While the Chicago Cubs are not a team without weaknesses, their development over recent years and additions this offseason make them one of the popular picks to make it all the way to the World Series, but just like the usually big spending Los Angeles Dodgers prove each season, too much depth don’t guarantee success.
What the Cubs slightly lack in starting pitching and their bullpen they probably make up for with power, hitting overall and the talent they have at infield and outfield with the additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist, who preferred playing for an up & coming team (if you can call someone making the NLCS up & coming) instead of making a little bit more money elsewhere. But the arrival of new players (also retained Dexter Fowler eventually) does come with the problem of giving young talent enough chances.
Jorge Soler plays right field and Javier Baez moves all over the infield. Both players were looking at more playing time, especially Baez, in 2015, before certain signings were made. Now it’s about waiting for their chances, be it by injuries or certain preferable lineups they might slip into. Manager Joe Maddon doesn’t think having too many talented players is a problem. No manager does.
It’s obvious just by making the daily lineups now. When you give guys a day off playing but the team that goes to play that day is pretty thick still. That’s what has hit home with me. The depth is really intriguing. You need that to be successful during the course of a long season. You’re going to have things happen. No question.
Obviously, a long season needs a lot of players, and for teams hoping to go deep into the postseason, having someone who can pick up right from where the injured player was at could be the difference between championships and nothing. But there’s more than numbers that goes into this, and sometimes morale and the overall chemistry in the locker room can be hurt when some players who know they could be starting every game somewhere else see very little time at the plate or on the mound due to the serious competition for every position and moment of baseball.
The Dodgers have gone that way in recent years and while they keep making the playoffs and often win their division, they haven’t been able to break their World Series drought, which has been going on since 1988. They usually pack most of their punch when it comes to rotation pitchers but there’s plenty of players moving in and out of the lineup, hoping to become a more permanent stay, although things might change now that they have a new manager and possibly different approach.
Even without the signings they’ve made, the Cubs were going to be hot favorites heading into the new season. But with Heyward, Jon Lester, Zobrist and Adam Warren also joining through the Starlin Castro trade, there’s no team carrying this much expectations into opening day.