Monday, February 5, 2024


With the 2024 season just around the corner, here’s our promised look back at the Cubs’ 2023 campaign.

Encouragingly, Justin Steele and Cody Bellinger had fantastic seasons and the Cubs were in the playoff race until the final weekend of the season. Frustratingly, the season was bookended by management pinning their hopes on underperforming veterans for far too long early in the season and an on-field collapse in September.

While several Cubs had gotten off to great starts, including Cody Bellinger (.830 OPS), Justin Steele (6-2), Marcus Stroman (2.39 ERA), and Miguel Amaya (.836 OPS), promising – and productive – players, including Nelson Velázquez, Alexander Canario, Miguel Amaya, and Christopher Morel, got limited playing time in favor of veteran – and unproductive – gambles like Edwin Rios, Eric Hosmer, Trey Mancini, and Tucker Barnhart. 

This approach resulted in a 10-18 May and being 7.5 games out of first place by June 7.

As summer began, the front office finally started jettisoning the underproducing veterans. A dramatic turnaround ensued:  by July 29, the Cubs were two games above .500 and had climbed to within 3.5 games of first.  This prompted the addition of Jeimer Candelario and José Cuas at the trade deadline. While Candelario was a welcome addition, the trade for Cuas cost the Cubs Velázquez’s hot bat.

The wins continued to pile up, as the North Siders went 17-9 in August and had a hot 5-2 start to September. On September 7, the Men in Blue were within 1.5 games of first place.

Then the wheels fell off.

Injuries to several pitchers, including Marcus Stroman and Adbert Alzolay, coupled with the heavy workload on Steele and Justin Merryweather, contributed to a 7-15 record down the stretch.

That collapse left fans wondering what could have been if the Cubs hadn’t stuck with those underperforming veterans for so long:  a few more wins in May would have been the difference between a wild card berth and not making the playoffs.

As of this writing, 2024 is a question mark. Chicago's pitching looks arguably a bit stronger, as the signing of Shota Imanaga is slated to offset Stroman’s departure while bullpen newcomer Hector Neris can take some pressure off of Merryweather.

On the other hand, the offense has taken a big step backward with the loss of Bellinger. Promising prospect Michael Busch has the inside track to the starting first base job, but even if he produces at Bellinger’s 2023 clip – which the odds don't favor – the offense would simply pick up where it left off. 

At January’s Cubs Convention, the Cubs’ front office boasted that their offseason signings were far from finished, but only time will tell. Chicago’s farm system is pretty stacked at this point, so if the front office is willing to give the young guys a shot, and they can continue to perform, 2024 could shape up to be an interesting season.

Go Cubs go!