J-Hey Update and Evaluating Next Year’s Competition
The News of the Day
Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward — he of the consistent outfielding prowess and the less-than-consistent bat — won his fifth career Gold Glove Award Tuesday evening. He won one last year with the Cubs, two in 2012 and 2014 with the Atlanta Braves, and another in 2015 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Heyward joins Andre Dawson and Bob Dernier as the only Cubs outfielders to win the award multiple times. We’re all happy for Heyward, sure — but let’s be honest: would you trade that Gold Glove for another 10 home runs and 20 RBIs? I sure would, and I’m betting Jason would too.
Plus, even as that news broke, trade speculation surrounding the 28-year-old has already started to swirl.
Looking Past the Here and Now
That news will play out as it will, and we’ll spend the next several weeks and months poring over all things Cubs: trade rumors, roster moves, updates on Wrigley Field renovations and the rapid development of Wrigleyville area in general.
Instead of continuing in that vein, let’s consider our 2018 competition for a moment. Here’s a quick look at next year’s presumed contenders and their chances of reaching the World Series:
The Houston Astros (5-1 odds)
Why they’ll repeat: A front office that knows how to harness analytics, a strong coaching staff, a productive young core, and a locked-up Verlander.
Why they won’t: Just ask any Cubs fan — the infamous World Series hangover. A shaky bullpen doesn’t help.
LA Dodgers (5-1 odds)
Why they’ll get there: Cy Young finalist? Check. Dominant bullpen? Check. Game of Thrones character turned bionic hitting machine? Check.
Why they won’t: All five of their projected starters have spent time on the disabled list over the last two seasons. That’s not an optimistic trend.
Cleveland Indians (8-1 0dds)
Why they’ll get there: This team ranked first in pitching and third in runs scored in 2017; I’m pretty sure that’s the blueprint for postseason success.
Why they won’t: Their starting staff has been forced to shoulder a heavy workload over the last two years, and injuries have been a problem.
Washington Nationals (11-1 odds)
Why they’ll get there: In Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, they have two of the top three Cy Young Award finalists. Oh, and some guy named Bryce Harper (perhaps “future Cub” Bryce Harper, but I digress).
Why they won’t: Dusty’s gone, and only two teams led by first-year managers have won a World Series over the past 70 years.
Boston Red Sox (11-1 odds)
Why they’ll get there: Chris Sale is still one of the best starters in the game, David Price should be healthy, and Mookie Betts will likely only improve with another year under his belt.
Why they won’t: Remember that stat about rookie managers? Plus, they ranked dead last in home runs in 2017 and have combined to go 1-6 in the playoffs over the last two years.
New York Yankees (11-1 odds)
Why they’ll get there: They had the youth, they had the talent, and now they have the experience. An experienced manager may put them over the edge.
Why they won’t: They could opt to go with a rookie manager as well, and some players may regress after developing ahead of schedule in 2017.
So, What About the Cubs?
Speculation over who the Cubs (also 11-1 odds, I might add) will sign to bolster their starting staff, round out their bullpen, and fill in any gaps on their bench is still just that — speculation.
I know columnists and bloggers and amateur Twitter analysts are worried that this could end up as that one year out of a Giants-esque five or six-year run that the Cubs miss the playoffs; personally, I see nothing Theo and Jed have done over the past five years as evidence that they’ll fail to put the 2018 squad in a position to compete for a World Series once again.
The competition is tough, but so are the Cubs, and the NL Central isn’t exactly a juggernaut. How do we stack up? And will our latest Gold Glover be around to give a rousing rain delay speech if the Cubs find themselves in a similar situation next October/November?