In 2016, the Cubs snapped a 108-year World Series drought. Chicago had a young core that appeared to keep the Cubs in title contention for years to come. Four years later, that unit is in danger of being separated. In the past couple of months, the Cubs decided not to bring back Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora and declined Jon Lester’s option.
Changes were made off the field too. Theo Epstein, the president of baseball operations for the Cubs, stepped down on Nov. 17. Most of these moves were no surprise to Cubs fans after the 2020 season, but 16-year veteran Cubs TV play-by-play announcer Len Kasper moving to White Sox radio caught many off guard.
Cubs color commentator, Jim Deshaies, has sat alongside Kasper in the Cubs TV booth for eight years. Deshaies touched on how this will be a different year for him.
“The fact that Len is leaving is the one that impacts me the most personally because we had a real good run together for eight years, and he’s a great partner, and I’m anxious to see what we do next, who we bring in,” Deshaies said.
Kasper has said one of the main reasons he went to radio was that it was always a dream he had. Deshaies believes it was his decision to go from Cubs TV to go to White Sox radio.
“It was Len’s decision, it wasn’t like the Cubs forced him out. It was his decision to do this radio gig with the White Sox,” Deshaies said.
As for the Cubs front office, Jed Hoyer is taking over for Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations. Hoyer served as General Manager since 2011 before being promoted. Deshaies thinks it will be difficult, considering some of the Cubs stars did not have a good year in 2020.
“It is a big challenge for Jed because the team is in a bit of a transition in that the core they have leaned on so heavily for a few years is getting closer and closer to free agency,” Deshaies said.
In 2020’s unique shortened season, the Cubs went 34-26. They had the 25th easiest strength of schedule in baseball. The Cubs hitting woes were on full display in their first round series against the Marlins. Chicago tallied one run in two games and was swept by Miami in the best-of-three series. The NL Central wasn’t particularly strong and with most teams staying intact, Deshaies believes the Cubs can compete but not yet to the championship level they were in 2016.
“I still think the Cubs are going to be in good position in terms of winning the division, but how they stack up against the more elite teams in the national league like the Dodgers, Braves and Mets could be a different story altogether,” Deshaies said.
The Cubs have an early chance to prove themselves against the best — defending World Series champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Chicago opens the spring training slate against the Dodgers on Feb. 27.