It finally happened. The Chicago Cubs, forever known as the lovable losers, are now the beloved winners. Baseball history has forever been altered, with the curse of the Billy Goat, Steve Bartman, and every other infamous Cubs character being vanquished in a single year- 2016. In this same year, there has been one of the most controversial presidential elections ever, the passing of numerous beloved celebrities, and multiple 3-1 championship series leads blown. Yet the Cubs winning seems to stand out among all the negatives (depending on your perspective, some could have been positives)- their victory seems like more of a historical upset than Donald Trump's over Hillary Clinton. So now, finally having won, where do the Cubs go from here, as World Series Champions?
For starters, the majority of their core is returning, including the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and more. Their pitching staff remains mostly intact, minus fifth starter Jason Hammel and closer Aroldis Chapman. Also gone are leadoff man Dexter Fowler and retired catcher David Ross, two of the most important pieces of the championship team. Of course all of those players could return (excluding Ross), but it seems unlikely any of them will, especially if the Cubs prevent themselves from spending big like the past two offseasons.
While the losses of these players may hurt, the Cubs are flush with in house options to replace them. Albert Almora Jr., a longtime top prospect in the organization, will almost certainly replace Fowler if he leaves. Mike Montgomery, the ever-important long-man out of the bullpen during the championship run, will most likely be stretched out to replace Hammel if no one else is signed. Wilson Contreras and postseason hero Miguel Montero will return to take over the limited catching duties of Ross, and young stud Carl Edwards Jr. and in-house options Pedro Strop and former closer Hector Rondon will combine to replace the departing Chapman. Also, top prospects like Ian Happ and Eloy Jimenez will be ready to make a large contribution at the big leagues when called upon. And of course, there's Kyle Shwarber, who, outside of the five plate appearances and limited hitting duties in the World Series, missed the entirety of the 2016 season. He's arguably better than any position player on the free agent market right now, and he's guaranteed to join the Cubs next year on minimum salary (barring a shocking trade).
Of course, none of this stops the Cubs from opening their wallets for the third straight winter, where free agents such as closer Kenley Jansen, starter Jeremy Hellickson and stud infielder Justin Turner will all be available. Also, there is the trade market, which is drowning in young talent, like Yasiel Puig, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, and many more great players. The Cubs have plenty have depth in their organization, but some help from outside it could be the key to repeating as champions in 2017, where the target on their backs will grow ever-larger.