In the interest of full disclosure, I’m still in kind of a writing funk and would just as soon take another day or three off since the Cubs really aren’t offering us anything in the way of news. That said, we don’t exactly have a big crew slaving away in the content mines these days. So rather than try to dig up a rumor or uncover another angle on Jed Hoyer’s offseason plans, I wanted to have a little fun.
Without further ado, here are a few superlatives and awards for this past season
Most Likely to Be the Subject of Dumb & Bald Memes: David Ross
Most Likely to Be Traded: Marcus Stroman
This is predicated on him choosing not to opt out of the third year of his deal, thus putting the Cubs in somewhat of a bind when it comes to building out the pitching staff. Even after his disastrous second half and the ill-advised return to the rotation there at the end, Stroman is a solid pitcher for $21 million with limited risk due to the single year left. That means the Cubs might prefer to keep him around in the hopes that he’ll rebound, but they really need to do something to add more swing and miss to the rotation.
Most Likely to Be Traded and Go HAM Elsewhere: Christopher Morel
Since Nelson Velázquez already did it, we have to turn to another player who is seemingly without a position. Hoyer talked about finding an everyday spot for Morel, but he said the same thing back in June and it never happened. That’s probably because the only real option is third base and Morel has been somewhat ham-handed over there, not exactly what you want to try to work him through during what was supposed to have been a postseason push.
The hot corner is still Morel’s only real spot other than DH, but that will go away if the Cubs opt to address the position in free agency. I’m not saying Morel should be traded, just that he is the kind of guy who would become a star if he’s shipped out.
Best First-Half Hitter: Cody Bellinger
The Cubs weren’t hitting all that well early on, so Bellinger gets this one almost by default. He really caught fire for a while after the break, though he cooled as the next award-winner on the list got hot. Still, carrying a .298 average and 126 wRC+ across the first few months of the season is very solid.
Best Second-Half Hitter: Seiya Suzuki
Suzuki went off after getting a little mental break in early August, blasting his way to a 149 wRC+ that edged out the first-half winner by eight points. The right fielder’s .313 average tied Bellinger for best after the break, his .372 OBP was second, and his .566 slugging mark was the best as well. Best of all, Suzuki was consistent and proved that he can handle big league pitching.
Most Underrated: Ian Happ
This is pretty much an annual award by this point, as more than a few fans apparently hold the belief that Happ is supposed to be a stats monster. The left fielder put up a 118 wRC+ to give him above-average offensive production in every season, and his 3.5 fWAR fell just a sliver below last year’s total. He also walked 99 times, putting him fourth in MLB in that category.
And to those of you who keep suggesting Happ should be swapped for pitching, he’s got a no-trade clause. Also, how is he bringing back a big-time arm if he’s so bad?
The Nick Castellanos Award for Most Beloved in Short Stint: Bellinger
I don’t know too many people who are optimistic about the Cubs’ ability to re-sign Bellinger, who immediately ingratiated himself to fans and the organization with his attitude and performance. Just like Castellanos, Bellinger gave the Cubs a much-needed spark offensively while also giving them a little more swagger. Now we wait to see whether Bellinger will likewise become the one that got away.
Biggest Surprise: Nick Madrigal’s 3B defense
Some were literally laughing about the idea of Madrigal getting reps at third when the Cubs began their spring workouts in Mesa, but he quickly made everyone take him seriously. Despite limited playing time due to injuries and a stretch of terrible hitting that forced a demotion, Madrigal ranked fifth among all third basemen with eight defensive runs saved and he was sixth with 10 outs above average.
Most Underutilized Prospect: Matt Mervis
This will probably piss off some folks who believe 99 plate appearances afforded enough runway for Mervis to prove himself, but I’m basing my choice as much on who the Cubs chose to roll with instead. The Cubs gave 363 plate appearances to the duo of Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini before both were eventually released after combining for just six home runs and -1.2 fWAR.
Mervis batted just .167 with -0.6 fWAR, but what if he had been allowed to fail earlier? He was among the best on the team in terms of hard-hit and barrel percentages, yet his .218 BABIP indicates he was getting hosed by misfortune. I firmly believe Mash could have figured things out with another 264 PAs.
Most Likely to Be Non-Tendered: Patrick Wisdom
Nick Burdi and Codi Heuer are actually more likely, though both will probably be outrighted off the 40-man roster anyway. Wisdom isn’t the long-term solution at either first or third and he saw his playing time drop off dramatically as the season wore on and the Cubs gave more opportunities to players with a lot less boom but even less bust.
Even with the Cubs in need of more power, Wisdom is probably too much of a niche hitter to maintain a spot even with what should still be a pretty reasonable salary.
Best Pitcher: Justin Steele
Not gonna bother laying this one out.
The Tom Ricketts “Biblical losses” Award for Quote That Will Live in Infamy: “The guys that got us here are going to play.”
Ross was speaking about Canario at the time, but it quickly became a trope as the Cubs slid out of contention down the stretch.
Worst Day of the Week Award: Sunday
The Cubs were awful on Sundays, so much so that I’m not even going to look back on it to provide you with the facts.
That’s all I’ve got, but feel free to drop your own superlatives in the comments below.