Chicago Cubs 2022 Season Previewby Andersen Pickard April 7, 2022 0 comments
2021 was an understandably emotional season for Chicago Cubs fans. Not only did the team miss the playoffs, but it also traded franchise stars Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Craig Kimbrel. However, the club wasted no time in replenishing its roster this past offseason. The Cubs aren’t World Series favorites by any means, but they are certainly in playoff contention heading into 2022.
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The Cubs’ willingness to pursue some of the more well-known free agents bucked the trend they followed in past offseasons. When all was said and done, Chicago committed more than $200 million to players on the open market. The moves will allow the franchise to remain competitive despite shipping its players left and right last July (in exchange for many key prospects, one might add).
Marcus Stroman, Starting Pitcher (Three Years, $71 Million)
Stroman spent 2021 with the Mets, racking up a 3.03 ERA, 4.30 xERA, 1.15 WHIP, 21.7 percent strikeout rate, and 5.9 percent walk rate. The former All-Star finished among the upper ranks of pitchers in walk rate, chase rate, and fastball spin. Despite his career-long success, the former Blue Jays first-round pick has never received great run support. He went 10-13 last year and has just one winning season since 2016. He will slot in as Chicago’s No. 2 pitcher behind Kyle Hendricks.
Seiya Suzuki, Outfielder (Five Years, $85 Million)
Suzuki drew interest from many big-market contenders this offseason and ultimately landed with the Cubs, who committed a significant amount of money to him through 2026. He has nine years of experience in the NPB, including a very impressive 2021 campaign that saw him slash .317/.433/.636 with 38 homers, 88 RBI, 88 walks, and 89 strikeouts. Defensively, he tallied 13 assists, four double plays, and a .989 fielding percentage.
Wade Miley, Starting Pitcher (Acquired From Reds)
Prior to the lockout, the Cubs executed a heist, claiming Miley off waivers from the Reds. In 2021, the veteran hurler went 12-7 with a 4.12 xERA, .253 xBA, .312 xwOBA, 18.1 percent strikeout rate, and 7.2 percent walk rate. The former All-Star continues to put together a strong 11-year career that has allowed him to thrive in the majors at the age of 35 (and beyond). Although he’s far from an ace, his role as the tertiary option in the rotation allows the Cubs to enter 2022 feeling very good about their pitching staff.
Yan Gomes, Catcher (Two Years, $13 Million)
The Cubs put pen to paper with Gomes this offseason, bringing him in as their backup catcher. The 34-year-old split 2021 with the Nationals and Athletics, posting a respectable .252/.301/.421 slash line with 14 homers, 52 RBI, 19 walks, and 78 strikeouts. Although he posted good offensive metrics (85th-percentile xBA, 76th-percentile whiff rate, and 75th-percentile xSLG), he finished with subpar defensive numbers. He’ll merely provide the Cubs with a depth option behind Willson Contreras in case he slumps, needs a day off, or suffers an injury. Additionally, if the Cubs are out of contention come July, he could be shopped at the deadline.
In addition to their strong flurry of additions, the Cubs benefitted from having a minimal amount of significant offseason departures. Sure, this is a product of their decision to be heavy sellers last July, but it helps to know that the team they’ll roll out on Friday hasn’t lost anyone major since the early days of autumn in 2021.
Zach Davies, Starting Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Cubs’ biggest loss was Davies, who inked a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks. The right-hander went 6-12 with a 5.78 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 17.1 percent strikeout rate, and 11.2 percent walk rate in 2021. His Baseball Savant metrics, pictured below, reflect a similarly disappointing turnout, so it makes sense that Chicago was willing to cut ties with him. However, there’s legitimate reason for Arizona to believe it can build him back into an impactful piece of its rotation. After all, Davies combined for 28 wins between 2016 and 2017, posting a pair of sub-4.00 ERAs over those two seasons. As recently as 2020 with the Padres, he amassed a 2.73 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.
Playing in a division that isn’t exactly top-heavy will benefit the Cubs as they look to sneak into the playoffs. In all honesty, they might have better luck securing a berth as a division winner rather than a Wild Card given the current state of the National League. In order to do so, they’ll need to get stable production from their newer players. The re-made infield now consists of Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom, Nick Madrigal, and Nico Hoerner. All four have shown flashes of potential, but it remains to be seen if they can produce sustainable numbers for the entirety of 2022.
On the mound, it will be exciting to see the Cubs’ 1-2-3 punch of Hendricks, Stroman, and Miley, as long as they have enough back-of-the-rotation arms to remain competitive deep into the year. On a similar note, former pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay, who is currently on the injured list, has struggled during limited big-league action. Can he stay healthy and also achieve success in the majors?
It was tempting to peg the Cubs for the NL Central title considering the division is up in the air (at least, compared to other divisions). However, there are holes present on this roster. The starting rotation looks good, but there isn’t enough depth elsewhere to keep the team in contention if they lose a key piece of their infield or outfield. Plus, the bullpen is a whole other story. The unit is the weak link on this team and will likely cost Chicago several close games in the later innings. Any success the Cubs enjoy in 2022 could disappear in an instant, and for that reason, one more sub-.500 season seems likely before things turn around for the better.
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