The 2016 Chicago Cubs won 103 games, which was best in the MLB, beat the San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Cleveland Indians to become World Series Champions! What led to this championship? Let’s go over the six most important events that led to the Cubs 2016 World Series team:
1: The Theo Epstein Hire
In October of 2011, the Cubs hired Theo Epstein away from the Boston Red Sox. This hire likely does not happen if the Red Sox did not have an epic collapse in September of 2011, the final month of Epstein’s tenure as Red Sox general manager. To start September of 2011, the Red Sox had a nine-game division lead. At the end of the season, the Red Sox found themselves seven games back and third in the division. The combination of this 2011 September collapse and a 2010 season that failed to produce a playoff appearance for the Red Sox, ultimately led to Theo Epstein becoming available for the Cubs to hire.
After being named President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs, Epstein immediately started making impact moves. To create a World Series caliber roster, Epstein had to hit on players in the draft, free agency, and via trade, and Epstein did just that. Epstein traded for, drafted, or signed a whopping 24 of the 25 rostered players for the 2016 World Series.
Next, we will discuss the biggest acquisitions made by Epstein’s regime since he took over in 2011:
2: Acquisition of Anthony Rizzo
In January of 2012, the Cubs sent Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Zach Cates and Anthony Rizzo. Since becoming a Cub, Rizzo has become a three-time Gold Glover, a three-time NL All-Star, and a World Series Champion. Rizzo is seen, by most, as the leader and captain of the team. Starting from his debut with the Cubs in 2012 to the 2016 World Series Championship, Rizzo had a combined 18.8 Wins Above Replacement(According to Fangraphs). The two players the Cubs traded away combined for a WAR of 7.2 from 2012 to 2016. Rizzo is the star player who started this rebuild, giving the Cubs a young, controllable star. In 2013, the Cubs and Rizzo agreed to a seven-year 41 million dollar extension, which was paramount in the Cubs later free agent success.
3: Drafting Kris Bryant
On June Sixth, 2013, the Cubs Selected Kris Bryant with the second overall pick in the draft. Drafting Bryant was a hit for the Epstein regime. Bryant would become the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year award winner in 2014. Bryant debuted in April of 2015, and would later win the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year award. The next year, Bryant would win the 2016 National League Most Valuable Player award. Bryant had a combined Wins Above Replacement of 14.0 in 2015 and 2016.
4: Acquisition of Kyle Hendricks
At the 2012 trade deadline, the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers for Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks. Dempster would only go on to pitch in 12 games for the Rangers with a 5.09 Earned Run Average, and in the offseason, Dempster would leave the Rangers and sign with the Red Sox.
Kyle Hendricks, on the other hand, would flourish in the Cubs system. Since debuting in 2014, Hendricks has never had an Earned Run Average higher than 3.95. Hendricks even led all pitchers in 2016 with a 2.13 ERA. Hendricks was as important as anyone for the Cubs in their 2016 World Series run. Pitching brilliantly in game 6 of the National League Championship Series and Game 7 of the World Series.
This trade was an extremely one-sided trade, Hendricks is still with the Cubs, signing an extension in March of 2019 worth 55 million dollars.
5: Acquisition of Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta
In the summer of 2013, The Cubs traded Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Feldman and Clevenger would seemingly never be heard of again. While Strop would become one of the most reliable relievers in the Major Leagues. Over seven years with the Cubs Strop had a 2.90 ERA with over 500 innings pitched. Strop made eight appearances in the 2016 Championship run, allowing only two runs.
When the Chicago Cubs traded for Arrieta, he was a struggling pitcher with the Orioles. Over four seasons in Baltimore, Arrieta accumulated a 5.46 ERA over four seasons. After being traded to the Cubs, Arrieta spent some time in Triple-A Iowa, before getting called up. After getting called up, Arrieta thrived in a Cubs uniform, pitching for five seasons with a 2.73 ERA. Arrieta even won the 2015 National League Cy Young going 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA. Arrieta was a pivotal piece in the Cubs 2016 World Series Championship.
This trade might have been the best trade in the history of the Cubs franchise. After the trade, Feldman appeared in 15 games with a 4.27 ERA. While Clevenger only accumulated a 0.2 WAR over three seasons with the Orioles. The Orioles traded for two players who gave them little production while giving the Cubs two absolute studs.
6: Jon Lester Signing
In December of 2014, the Cubs inked Jon Lester to a six-year 155 million dollar deal. Signing Lester gave the Cubs’ rotation a true ace, a veteran who the rest of the rotation could lean on, someone who the players could come in and know they were going to have a chance to win. Lester has compiled a 3.54 ERA over five seasons with the Cubs and got second place in the Cy Young vote in 2016.
Lester has been the anchor of the Chicago Cubs rotation for the entirety of the contract, starting one game in the NLDS, two games in the NLCS, and two in the World Series. Without Lester, the Cubs would have never won the World Series.
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