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23 for ’23: What does a successful season look like for the Cubs?

2 months agoStaff Report

Between position battles, roster additions and new rules, there are plenty of questions surrounding the 2023 Cubs. We attempt to provide answers for 23 of the most intriguing questions heading into the season.

MESA, Ariz. — The outlook on the Cubs looks much different entering 2023 than a year ago, as playing meaningful games and contending for a division crowd is top of mind for this team.

The year of transition went well for the Cubs, as they spent 2022 identifying some members of the future core and seeing the fruits of labor in player development — especially pitching — in the organization. They also put together a nice stretch in the win column, going 39-31 in the second half. 

Jed Hoyer’s front office used that momentum to add to the roster this winter, headlined by the 7-year, $177 million deal with Dansby Swanson.

With reinforcements in the fold, what will a successful 2023 season look like for the Cubs? Our beat writers weighed in.

Andy Martínez

Over the last two seasons, the Cubs have played games in August and September that had little impact, other than draft order. A successful season in 2023 will be meaningful games in late summer and early fall — and the path is there for the taking. 

The Cubs made plenty of roster moves this offseason and while the common thread was winning mentality and hardware — the other thing the moves did was raise the roster floor. It speaks to the depth the Cubs have accumulated that players like Nelson Velázquez and Christopher Morel could start in the minor leagues, pitchers like Javier Assad, Adrian Sampson and Caleb Kilian serve as rotation depth and a successful reliever like Mark Leiter Jr.’s roster status for Opening Day is in question. 

Over the course of a full season, having that depth is vital. In the first half of last season when Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley and Drew Smyly were hurt, the depth was stretched and a pitcher like Miley was pressed into action before being fully stretched out. This season, that shouldn’t be the case. 

Many projection models and betting sites have the Cubs’ win total around the 77 mark. This season, with the moves they’ve made, that should be an attainable number — and easily surpassable. The pitching depth is there and the offensive profile has raised. The defense has the potential to be one of the better units in the game. All that should mean the Cubs add on 3 or more wins from last season. 

Will the Cubs be a playoff team? That remains to be seen. The “easiest” path runs through the division, which isn’t exactly the strongest. Milwaukee’s offense still has some question marks and St. Louis’ rotation is already contending with Adam Wainwright’s injury and in need of a bounceback season from Jack Flaherty. 

This season should provide some meaningful baseball to the Friendly Confines in late August and September. If that’s the case, it will help the young players and put them on path to major playoff expectations come 2024. 

Tony Andracki

Late last season, much of the talk surrounding the team was in trying to follow the same script as 2014-15. After a few rough years, Hoyer watched the Cubs finish the 2014 season on a high note and the team used that as a springboard to a 2015 that included 97 regular season wins and a trip to the NLCS.

That 2015 campaign would be a dream scenario for the Cubs in 2023. While 97 wins this year is certainly possible, I don’t think that’s particularly likely. Everything would have to break right in order for the team to improve 23 wins over last seasons’ 74-88 record.

Success this season will be two-factored: Continuing to set the organization up for a strong future while also taking a large step forward in the win column. 

The NL Central is still one of the weaker divisions in baseball, with the Reds and Pirates both in the midst of long rebuilds. The Brewers had a relatively quiet offseason with only a few mid-level additions (including signing Miley for the rotation). 

After winning 93 games last year, the Cardinals are expected to be the class of the division again as they added Willson Contreras but like Andy said, there are some pitching questions and while Paul Goldschmidt is coming off an MVP campaign, he’ll turn 36 in September. I’m also very curious to see how this team — and pitching staff — does without Yadier Molina on the roster for the first time in two decades.

All of that is to say that there is absolutely a path for the Cubs to ascend to the top of the division in 2023. I expect them to be in the running for one of the Wild-Card spots, though the NL East and West are both pretty loaded.

Apart from Swanson and pitcher Jameson Taillon, the Cubs’ moves this offseason were all of the short-term variety but they did have one common thread: a winning pedigree.

Swanson, Eric Hosmer, Trey Mancini, Cody Bellinger and Edwin Ríos have all been a part of World Series winning teams and can help guide the Cubs young players who have not yet reached that plateau.

The Cubs still lack some star power, but they have a lot more depth — particularly quality depth — than the past couple of seasons. I think Nico Hoerner and Seiya Suzuki will take another big step toward stardom this season and the team’s pitching depth will continue to show out, led by Hayden Wesneski and Justin Steele. 

Success this season for the Cubs will mean either making the playoffs or staying in the postseason conversation until late in the year. Then 2024 might be the year where the team shows up in Arizona with a “World Series or bust” type of mentality.

23 for ’23 series

What will the Cubs’ new era at catcher look like?
What is the Cubs’ plan at third base?
Who steps up in the wake of the Seiya Suzuki injury?
What role will Christopher Morel have on the 2023 Cubs?
Who will win the Cubs’ 5th starter spot?
Where does Nick Madrigal fit on the roster?
Who will close for the Cubs?
What kind of impact will Dansby Swanson have in his first season in Chicago?
What is the plan for Matt Mervis?
Who are some under-the-radar players that could make the Opening Day roster?
What will Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer bring to this team?
Which young Cubs pitchers will take the next step this season?
What can we expect from Kyle Hendricks when he returns this season?
What does the Opening Day bullpen look like?
Will the Cubs’ pitching staff pick up where it left off?
What will the Opening Day lineup look like?
After career years with Cubs, what’s next for Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner?

Will Cody Bellinger return to his MVP-caliber form?
How will the Cubs balance development of young players with contending for NL Central crown?
Which Cubs players could be primed for a breakout this season?
How will the new MLB rules affect the Cubs?
Which Cubs prospects have a good shot at getting called up to Chicago this season?
What does a successful 2023 season look like for the Cubs?

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