Although Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward has many thinking the Chicago Cubs are now NL favorites, here’s why they haven’t passed the New York Mets just yet.
By David Hong
The New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs both squared off in the 2015 National League Championship Series with the Mets easily sweeping past the Cubs to win the NL pennant.
Both teams are big market squads who were once laughingstocks of baseball with their constant losing. Both teams have slowly developed themselves with homegrown players. The Mets with their pitching and the Cubs with their hitting. Finally, both of them have made key moves as well to solidify themselves even more.
The 2015 NLCS was a preview of what is and what is yet to come in the future as a competitive NL rivalry between the two for years to come. With the Mets pulling off the sweep, the Cubs have promptly responded during the Hot Stove season in order to get them over the hump.
First, they signed veteran starter Jon Lackey to improve their rotation behind Jon Lester and Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. Then they stole Ben Zobrist from the Mets, who were aggressively trying to get the versatile infielder as well. To top it off, on Friday they signed outfielder Jason Heyward to a mega-deal.
Those moves are probably getting baseball analysts to put the Cubs as the NL favorites in 2016 after falling just short of the World Series last year and still with a surplus of young hitters.
But we all know, predictions on paper doesn’t always come through.
First of all, big offseason spendings doesn’t always win championships. If you look at the last few World Series champions, none of them had big spending sprees.
The Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, and the St Louis Cardinals have been the World Series champs for the last seven years. None of them have made big spending sprees but they made key moves that did not bring major headlines but were good enough to fill their missing pieces on their way to the title. The Giants have won three titles in that seven year span, all with an average payroll.
Secondly, the Mets have made moves we well in the offseason this week.
They solidified their infield by acquiring Neil Walker for Jonothan Niese in the trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates and they also signed Asdrubal Cabrera. Those moves improved the Mets infield and provided more depth there.
Plus, manager Terry Collins now has more options in the infield. Wilmer Flores can come off the bench and could play, second, shortstop or third. Cabrera can play second or short and maybe third. Those infield additions also can give David Wright more rest as they have more options at third as well. The fact that the Cubs got Zobrist away from the Mets, led NY to acquire those two solid infielder and thus made the Mets a deeper and a better infield. Walker might also be the better option that Zobrist. Walker is younger and won’t affect the Mets financially. Plus he’s a solid hitter with decent power too.
Thirdly, as well witnessed in the NLCS, pitching beats good hitting.
The Mets power pitching clearly shut down the Cubs power hitting. Chicago improved their rotation with the Lackey signing but it still doesn’t pare with comparision with the Mets young rotation of Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Their rotation is so deep that they were able to deal away Niese and he brought them a solid second baseman in Walker.
If the Mets re-sign Bartolo Colon, he will be their fifth starter until Zack Wheeler comes back from Tommy John probably in mid June. Plus Wheeler also is a young, power pitcher in comparison with deGrom, Harvey, Thor and Matz, giving the Mets even more rotational depth.
The offseason is still not over and both teams could still improve their squads. The Cubs could add another starter while the Mets are looking for an outfielder (specifically a lefty hitter to patrol center field to platoon with Juan Lagares) and a setup man in their bullpen. So far, the Cubs have definitely made the bigger splash this offseason both offensively and defensively but like I said before, World Series titles are not won in the offseason. Plus the Mets have also made moves that helped them too.
There is definitely competition in the National League with other teams as well. Right now, The Mets and the Cubs are still the early favorites to win the NL pennant.
The Mets still have the deeper and better starting rotation. The Cubs may have more power in their lineup but the Mets have more versatility.
That still gives the Mets more of a slight edge for NL supremacy.
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