The 2021 season was an unexpected roller-coaster ride for the Chicago Cubs.
Everybody knew that most of their core was going to hit free agency at the end of the season, so envisioning a scenario in which they failed to contend and traded most of their expiring contracts was actually not hard, especially given the fact that extension talks went nowhere or were nonexistent in most cases.
However, even if it was within the realm of possibilities, it was still shocking to see Chicago give away many of the assets that lifted them to the championship in 2016.
Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant were all traded before the deadline, signaling the end of an era.
Other contributors were also shipped to other organizations, such as Jake Marisnick, Joc Pederson, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin, and Craig Kimbrel.
It was Kimbrel who netted the best return: young second baseman Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer.
Cubs flipped A. Rizzo, J. Báez, T. Williams, K. Bryant, C. Kimbrel, J. Marisnick (all FA) for:
• Alexander Vizcaíno, Kevin Alcántara
• Pete Crow-Armstrong
• Joey Bart, LaMonte Wade Jr.
• Nick Madrigal, Codi Heuer
• Anderson Espinoza
They deserve credit. #MLBTradeDeadline pic.twitter.com/xj9BECgK4D
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) July 30, 2021
Looking For Silver Linings
As a result of the fire sale, the Cubs predictably suffered in the standings, and are now 68-90.
In the National League Central division, they have only surpassed the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates.
However, it was a necessary step for the Cubs to take if they weren’t going to be able to extend their stars.
Fans should view the 2021 season as what it was: the start of something new.
Beginnings are often rocky, especially when we talk about hitting the reset button and rebuilding a baseball club.
In most cases, the first two or three years will be rough, and that’s especially true for organizations with bad farm systems, like the Cubs.
However, they were able to add several prospects at the deadline that have taken their farm to about average or a smidge below-average, which is much better than the bottom-five unit before the deadline.
Besides Madrigal, who boasts excellent contact skills and a good glove at the keystone, Chicago added powerful outfielders Alexander Canario and Kevin Alcantara, speedy center fielder Pete Crow-Armstrong, reliever Heuer, and other young stars of the future.
Most importantly, August and September have allowed the Cubs to play several unheralded minor leaguers and rescue waiver gems to see which ones can stick for the future.
Finding Contributors For The Future
Frank Schwindel has been an amazing find for the Cubs, as he is hitting .358/.407/.642 with 13 home runs in 221 plate appearances.
Patrick Wisdom has been another interesting player for Chicago.
He has struck out 40.8 percent of the time, but has a .231/.305/.518 line and 28 home runs in 2021 in less than 400 plate appearances.
Those two are 29, but they could remain valuable pieces moving forward.
The 30-year-old Rafael Ortega has 10 homers, nine stolen bases, and a decent .286/.355/.456 line.
Ian Happ has also enjoyed a resurgence in the second half and is another useful piece for tomorrow’s Cubs.
Guys from this team I want to see on the 2022 Cubs:
— BleedCubbieBlue (@CubbieBlue2016) September 3, 2021
The pitching is not so promising, but Kyle Hendricks remains a piece for the long-term.
The Cubs will have to slowly, but surely rebuild their rotation behind Hendricks, and it could take a couple of years.
They have, however, renewed financial flexibility for what’s going to come.
Hopefully they extend their stars the next time they bump into one and learn from their mistakes.NEXT: Cubs Can’t Count On Kyle Hendricks To Anchor Rotation Going Forward