Now that the dust has settled, 2015 will be largely seen as a successful season for the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs got to the NLCS game where they were beaten by New York Mets to deny them the opportunity to take part in the World Series and face Kansas City Royals for the biggest prize in baseball.
The Cubs could only finish third in the NL Central as a moderate record of 97-65 was only good enough to pick up one of the wild card spots for the post-season.
Despite an average result season record, manager Joe Maddon will be particularly pleased with the form his players showed in the post-season under the pressure of knockout baseball. They were able to win on the road against Pittsburgh Pirates to earn a spot in one of the National League series where they then overcame number two seeds Los Angeles Dodgers after holding their nerve to edge that series 3-2.
The Cubs’ run in the post-season fell short as they were comprehensively beaten by the Mets 4-0 in a short series which put an end to their season. It is the first time the Mets have contested the World Series since 2000 but they are at the time of writing 3/1 with 32Red Canada to win the championship after losing the opening two games of the series.
The focus now for Maddon and his players will be how they can improve for 2016. They will be aiming to better the 97-65 record which was only good enough to be the number five seeds in the National League. The NL Central is arguably the strongest league in the MLB at the moment so it won’t be easy trying to top the five team league that also includes St Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Maddon joined the Cubs in the off-season and he took over a young roster which has really grown with experience as the year progressed. They are likely to be near the top end of the betting with 32Red for the 2016 Championship as there is a lot of young talent in the ranks which will only get better over the next couple of years.
David Price on the radar for Maddon
The priority for Maddon in the off-season will be to find a starting pitcher to improve his roster. Jake Arrieta has a superb post-season and was one of the key reasons as to why the Cubs advanced as far as they did with victories over the Pirates and Dodgers where they were underdogs in both ties with Pinnacle Sports. There is not much depth for Maddon to call upon to be able to rotate throughout the 2016 season if they are to be strong enough to go all the way.
Jon Lester put pen-to-paper on a deal to make him their highest paid pitcher last year but beyond that there really isn’t enough quality.
If Maddon can find a reliable pitcher, with the Toronto Blue Jays’ David Price rumoured to be on his wish-list, they could have enough in their ranks to really fancy going all the way in the 2016 championship.
Dexter Fowler’s future could lie elsewhere
by Keith Allison
Dexter Fowler was a part of a trade back in January which saw the big hitter join the Cubs from Houston Astros, with Luis Valbuena and Dan Straily going in the opposite direction. That bit of business looks to have paid off as Fowler finished the campaign with a .250 average and scored 102 runs. He particularly stood out in the off-season against the Pirates in the wildcard game where he recorded three hits, scored three runs, had one RBI and stole a base.
There have been some suggestions that Fowler could leave Chicago ahead of the 2016 season which would be a blow. If he does leave, Maddon will need a capable replacement.
Maddon has looked to bring in players of a certain age so expect a replacement to be in their mid-20s. Jason Heyward has been linked with the Cubs and would be a solid replacement. Not only is he a solid hitter with stats to back that up, he is very good fielder with a strong arm.
With one or two strong signings in the off-season, the Cubs could be one of the favourites in the betting for the 2016 World Series with TitanBet and other bookmakers when they bid for their first championship since 1908.