The Chicago Cubs’ decision to sell off their stars before last season’s trade deadline signaled a new direction for the franchise in its post-World Series era.
For many fans, that meant showing patience while also keeping tabs on the favorite ex-Cubs from the recent past.
One month into the 2022 season, here’s a power ranking of former Cubs (limited to ten players).
Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees
Yankee Stadium’s short porch in right field has been inviting to Rizzo, who entering Friday has nine home runs — including a three-homer game — and 21 RBIs.
Rizzo may have been kicking himself for not taking the Cubs’ original four-year, $60 million extension offer, or the reported five-year, $70 million offer made before last season. Underpaid for years after signing a team-friendly, seven-year, $41 million deal in 2013, with two option years turning it into nine years, Rizzo thought he’d make up for it in free agency. He was mistaken.
After a “bad breakup” with the Cubs, he went to New York and eventually signed a two-year, $32 million deal to return to the Yankees after the end of the lockout.
“As of now, no regrets,” he told The Athletic in spring training.
He’s a star in New York playing for the American League’s best team, and he missed out on a lousy Chicago spring. His replacement his, Frank Schwindel, had a -0.4 WAR, according to fangraphs.com. Advantage, Rizzo.
Dylan Cease, White Sox
Perhaps the best Cubs pitching prospect of the Theo Epstein regime, Cease was dealt to the White Sox with Eloy Jiménez in 2017 for José Quintana, one of the most one-sided deals in Cubs-Sox history.
While Jiménez hasn’t been able to fulfill his promise because of injuries, he’s a dangerous hitter when healthy and is only 25. Cease’s 12.01 strikeouts per 9 innings is fourth among starters. His 96.2 mph fastball ranks sixth among qualified starters, just behind former teammate Carlos Rodón (96.4), now with the San Francisco Giants.
Yu Darvish, San Diego Padres
Darvish had a combined 1.46 ERA and 23 strikeouts in four of his five starts for the Padres. In the other start he allowed nine earned runs over 1⅔ innings against the Giants. That’s why he has an unimpressive 4.44 ERA despite looking like vintage Darvish from 2020.
Still, Darvish’s 2022 highlight was simply walking off the field before the start of a game last week. Fellow pitchers Mike Clevinger, Blake Snell, MacKenzie Gore and Sean Manaea followed in lockstep and mimicked their leader’s every move. It’s already a classic.
Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees
If the Cubs had paid Chapman after the 2016 championship instead of going with what turned into a revolving door of Wade Davis, Brandon Morrow, Pedro Strop and Craig Kimbrel over the next five years, would they have won at least one more World Series? Does the fact the Yankees have never won one with Chapman as closer make Cubs fans feel any better?
After giving up nine home runs last season, the 34-year-old Chapman hasn’t been scored upon in 11 appearances entering Friday, converting all six save opportunities. His seven walks his are a concern, but he still has averaged 97 mph on his four-seam fastball, which is remarkable considering his age and career workload his.
Craig Kimbrel, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are so loaded with talent they may not need a closer. They had only seven save opportunities in their first 23 games, converting six, while going 16-7. Kimbrel is a perfect 5-for-5 in chances with a 1.35 ERA after returning to the role he excelled in last season on the North Side before the failed experiment on the South Side as a set-up man.
Kimbrel’s 8.1 strikeouts per 9 innings is significantly down from the 15.1 average with the Cubs and White Sox in 2021, but the short spring seemingly hasn’t affected him and the relatively light workload may be beneficial in the second half. He’s back to throwing his fastball 65.2% of the time, after a career-high 41% use of his curve last season.
Kimbrel returns to Wrigley Field Saturday tied for eighth on the all-time saves list with Joe Nathan.
Joc Pederson, San Francisco Giants
Before being sidelined with an adductor strain, Pederson had six home runs, 11 RBIs and a .946 OPS in 19 games for the Giants. He signed a one-year, $6 million deal to be a platoon player after Cubs President Jed Hoyer last season signed him to be the full-time replacement for Kyle Schwarber. Hoyer started the sell-off last July by dealing Pederson to the Atlanta Braveswhere he became a cult favorite on a championship team.
Under Giants manager Gabe Kapler, only three of Pederson’s 61 at-bats have come against left-handers. Bryce Ball, the 6-foot-6 first baseman/designated hitter the Cubs got in return for Pederson, has two home runs and 16 RBIs in 88 at-bats at Double-A Tennessee.
Kyle Schwarber, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies slugger was hitting nearly 100 points lower in his first month than he did with the Boston Red Sox last season after being dealt from the Washington Nationals in July. Schwarber hit .291 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 41 games for the Red Sox, but entered the weekend hitting .195 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in 24 games for the Phils. Surprisingly, Schwarber has spent only two games at DH, so manager Joe Girardi has faith in his defense.
In spite of the lack of contact, Schwarber’s post-strikeout tirade against plate umpire Ángel Hernández on April 24 helped him move up in the power rankings.
Kris Bryant, Colorado Rockies
Off to an auspicious starter in Denver after signing a seven-year, $182 million deal, Bryant was homerless in 57 at-bats before going on the injured list with a back injury.
Bryant was used as the DH only three times in 15 starts with the rest coming in left field, suggesting his days as a part-time third baseman appear to be over. While it’s a small sample size, Bryant has a .333 average at Coors Field and .191 on the road. Hoyer’s decision to hold the line on Bryant’s contract demands appears to be prudent. Advantage Hoyer.
Javier Báez, Detroit Tigers
As the most popular Cub from 2016 until his trade last July to the New York Mets, Báez was the one star many expected to be re-signed over the winter. Instead, the Cubs opted to go with power-free shortstop Nico Hoerner while Báez agreed to a six-year, $140 million deal with the rebuilding Detroit Tigers.
Like Bryant, Báez shown little power (two home runs in 60 at-bats), and went on the IL early with a right thumb injury. Since returning, Baez is hitting .195 with a .592 OPS. His overall OPS of .681 with the Tigers is lower than Hoerner’s .725 OPS.
Again, Hoyer has been sleeping well since moving on from beloved Cubs stars.
10. Jorge Soler, Miami Marlins
Last year’s World Series MVP with the Braves is hitting .167 with a .575 OPS in Miami. Soler hit a league-leading 48 home runs with the Kansas City Royals in 2019, while Wade Davis pitched only one season for the Cubs.
It has been nearly 10 years since Soler signed a nine-year, $30 million deal to become the next Cubs star. Time flies.