Dropoff in Production by Cubs’ “Core Players” lead to Breakup of 2016 Chicago Cubs Championship Team
October 3, 2021
The Chicago Cubs in 2016, led by National League MVP (Most Valuable Player) Kris Bryant as well as star players Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Wilson Contreras, broke a 108-year drought by defeating the Cleveland Indians in the World Series Championship.
Kris Bryant had a batting average of .292, hit 39 home runs and drove in a career high 102 RBI’s (Runs Batted In) .Anthony Rizzo batted .292, with 32 home runs and 109 RBIs. Javier Baez in his second full year in the Majors hit .273, knocking out 14 home runs while driving in 59 runs along with spectacular defense as well as hustle plays.
Mid-season addition Wilson Contreras batted .282, hit 12 home runs and drove in 36 runs. Key role players to the core players included shortstop Addison Russell, second baseman Ben Zobrist, as well as starting pitcher Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks.
However, despite a six year stretch of successes unseen by the Cubs in over 100 years the Northsiders were unable to repeat their 2016 feat. . The next year the Cubs won 92 games and made their third straight National League Championship Series. However, they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 1.
During the 2017-2018 offseason Jake Arrieta was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. In 2018, The Cubs won 95 games, but were unable to hold a five-game division lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the final month of the season.
The Cubs and Brewers finished tied for the National League (NL) Central Division title. The Cubs would have two chances to advance to the NL Division Series. They first lost the NL Central tiebreaker game and then lost the NL Wild Card game to the Colorado Rockies. In those two games the Cubs managed to only score 2 runs in 22 innings of baseball.
After the disappointing end to the 2018 season; fans and baseball experts believed that the Cubs front office needed to make changes to the roster. However, all the Cubs management did was release Addison Russell and sign starting Pitcher Yu Darvish. In 2019 the Cubs were leading the wild card race with two weeks left in the season before a nine-game losing streak caused them to miss the playoffs.
Once again fans and experts thought the Cubs management needed to make changes to the roster and once again the Cubs front office failed to do so. The Cubs started the Covid-shortened 2020 season with 13 wins and 3 losses. The rest of the season they won only 21 games and lost 23 but still managed to win the division. Once they got to the playoffs, they were eliminated in the first round 2 games to none by a Miami Marlins team that barely qualified for the postseason. Once again, offense was a problem as they only scored one run combined in the two games.
During the offseason there was a ton of chatter that the Cubs core players from the 2016 team were going to be traded. However, Cubs management decided to take one more shot with Bryant, Rizzo, Baez and Contreras. They even brought back pitcher Jake Arrieta. The Cubs started off the season well with a 38-27 record and were tied with the Brewers for the first place in the Central Division.
However, an 11-game losing streak sent them reeling out of contention. At the end of July, the Cubs core players were broken up. Kris Bryant was traded to the San Francisco Giants; Anthony Rizzo was sent to the New York Yankees and Javier Baez was traded to the New York Mets.
Cubs fans were distraught seeing their favorite players leave and blamed management for not putting better players around the core of the team. However, very few fans or baseball experts focused on the declining productivity by those core players as a cause for the team’s downfall.
In 2017 Kris Bryant dealt with some injuries and while his batting average stayed about the same as in 2016, he hit 10 fewer home runs and drove in nearly 30 less runs. Anthony Rizzo had the same amount of home runs and RBIs, but his batting average dropped to .273 from .292 in 2016.
In 2018 Bryant only hit 13 home runs while driving in 52 runs during an injury plagued season. Rizzo hit 7 fewer home runs and drove in 8 fewer runs then the previous two seasons. Wilson Contreras after a 2017 campaign where he hit over .280 with over 20 home runs and over 80 RBIs he batted for a .249 with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs in 2018.
In 2019 Kris Bryant’s statistics were better than the previous year, but nowhere near his MVP year of 2016. Javier Baez put up solid numbers, but nowhere near as good as the year he had in 2018. Also, for the first time since the 2014 season Rizzo failed to drive in 100 runs.
The 2020 season was only a 60-game season due to Covid-19 delaying the start of the season. The most notable drop off in the stats of Bryant, Rizzo, Baez and Contreras was their batting averages. Wilson Contreras hit just .243. Baez’s batting average plummeted to .238. Rizzo’s batting average dropped to .222 and Bryant’s dropped to .206 in another injury plagued season.
Anthony Rizzo was batting prior to being traded just .248 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI’s. Kris Bryant was batting .267 with just 18 home runs and 51 RBI’s.
Javier Baez had decent numbers in home runs (22) and RBI’s (65) but was only hitting .248 prior to moving to the New York Met. Wilson Contreras is still on the Cubs, but he is hitting just .225 with 18 home runs and 43 RBIs.
There is no question that the Cubs front office deserves some blame in the demise and breakup of the 2016 Championship team. However, had the core players kept up their production from the 2016 team; the core wouldn’t have had to be broken up in the first place.