June 25, 2022
Chicago Cubs

Season outlook for Cubs: Possibly good, definitely not great

Chicago Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki signs autographs for fans prior to a spring training game against the Chicago White Sox on April 4, 2022, in Mesa, Ariz.

While introducing Seiya Suzuki three weeks ago at the Cubs’ training camp in Mesa, Ariz., Jed Hoyer said something worth filing away.

“We’ve talked a lot about building the next great Cubs team,” the president of baseball operations said. “(Suzuki) will play a significant role in that success now and that success in the future.”

As the Cubs prepare to open the regular season Thursday afternoon against the Brewers at what could be a rainy Wrigley Field, the next great team still looks to be a ways off.

Suzuki could be the real deal after putting up big numbers over nine seasons with the Hiroshima Carp in his native Japan, but the 27-year-old right fielder joins a team that has iffy pitching and definitely looks to be .500 at best this year.

Suzuki joined the Cubs on a five-year, $85 million contract. Marcus Stroman, who had a 3.02 ERA while winning 10 games over 33 starts with the Mets last season, is the other big addition after a slew of subtractions in 2021.

“What I know about the direction we’re going and the front office wants to take us is they’re going to try to accrue as much talent as they possibly can,” manager David Ross said. “Whether it’s at the big-league level or the minor-league level, we’re going to try to get as much talent in this organization as we possibly can, because that’s what winning organizations have.”

Trading proven players like Yu Darvish, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Craig Kimbrel did help the Cubs replenish a barren farm system that Baseball America now ranks No. 15 overall.

The publication rates outfielder Brennen Davis at No. 16 on the top prospects list and shortstop Cristian Hernandez checks in at No. 81.

Add in prospects like infielder James Triantos, and pitchers Caleb Kilian and Jordan Wicks, and fortifying a Cubs team with young talent looks a lot more promising than it did the last several seasons.

As for the major-league team, the Cubs have other newcomers to watch along with Suzuki and Stroman.

Second baseman Nick Madrigal, who came over from the White Sox in last July’s Kimbrel trade but never played while recovering from a torn hamstring, is healthy and anxious to show he can still hit at a high level on the other side of town.

Wade Miley was claimed off waivers from the Reds and the veteran left-handed starter is making $10 million this season after going 12-7 with a 3.53 ERA and pitching a no-hitter last year.

Opening the season on the injured list with a sore elbow, it remains to be seen if Miley can get back to being an impactful starter at the age of 35.

Mychal Givens, David Robertson and Chris Martin are three of a slew of relief pitchers that signed on with the Cubs this spring, and one of them is likely to emerge as the closer.

Clint Frazier is worth watching in the outfield after failing to reach expectations with the Yankees and Yan Gomes is an established catcher set to take over if Willson Contreras is traded.

Add in holdovers like Kyle Hendricks, Contreras, Ian Happ, Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom and you’re looking at a possibly good Cubs team.