The 2020 MLB season has just ended, and Chicago baseball fans are already looking ahead to March 2021.
The White Sox and Cubs both made the playoffs in 2020 but bowed out in the first round. Key offseasons loom on both sides of town, and the White Sox have already made a splash.
That’s not necessarily a good thing, in this case.
The Sox hired 76-year-old Tony La Russa to be their new manager, 34 years after he last managed the team and nine years after he last managed an MLB game. The move has spurred plenty of external criticism as well as internal head-scratching, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
The Chicago White Sox have hired Hall of Famer Tony La Russa as their new manager. La Russa, 76, managed the White Sox from 1979-86, and his firing was owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s great regret. La Russa last managed in 2011, when he led St. Louis to a championship.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 29, 2020
It’s easy to see why, as the fit is bizarre, to be frank. The White Sox’s motto this season was “Change the Game,” and they captivated fans with a new-age, oftentimes flamboyant style of play.
Meanwhile, La Russa has openly criticized the way the game has evolved, and deemed Fernando Tatis Jr.’s swing at a 3-0 pitch earlier this year “unsportsmanlike.” Tim Anderson, the face of the White Sox, publicly defended Tatis.
At any rate, the White Sox have plenty of young talent and could be one of the few teams willing to spend this offseason.
The Cubs, meanwhile, won the NL Central in 2020. But the bats were once again nonexistent in a playoff series against the Marlins, and it feels like the roster is in dire need of a jolt. We also don’t know the future of Theo Epstein or Jed Hoyer, which will be a story to monitor.
Here are the early 2021 World Series odds at Illinois online sportsbooks.
White Sox, Cubs 2021 World Series odds
Here’s a look at early World Series odds for both Chicago baseball teams. The White Sox are considered a legitimate contender, while the Cubs are just a tad above mediocre.
|CHI White Sox||+1500||+1200||+1400||+1100||+1500|
These odds will change as the offseason progresses and moves are (or aren’t) made.
Right now, the Sox are in good company at most Illinois sportsbooks, surrounded by teams such as the Dodgers, Yankees, Braves, Rays and Padres.
The White Sox, thanks to their lower payroll, seem like a candidate to spend this offseason. They should pursue free-agent starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, who’s easily the top hurler on the market and would fit into a Sox rotation that’s missing a piece or two. But Bauer will have no shortage of suitors.
They could also target Marcus Stroman, who sat out the 2020 season but posted a 3.22 ERA in 2019. Starting pitching is the Sox’s biggest hole to fill, but they could also use a right fielder and another relief arm in 2021.
Former No. 3 overall pick Andrew Vaughn figures to replace Edwin Encarnacion as the designated hitter. That should be an instant upgrade for the Sox, as Encarnacion hit .157 this season.
If the Sox don’t do anything this offseason, they’ll have a good shot to win the AL Central. But if they upgrade at a few targeted spots, they should be considered clear favorites to win the division.
Cubs in the next tier
There are worse places to be than where the Cubs are right now, as they just won the NL Central and still have plenty of talent.
But there’s a feeling of staleness on the north side. And the future direction is unclear.
As of now, the Cubs have the most expensive payroll in the league. Considering the current economic climate, it’s hard to picture them spending much this winter. They also just laid off about 60 people on the business side.
The Cubs fall in the 10-15 range at Illinois books and are in a cluster with teams such as the Indians, Reds, Phillies, Mets and Cardinals.
They’re in a bit of an awkward spot. It would make sense, for instance, to trade Kris Bryant in order to shake things up.
But Bryant hit .206 this season, and trading him would be selling very, very low at this point. The Cubs might be more likely to win the World Series by simply hoping guys like Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber return to 2016 form, but that would be incredibly hard to stomach considering how they performed in 2020.
There’s not much help coming from the minor league system, so the Cubs would have to get creative in order to upgrade in 2021.
Or, hope and pray their nucleus can turn back the clock five years.