The Chicago Cubs were well-positioned to contend after April and May, but their season is falling apart as we speak.
They have dropped nine of their last 10 games, and have fallen below .500, at 43-44.
Their rough stretch has coincided with the Milwaukee Brewers’ hot streak, and Chicago is now 8.5 games behind the Brew Crew.
The Cubs are third in the National League Central, but they are also very far from the NL West powerhouses for a spot in the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
In other words, they are in a really bad spot.
Even if the Cubs don't sell everyone off (which is less likely by the day), they're clearly not bringing everyone back. They don't have 10-15 prospects ready for everyday roles and they aren't spending $180M on free agents.
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) July 6, 2021
The Cubs Have Three Options
The Cubs basically have three options: try to compete this year even though they have fallen down the standings, retooling, or rebuilding.
Retooling basically means selling one or two assets with the intention of competing in 2022, while a full rebuild would mean trading most or all veterans or players with value nearing free agency.
The Cubs should consider a full rebuild, and they could very well replenish their farm system if they play their cards right.
If the Cubs had the smarts to understand 2016 as a win-now year, and made a lot of sacrifices to maximize their opportunities (they traded blue-chip prospect Gleyber Torres for two months of Aroldis Chapman, for example), they need to realize that the best route to take this year is selling some assets and rebuilding.
The Cubs should trade everyone and start over.
We aren’t going to re-sign Kris Bryant anyway so is that 2nd round comp pick really more valuable than a haul of prospects? Kimbrel is one of the best relievers in baseball, what sense does it make to keep him on a bad team?
— 😶🌫️ (@hunter_haas24) July 6, 2021
The team could theoretically extend one, or some of them, but negotiations haven’t been exactly positive.
It wouldn’t make much sense, for example, to extend Bryant and lett Rizzo and Baez walk, because you would be paying for Bryant’s thirties and taking away some needed help from him.
With a bad rotation (one that suffered the loss of Yu Darvish before the season, via a trade the Cubs agreed to with the San Diego Padres) and a not-so-good farm system, it wouldn’t make much sense to be buyers, especially being so far from a playoff spot.
Chicago Should Strongly Consider A Rebuild
It appears, therefore, that the best path for the Cubs is to enter a full rebuild.
The Brewers look better on paper, as do the Cincinnati Reds; and that’s only in the Cubs’ own division.
At least three NL West teams (Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and the Padres) look better than them, and three teams in the NL East are in the same tier as the Cubs: the Atlanta Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Washington Nationals.
It would be extremely hard for Chicago to secure one of the two Wild Card spots in the NL.
With not enough money (or desire) to extend their pending free agents, they can at least entertain trades for them to retool their farm system.
All four players should command a good return, even if their value isn’t at its highest point by virtue of being rentals.
Kimbrel is back to being a top reliever and he has an option for 2022, so with teams always on the lookout for bullpen help, he could bring something of value.
Bryant, Rizzo, and Baez are stars, and should attract a good haul.
The Cubs may be better off trading them, tearing it all down, and starting over.