Instant reaction will leave the Chicago Cubs disappointed with their season. A 4-0 sweep at the hands of the Mets isn’t what they exactly drew up after beating the St. Louis Cardinals in four games in the NLDS. The truth of the matter is that the Cubs reached their ceiling in 2015. They weren’t built for the World Series and were beat by the better team.
Of course every team says in spring training that their goal is to win the World Series. Not everyone actually means it. Really, the Cubs weren’t built for the NLCS either, but they developed into a team that could make it there.
The Cubs were better than the Pittsburgh Pirates at the time of that game. They were better than the St. Louis Cardinals at the time of that series. They weren’t better than the New York Mets.
A World Series team isn’t built upon four rookies playing significant roles. Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber are all 23 or younger. A World Series team can’t win with only two pitchers, at least not when your bullpen options are Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard and Fernando Rodney. A World Series team can’t win when they don’t play well when the other team plays great.
Meanwhile, the Mets combination of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz was better than Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta. Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy were too much; they would’ve been too much for anyone. They took every extra base and fielded every ball, which is something the Cubs can learn from.
The Cubs didn’t play well. Fielding miscues, baserunning errors and poor at-bats were too frequent. But this wasn’t about choking or having a meltdown; it was about the Mets being the better team and the Cubs coming to the end of their line.
How do they extend that line next season?
Of course it’ll take some luck–every team needs that to get to a World Series. But as far as the things that the Cubs can control, it starts with adding pitchers. That’s starters and relievers.
The name you’ll hear the most is David Price, and it makes a lot of sense. He’ll command a lot of money, but the Cubs have money to spend. He’s a pitcher that figures to age well, a lot like Jon Lester. He has the connection with Joe Maddon. That has some value, but obviously isn’t the only factor.
A guy like Jordan Zimmermann doesn’t make sense after his velocity dropped this season, and he’s already had Tommy John surgery. You may hear his name randomly thrown out, however.
A trade for another mid-level starter might make sense. If the Cubs put together a rotation of Lester, Price and Jake Arrieta, it might not matter a ton who the other two are.
The Cubs will also need a centerfielder as Dexter Fowler is a free agent. Get ready for Jason Heyward rumors, although I wouldn’t buy into that either.
Other questions will include what the Cubs do with their infield, specifically Starlin Castro and Javier Baez. What do they do at catcher? Montero struggled through parts of the season, Schwarber hasn’t shown that he’s major-league ready behind the plate and Willson Contreras is hitting baseball thrown at him a long way in the minors and at the Arizona Fall League.
Whatever the Cubs end up doing, they have options, which is what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer built towards.
There’s plenty of time to talk about the offseason at another time. For now, it’s disappointment. If the Cubs lost to the Pirates or the Cardinals, there would’ve been reason for more disappointment. Sometime in the near future, however, the Cubs will be able to look at this season and use the experience–both good and bad–to build on next year.
This year, they raised that ceiling a little higher.