Final Grade – A
It’s really hard to reflect on the Cubs’ 2015/16 offseason and truly pinpoint any moment where Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer went wrong. Not only did they fill the holes of the roster with some of the best talent the market had to offer, but they often got away with doing so by offering less.
There’s no doubt that Jason Heyward’s opt-outs could value his contract at roughly $200 million, but considering what the Cubs are hoping to do with the core intact for at least the next four years, those opt-outs aren’t the worst contract provisions in the world. Zobrist and Lackey are the x-factors the Cubs simply didn’t have in 2015 that could have very well changed the outcome of the NL Central and perhaps the NLCS.
Not to be overlooked in the Cubs’ offseason success is how they continue to walk all over the rival St. Louis Cardinals. Winning the 2015 NLDS over them wasn’t enough; Theo and Jed know they need to continue reminding the Cardinal brass that they’re done being “little brother.” So the Cubs added by filling holes with pieces the Cardinals valued in Lackey and Heyward. They didn’t let them get a sniff of Ben Zobrist. It helps the Cubs by simultaneously hurting their greatest rival.
It’s brilliant, and nobody does it better than a team led by Theo Epstein, who did this once before in Boston when he overthrew the Yankees as the kings of the American League.
The Cubs got stronger even after winning 97 games one season ago. The Cardinals and Pirates have arguably gotten weaker. And while the Dodgers, Giants and D’Backs all look improved as contenders entering 2016, the Cubs appear, on paper at least, to be the team to beat in the National League. Even if the injury bug hits the Cubs, their depth on the bench should help them through it just fine.
This writer doesn’t believe in “perfect” scores; if the Cubs had an A+ offseason, they’d already have the World Series trophy in their hands. And obviously, that’s not how this game works.
But considering what the Cubs already had to work with – Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber, Soler, Russell, Lester, Arrieta, Rondon, Hendricks, Hammel – and bringing Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey and Adam Warren to that fold, the Cubs are in the best position to win a World Series they have been in what feels like an eternity.