I have been a Cubs fan for a long time, watching games while sitting on my grandfather’s lap when I was seven years old. Watching during the days of Alfonso Soriano, Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. It has always been frustrating being a Cubs fan, the constant losing and when they did make the playoffs, they didn’t even win a single game or they lost in heartbreaking fashion (1969, 1984, 2003).
Things changed in 2016.
After winning 97 games in 2015 and making a run at the NLCS, taking down the hated Pirates and Cardinals along the way that year (as a wild card team), the 2016 Cubs dominated the league with a core of NL MVP Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and one of baseball's best pitching staffs. The Cubs would go on to win 103 games and finally break the curse of the billy goat en route to winning their first World Series since 1908 over the Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) after falling behind 3-1 in the series. (Historical fact: Teddy Roosevelt was the President the last time the Cubs won the World Series before 2016).
While it was hard to be a Cubs fan before they won, after they won the frustration took on a new form. The Cubs never reached the World Series again after 2016, coming close in 2017 before losing in five games to the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Then the 2021 trade deadline hit, and the core that won the World Series was finally dismantled. Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist and Schwarber were already gone prior to the 2021 season. Anthony Rizzo traded to the Yankees, Javier Baez to the Mets and the one player that hurt me the most was Kris Bryant being traded to the Giants. The Cubs had fallen back into a rebuild.
Fast forward to the 2022 trade deadline and there were more rumors that whatever was left of the 2016 squad looked to be traded. Willson Contreras, who was just a rookie during that 2016 season, had just one year left on his deal and was thought to be a big piece to be moved along with first time All-Star Ian Happ. As the day of the deadline wore on, I got more and more nervous, refreshing Twitter every few minutes hoping that the Cubs would hold on to both players. It didn’t help that the Cubs did send out several relievers including David Robertson and Mychal Givens. Then just five minutes after the deadline had passed the news had come down.
I felt such a sense of relief because it felt like in that moment the Cubs had decided that they want to build somewhat off of what they already have. As maybe it’s not the best move for the organization or Contreras to not trade him. I’m glad that these two guys are still wearing blue pinstripes and calling Wrigley Field home (for now).
While I understand that some people are angry with how president of baseball ops Jed Hoyer handled all of this, I think that this marks a point where the Cubs decide to build rather than tear down again.
It’s a mixed message, because on one hand it shows how badly some of this was handled with the Venezuelan catcher, but it also sends a message that the Cubs want to be competitive for 2023, rather going deeper into a rebuild.
I also think what Hoyer did do around the deadline was pretty solid, getting a potential starter in Ben Brown out of Robertson and getting a utility guy in Zach Mckinsrty for Chris Martin. They traded away a lot of relief pitchers who on one-year deals and sold high on a 28-year-old rookie in Effross to the Yankees for a starter in Hayden Wesneski. I don’t know a ton about the prospects and players the Cubs brought in, but Chicago seems to believe they can develop pitching, and these are some of the guys with a bit of upside.
The Cubs still have to see if they can re-sign Contreras considering everything they put him through heading into the deadline. While this victory maybe short lived and Contreras might not be a Cub come February, knowing that they have a chance to do so and at least for now want to build moving forward is a welcome sight for this Cubs fan.