Six Questions for Chicago Baseball Ahead of 2021 Spring Training
The new MLB season is quickly approaching as Winter comes to a close. The 2021 Spring Training is set to begin February 28th for the White Sox, with the Cubs beginning on March 1st. The test for both teams will be how well they can replicate the previous season.
Chicago saw postseason baseball for both the North and South Side last season, and have good reason to believe there is a chance to see it again in 2021. US sportsbooks seem to be in agreement about both teams and where they stand going into the season.
|Chicago White Sox
Sportsbook Odds on each team to win their divisions
It's a fair assessment, especially given the offseason differences between the Chicago teams. The White Sox finished in a Wild Card spot least season and have only improved its squad, while the Cubs seemingly went the opposite direction. So, how will each of their seasons look this year.
Let’s take on the role of interviewer and interviewee to get answers to the most pressing questions about each team.
Chicago White Sox: After noticeable improvements over the multi-year rebuild, is this finally the season when you play October baseball?
Over the past three years, the White Sox have been continuously adding new pieces and additions to the team. The results have been perfectly coordinated. The team finished fourth in the AL Central in 2018, third the 2019 and second last season.
If the trends continue, we should see the White Sox take the division in 2021.
What is most impressive about the rebuild is how well it has worked out. Players like Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel and Yasmani Grandal have not only become some of the team’s best players, but some of the best in the MLB.
As we noticed in our MLB power rankings for the new season, while the White Sox have improved on paper, the other AL Central teams continue to decline on average. The team should have no worries taking the division, and should be a heavy contender for the World Series.
Chicago Cubs: On the opposite end, is there any way that you compete in this year’s NL Central, and find yourself in the playoffs?
Over the years, baseball ownership has done some questionable things in Chicago. The Cubs were the latest victims after winning the World Series in 2016, the franchise’s first in over 100 years!
What is there to do once you have won it all? Well, the answer for the Cubs was apparently to trade off its best players and seemingly enter a rebuild. The offseason saw the Cubs lose a great chunk of its starting rotation including Yu Darvish and Jon Lester.
The intent is obviously there to rework that team from 2016, but for now many of the core players remain intact. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are notable players who, for now, will continue with the team in 2021, but the writing is on the wall that this could be the final year.
On the opposite end of the team’s American League counterparts, the Cubs NL Central division has improved. Sportsbooks currently have the Cubs in a fourth-place finish, with rivals St. Louis the favorites.
The division looks to be completely out of reach for the Cubs, and a Wild Card spot also looks to be a demanding task. Like ownership determined, this is probably the last season we will see core from the 2016 World Series team, with further decline in store for 2021.
Chicago White Sox: How much of an impact can we expect from Jose Abreu this season?
Since signing with the White Sox in October 2013, Jose Abreu has been the brightest player for the South Side team. The first baseman has given the Sox a consistent All-Star/MVP caliber player that perfectly transitioned into the position after Paul Konerko retired in 2014.
In the seven seasons playing with the White Sox, Abreu has been named to the All-Star team three times, won the Silver Slugger award three times and finally won the AL MVP award last season in 2020.
Going into the 2021 season, Abreu will be 34 years old, and the questions surrounding how he will top last season are on the table. Odds on Abreu again taking the MVP are good, and he should be completely focused on getting his final accolade, a World Series trophy with the Sox.
Chicago Cubs: With Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and other starters officially gone for the upcoming season, what will the starting rotation look like?
The 2020-21 offseason for the North Side team had Cubs fans wondering just how bad it could get. Yu Darvish was traded to San Diego, and Kris Bryant trade rumors immediately started flying (they have since seemingly ended).
Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Lance Lynn are also not with the team anymore, as the latter was traded to the other team in Chicago, which means the Cubs are entering the new season with at least four vacancies in the starting rotation. If anything is going to sink the Cubs in 2021, this will likely be it.
Kyle Hendricks and Alec Mills will be the only truly tested Cubs’ starters in the 2021 rotation, and while the return of Jake Arrieta from the Philadelphia Phillies will certainly help, the starting rotation is clearly lacking from previous seasons.
It will also likely be without any left-handed pitchers in the lineup, which could also become a factor. On the upside, if players like Zach Davies and Trevor Williams turn up the offseason departures could hurt less. Either way, there will be uncertainty likely through the beginning part of the season.
Chicago White Sox: Is Tony La Russa ready to immediately take the team to World Series glory?
After a decade from the hall of fame manager’s last game, the Chicago White Sox shocked the baseball world by signing Tony La Russa and bringing the legend back into the dugout. While this move certainly drew praise, it also created a lot of questions about the decision.
The White Sox are in a position to seriously compete for the World Series after steady improvement the last few seasons. Chicago announced in October that manager Rick Renteria would not be returning with the team after a disappointing playoff finish in 2020.
Will Tony La Russa be able to do what no manager since the infamous Ozzie Guillen did in 2005? Well, the White Sox certainly think so as they called him in from a nearly decade-long retirement. What is known is that the pressure will certainly be on the manager to get the job completely done in his first season.
When looking at Russa's managerial career, he does seem to be the perfect man for the job. He already has three World Series titles and ranks third all-time in MLB wins (will likely be second after 2021). Going into this 2021 season, we could be in store for one of baseball’s most beautiful endings to a season.
Chicago Cubs: Is this a farewell season, barring a World Series trophy?
While it may not seem like it, the North Side Chicago team is also feeling the pressure to win the World Series in 2021. It's either that, or the rebuild will become a complete process. It's also absolutely possible that either way this will happen.
The four remaining pieces from the 2016 season; Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo are all set to be free agents after the 2021 season. This impending doom could either motivate the team to do everything possible to convince the Cubs to win it all, or (more likely) could signal a freefall in 2021.
The Cubs are already long shots to even win the division, and it seems that more heartache is coming to the team in 2021 and after. This is not to say that the Cubs cannot compete, as the pieces remaining are still in theory enough for a playoff spot at least.
However, the ownership has already seemingly set the rebuild in stone. The psychological implications will absolutely have an impact on the team each game it plays. What is to come of those implications we will have to wait to see.