2. Chicago Cubs
Cubs fans were outraged that the team traded both Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, two core pieces and team legends from their 2016 World Series. But Jed Hoyer was on to something.
Scummy business or not, the Cubs are on a hell of a trajectory to contend as early as 2022. They signed Marcus Stroman to join Kyle Hendricks atop the rotation. They also brought in Wade Miley and Clint Frazier, both of whom could contribute in an above-average capacity if things go well. And don’t forget about Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer, both of whom came over at the trade deadline in the Craig Kimbrel deal with the White Sox.
They have a lot of young talent to potentially build around, too. Adbert Alzolay, Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner and others are still under club control. Their payrolls are right in the $110 million range from 2022-2025.
An impact player like Judge could completely flip the weak-yet-all-over-the-place NL Central on its head. Now, one problem exists, and that’s the presence of Jason Heyward, who is the starting right fielder and is signed through 2023 at $22 million per season. However, the Cubs can either move him to center field (where he played 84 games in 2019 or trade him (what contender wouldn’t want a power-hitting defensive stalwart on an expiring contract?). Easy solutions.
Additionally, the Cubs have no players signed long-term. David Bote is the only player guaranteed a contract beyond 2023. They do have an improving farm system, though, after moving up from No. 24 in August to No. 15 in February in Baseball America’s rankings. Another big city with sky-high expectations for Judge? He’d fit right in if the Cubs will have him.