44 RBI 0.5 WAR.
RIGHT FIELD: Heyward has the big money contract so
the management forces him to start. .270 BA, 8 HR, 57 RBI, 1.6 WAR
is not a power corner outfielder. Zobrist's come back year of
.305 BA, 9 HR, 58 RBI, 3.3 WAR took time late in the season
away from Heyward. But Zo is turning 39 and his defensive range
is becoming a real issue.
In essence, the Cubs ran their outfield last season with 6
bench players sharing time instead of getting solid, proven
starters like the Brewers did with Yelich and Cain. There is
strong argument to be made that none of them have won
a starting job for next season, but there is no one in the
minors who will push for a starting role.
THIRD BASE: by default this is Bryant's spot, but
you have to be skeptical with his injuries. Bote was the
surprise call up, but his magic turns to myth when you look
at his final stats: .239 BA, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 1.0 WAR. Again,
Bote looks like a defensive replacement/bench player.
SHORTSTOP: Management likes Russell, but his suspension
and lingering injuries have affected his ability to a two-way player.
.250 BA, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 2.0 WAR are bench player numbers.
SECOND BASE: Baez had a team MVP season.: .290 BA,
34 HR, 111 RBI, 6.3 WAR. He is the first real starter in this
FIRST BASE: the second is Rizzo. .283 BA, 25 HR, 101 RBI,
2.7 WAR are respectable stats, but it should be noted that
Rizzo's WAR has steadily decreased since its 6.3 peak in 2015.
CATCHER: Contreras fell off the Earth in the second half of the season.
He bolted on the seen as the next great NL catcher. But 2018 was
a struggle: .249 BA, 10 HR, 54 RBI.
The Cubs offensive woes are clearly visible when you look at the
main players final stats. Of the 8 position players, only 3 (if you
include Contreras) rate as major league starters.
A fist full of .235 hitting players platooning with other .235 hitting players
is not going to create a .300 hitting position player.
The Cubs have hit the business side's glass ceiling for payroll in 2018.
There is a question of whether the team has any room to sign a quality free agent
or exercise Hamels $20 million option. The glass ceiling is the luxury tax limit
which Ricketts abhors to pay. The current penalties for overspending two years
in a row handcuffs front offices from both amateur and international signings.
The Cubs midseason was on pace to spend $193 million with the luxury tax
threshold at $197 million. It will be close. Next year, the tax floor is raised
to $206 million. But a look at the commitments for 2019, no opening day
salaried player is coming off the books. Instead, there are a few options
to retain players but no big window to spend a great deal more to get a
$25 million player like Bryce Harper.
This would be bearable if the farm system was ready to churn out major
league rookie prospects like the Dodgers organization does on an annual basis.
The Cubs are stuck with their current roster for the foreseeable future.
MLBTR projects the Cubs will pay their arbitration eligible players a combined $40.1 million next season. That is an increase of approximately $21 million.
According to Sportac, the Cubs had the fourth-highest payroll in 2018 at $194,259,933. As we stated, the roster may not see a lot of turnover (the bullpen may be the exception), but just adding the increase in arbitration salaries shows the Cubs projected payroll of $215 million for 2019 will be over the luxury cap by $9 million. This projection does not include exercise of Hamels $20 million or Kintzler's $5 million options.