Cubs put exclamation point on promising second half

After early struggles, Chicago posts impressive 39-31 mark after All-Star break

October 6th, 2022

CINCINNATI -- Sitting in the visitors' dugout at Great American Ball Park, Cubs manager David Ross smirked when asked to reflect on this season on Wednesday afternoon. The question was posed before Chicago's final game, paving the way for a friendly quip.

"We're not there yet," Ross said. "We've got one more to win."

The Cubs took care of that with a 15-2 rout over the Reds, putting the period on an impressive second half (39-31) within an 88-loss campaign. Solid run prevention defined the final two-plus months for Chicago, which now has an important offseason ahead.

After two seasons of franchise-altering trades, stockpiling down on the farm and evaluating younger players at the MLB level, the Cubs could be poised for aggressive maneuvering in the coming months. There is a restlessness among the fan base and a growing sense of urgency for the ballclub.

"It's not where we want to be," Ross said of the team's third-place finish. "I still want to be playing, so that's the way I reflect. I look at it like, 'We're going to be better really soon.' And like, 'Let's hurry up and get there, because I'm ready to play in October.'"

There were positive developments during this season, including:

• Chicago's rotation -- marred by injuries throughout the year -- found its footing down the stretch. Led by , and more, the Cubs had MLB's third-lowest ERA (2.89) in the second half, trailing only the playoff-bound Astros and Dodgers.

was handed the keys to shortstop and played Gold Glove-caliber defense, while continuing to develop into an emerging offensive weapon for the Cubs.

played valuable defense in left field and enjoyed the best all-around offensive season of his career, while dealing with trade rumors that did not come to fruition.

• Lefty and righty solidified their place as important pieces to the pitching staff. Steele will return as a favorite for a rotation job, while Thompson has shown value both as a starter or a multi-inning leverage arm.

• The Cubs used 25 rookies this season and saw impressive debut showings from , Brandon Hughes, , and , among others.

"All you can do," Hoerner said, "is make the most of opportunities and provide the organization and fan base with a belief in us heading in the right direction. And I think our staff and our players did a pretty good job of that. We could have done better this year, but I think that's always true.

"And I think overall, we brought it every day and controlled our end of it pretty well -- to a point where I do believe that with the addition of some more talent on our team, I think we're in a place to compete."

Looking ahead to next season, the Cubs will be in the market for an impact bat, and the club could be a player in the free-agent shortstop sweepstakes (Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson could all be available). For his part, Hoerner has expressed a willingness to move off short if it puts the Cubs in a better position to win.

While Chicago looks to have improved in-house depth for the rotation, there are still questions aplenty about the top of the staff. Expect the Cubs to be looking for front-line rotation help, plus some veteran arms to enhance the back end of the bullpen.

"There's excitement," Ross said. "The exciting part comes from playing well down the stretch and seeing some of the hard work and growth paying off in areas, and knowing there'll be some additions this offseason and we'll get closer to where we want to be."

Coming off his third season at the helm, Ross said he is increasingly involved in the front-office conversations about offseason moves. He plans on weighing in where it makes sense this winter to reiterate "the things that are important to me" when it comes to the roster.

In the meantime, Ross does plan on watching some postseason baseball, using it as a chance to study how other managers construct rosters, lineups and handle a pitching staff. He hopes to be in their seat a year from now.

"I'm jealous of the teams that are going on to play," Ross said, "and having to watch that on TV. I want to get back into that arena. We're almost there. But we're not there yet and we've got a lot of work to do."