The Cubs, generally, had more to come away with this year than they did in any year since the exodus. Not all of the tune-up signings worked, but Dansby Swanson sure did, and he brought out the best in people like Nico Hoerner, Chris Morel and Yan Gomes. Plus, Justin Steele brought ace material, on a season that should have earned him more Cy Young votes than it did. It was an excellent effort foiled by a messy September, but it's a year this Cubs squad can build on, especially with Craig Counsell in the driver's seat.
You can tell the Cubs are finding themselves because Patrick Wisdom, who was deemed a necessary and vital player during the dark ages, had less to do this year than ever. Yes, Wisdom still hit 23 homers, but with only a .205 average, and 11 strikeouts in 97 games. He was also a defensive liability, which led to both Nick Madrigal and, eventually, Jeimer Candelario, being plugged in at third longer term.
2024 Prediction: Midyear cut. It ain't 2021 anymore, folks.
2024 Prediction: He's due for a lower-ERA season, and I think his first half is gonna impress a lot of people.
I can admit to being one of the people who had counted Kyle Hendricks out, as I saw a start of his in 2021 and it wasn't great at all, despite having so much respect for everything he'd done for this team since 2015. Though he had a later start than usual, Hendricks blossomed into a skilled performer for this Cubs team, even at 33, and his 3.74 ERA was the lowest by a Cubs starter not named Steele. Now going into the last year on his Cubs contract, Hendricks has recouped some goodwill and looks to be a big part of a different-looking rotation.
2024 Prediction: Finishes strong, with a consistent, classic year [down in Ks] that opens him up for a modest end-of-career contract, possibly even still in Chicago.
2024 Prediction: The team trusts him with the ninth permanently, and he becomes one of the league's great closers.
2024 Prediction: I question why exactly the Reds would want to plug someone like Candelario into an infield of mostly youngsters that's relatively set, but I think the hope is that Candelario provides a first-half veteran aid to the team that can be phased out over time, which I reckon will happen. Maybe some June 2023 style numbers at times, but I don't see this working out as well.
2024 Prediction: Some Rookie of the Year votes for sure.
2024 Prediction: Not an Opening Day roster pick, but will get back here and make up for this last-month stuff. With apologies to Wicks, PCA might be a ROY favorite for 2024.
Coming Tomorrow- There's only a few D-Backs left I didn't get to during the season.