The Rundown: Five Reasons the Cubs Are Now Favorites, Cards Not Making Dynamic Move, Mookie Betts Can Bowl

Top Of The First

Not a lot of baseball action over the weekend, but Cubs fans are still bathing in the afterglow of one of the best Winter Meetings in team history.

After You Spend $272 Million Dollars What Are You?

Well, you’re National League favorites, a mantle the Cubs wore in the 2004 and 2008 preseasons as well. But buyer beware — heavy lies the favorite label. In 2004 the Cubs finished in 3rd place in the Central Division. In 2008 the team lost the Division Series in three games to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Still, there is a different feeling this season, as Chicago boasts an entire roster of perfectly young, interchangeable parts and a deep rotation that gives the team a legitimate chance to win every time it takes the field. There really aren’t any weaknesses on this team, but if we wanted to be greedy, a young, controllable power arm for the rotation would be nice for both the rotation and the bullpen. Oh, a pure centerfielder would be nice too.

But even without those checklist items, a 100-win team on paper is a beautiful to think about as the calendar turns form 2015 to 2016. Even better? So far the Cubs have surrendered none of their core of young players and prospects except Starlin Castro.

Five Reasons The Cubs Are Now Favorites

  1. The trade of Starlin Castro is addition by subtraction. His 2015 OBP of .296 doesn’t fit within the team model. Castro was worth a negative 11.4 runs against average last season. After the Zobrist signing, he really had no position. Depth is great, but not at $38M over four years.
  2. The 1-2-3 punch of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey is the most dominant in the National League, and the additions of Lackey and Adam Warren add depth to what was already the best pitching staff in the Central Division. The Cubs have two aces and one of the best #3. 4 and 5 starters in all of baseball.
  3. The Cubs have youthful talent that is the envy of baseball. The projected 25-man roster has eight players above the age of 30. Everybody else is 26 or under. The team’s farm system remains bottom-to-top one of the strongest in baseball despite the graduations of Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell.
  4. Improved situational hitting and OBP. With the additions of Heyward and Zobrist the Cubs now boast five players in their every day lineup who project to .340 or better OBP. There isn’t a player projected to have an OBP of less than .300 in the everyday starting lineup.
  5. The Cubs are deeper and more versatile than any team in baseball. As a whole, the Cubs pitching staff ranked in the top-5 in the MLB in several major statistical categories in 2015, including ERA, shutouts, batting average against, walks and strikeouts.Their bench features players at every position that have been regular starters at some point in their careers except for Matt Szczur.

Fact, Fiction, Truth, Or Rumor

A healthy Jameson Taillon is eager to pitch in the big leagues this year, writes Bill Brink.

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says the team is no longer looking to make a dynamic free agent signing.

The Winter Meetings were a complete disaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A blogger recruited David Price to the Red Sox. Well, that and $217 million dollars.

Mookie Betts is putting up insane numbers at the World Series of Bowling that I bet exceeded his pre-series analytics.

Chicago Cubs SP Rick Reuschel was nearly 10 wins above replacement in 1977. He finished 3rd in Cy Young voting behind Steve Carlton and Tommy John. John Candelaria of the Pittsburgh Pirates finished fifth and was probably most deserving of the award, which in those days usually went to the starter with the most wins. Cubs closer Bruce Sutter finished in sixth place.

Bottom Of The Ninth

I want to start to looking at team depth for all 30 teams in the coming days of this column as teams try to match up on potential trades and remaining free agent signings. The Cubs may still make some moves, though i don;t think many would complain if they started the season with the roster as it now sits.

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