MESA, Ariz. – The inability to hit consistently has cost the Cubs another shot at 2016 glory the last three campaigns.
The offense famously “broke” at the end of 2018 when the season ended in a Wild Card loss. It did so again when the team missed the playoffs completely the next season. While the shortened 2020 season saw moments, the Cubs scored only a run in two Wild Card Series games at Wrigley Field against Miami.
Despite this, due to their own hopes for a return of success to some players, budgetary constraints, or not enough trade value for top players, the Cubs haven’t done much from a personnel standpoint to retool the offense. Kyle Schwarber is gone with Joc Pederson taking his place, but almost everyone from 2020 is back again in 2021.
“We believe in this group,” said team president Jed Hoyer of the hitters on the team. “There’s been moments we’ve been proved right and moments recently where we haven’t been proven right.”
But the commitment to the current roster was apparent during Hoyer’s pre-spring training news conference on Tuesday. Hence he said that he doesn’t expect any major changes to the current roster through a trade or free agent signing as workouts begin in Mesa.
That mean’s the team will be relying on their core players and the hope they can reach their potential again this season. It’s also a group that has a number of players in the final year of their contracts, including Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo.
Those players along with others in the lineup like Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, and Jason Heyward have the full faith of Hoyer as the team preps for the 2021 season.
It might not seem like the best move, considering the core has struggled to get their consistency back after the runs to MLB’s Final Four & a title in 2016. Hoyer said he spent plenty of the offseason speaking with second-year manager David Ross about fixing the lineup. During those discussions, a few points of emphasis came up to work on during spring training.
“When you look at the names in the lineup, it’s a really good lineup. I think have to do a better job as a collective of putting that together and scoring runs,” said Hoyer. “The two things that I would emphasize are hitting velocity, which is something we got away from last year and was certainly exposed against the Marlins who had two really hard-throwing starting pitchers.
“Then our decision-making has degraded over the last three or four years. We have to do a better job of making decisions in the box, of grinding at-bats, of, for example, full counts, I think we’ve struggled. So I think we have to do a better job making decisions.”
Ross said with a number of the same players the lineup won’t change very much to start in 2021, yet he believes there are enough players added to the roster to allow him flexibility if players struggle.
“We’ve got guys I need to trust in,” said Ross. “We’ve got great depth. I thought we really did a good job as of late of picking up some depth players that have been on winning teams, know how to be professional. I think we’ve got a really good, well-rounded team where if we do struggle against a certain side or in certain areas, we’ve got guys that can fill in certain roles for time being while guys figure things out over the course of a long season.”
As long as the offense can do so, and keep it going in the early fall, their faith will be rewarded.