After being laughed out of the NLCS last season, the Cubs enter 2018 as 10-1 odds to win the World Series, according to ESPN. In order to do grab another championship, the Cubs need contribution from these three players to round out the roster.
At the risk of becoming too predictable big names such asAnthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant will stay off of the list. Along with Yu Darvish because such a major offseason move would warrant a great deal of success. Making him an easy choice, and someone who would need to succeed for the club. And we can more creative than that.
Happ is a hinge at which the offense can turn on. If Happ has a successful 2018 campaign he will free up head coach Joe Maddon to mix and match his lineup as he chooses. Maddon would be able to play the hot hand as both Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez can play other positions than second base.
They could provide aid for struggling outfield play or at shortstop. But this only works if Happ can be productive. The Cubs have a plethora of younger, unproven players (Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora and Addison Russell) who could have good or bad seasons that can make this an all too real situation.
From their World Series comeback to their division titles, the Cubs have relied heavily on closing pitching. Just last season former Cubs closer Wade Davis saved 32 of his 33 saves, according to baseball reference, and at times was the glue that held the Cubs together. For a team that fought for a division championship until September last season a quality closer could make all the difference this time around.
If Morrow struggles and can’t finish out games, the Cubs could find themselves in the same place they were in 2016 when they had to trade for Aroldis Chapman midseason. Moreover, if Morrow can efficiently close out games the Cubs have more flexibility with C.J. Edwards and Steve Cishek in the seventh and eight innings.
Since 2015 the Cubs have lacked a solid fifth starter. In 2015 it was Dan Haren, then Jason Hammel and most recently Jon Lackey who have all been untrustworthy with the ball.
While Hammel has his moments in 2016, the Cubs need a fifth man they can trust all year round. In 2018 the Cubs will have two new starters, and while Chatwood doesn’t need to be the ace, he needs to be reliable. If Chatwood is a solid fifth man it will allow Mike Montgomery to spend his time in the pen, and make spot starts that best suit his pitching style.
With question marks in the bullpen, such as the success of Morrow, Cishek, Edwards, Justin Wilson and Pedro Strop—who all shown cracks in the armor or are new to the team—a solid fifth man who can ensure the bullpen is not overtaxed is vital.
Honorable mention to Wilson Contreras, because ya know, the Cubs really only have one catcher.