Cubs loaded for another World Series run with Justin Wilson and Alex Avila

Cubs loaded for another World Series run with Justin Wilson and Alex Avila

The Cubs want another parade down Michigan Avenue, loading up for another World Series run by adding lefty reliever Justin Wilson and veteran catcher Alex Avila on top of frontline starter Jose Quintana.    

At a time when other organizations are overprotective of prospects and planning for the future by following a Cubs Way blueprint, team president Theo Epstein knows what he wants and what he is willing to give up to keep Wrigleyville rocking this October.

The Cubs closed that deal with the Detroit Tigers late Sunday night and announced it early Monday morning, filling their two biggest immediate needs with almost six hours to go before Monday’s 3 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline in Chicago.

Pouncing on that proposal from the White Sox in the middle of July allowed Quintana to make three extra starts (2-1, 2.37 ERA) in a Cubs uniform, changing the energy in the clubhouse as the defending champs sprinted out of the All-Star break, going 13-3 and flipping a 5.5-game deficit in the National League Central into a 2.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers.       

The Cubs are no longer the franchise of here-we-go-again pessimism, in part, because Epstein sacrificed elite prospect Gleyber Torres in a blockbuster deal with the New York Yankees last summer. Epstein made the calculated decision that he would rather be with Aroldis Chapman than against that 100-mph fastball in October, adding the superstar closer – a week before the trade deadline – to a team with close to a 99-percent chance of making the playoffs.

“A preemptive strike – he’s not afraid to make that before it gets too late,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Our guys do a great job of recognizing our need – and then not being afraid to go out and get it.”

The reality is the Cubs didn’t feel all that much pain while making these deals. (It would obviously be a much different story if the Cubs hadn’t recovered to win that World Series Game 7.) But this was The Plan all along, to collect as much young talent as possible, invest heavily in hitters and flip those assets when the Cubs needed pitching.      

So Torres might become a star in The Bronx, Eloy Jimenez should someday launch eye-popping homers on the South Side and the White Sox will help Dylan Cease refine his 100-mph fastball and big curveball.  

Jeimer Candelario should get a good opportunity in Detroit’s rebuilding situation as a 23-year-old switch-hitter who works out with Robinson Cano during the offseason, plays both corner-infield spots and has 21 homers, 106 RBI and a .912 OPS in 157 career games on the Triple-A level.

But Candelario didn’t have a clear path to the North Side. Neither did Class-A infielder Isaac Paredes, the other prospect packaged in the Wilson/Avila trade along with cash or a player to be named later.

The Cubs already have a battle-tested, championship-proven lineup of everyday players under club control through 2021: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., plus Jason Heyward (assuming he doesn’t opt out of a $184 million contract) and rookie Ian Happ and a scouting-and-player-development machine that will be all over the draft and the international market.

The Cubs can now slot Quintana into their rotation through 2020 alongside Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. The Cubs can also position Wilson – who has 92 holds, 14 saves and a 3.20 ERA in his career – as an elite setup guy for this pennant race and a potential ninth-inning option for next season if All-Star closer Wade Davis exits as a free agent.  

But enough about the future, the Cubs understand this is World Series or bust, all over again.

“We always knew there was talent in the room,” pitcher John Lackey said. “It was just a matter of guys getting back to feeling good and playing good baseball together. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that since the break. But then again, we got a long way to go, too.”

Ozzie Guillen compared Sammy Sosa to Michael Jordan...and Michael Jackson

Ozzie Guillen compared Sammy Sosa to Michael Jordan...and Michael Jackson

Ozzie Guillen is no stranger to saying outlandish things.

So it's not surprising that Guillen would agree with Sosa when the former Cubs outfielder said he made the city of Chicago what it is today.

Thirteen months ago, Sosa gave a candid interview to Chuck Wasserstrom and compared himself to Jesus before saying: "When nobody knew who Chicago was, I put Chicago on the map."

Guillen echoed that sentiment on the latest White Sox Talk Podcast.

Maybe from where they sit, that's exactly what has occurred. Sosa and Michael Jordan certainly helped make the Cubs, Bulls and Chicago sports in general on the map internationally.

"People know who the Cubs were because Sammy put them back on the map," Guillen said. "... For the city of Chicago, when Sammy was Sammy — that race with [Mark] McGwire, then people noticed what Chicago was."

Ozzie said — from his perspective — when people hear about Chicago, they ask, "Oh, you know Sammy?" or "You know Michael?" referencing Michael Jordan.

Guillen also weighed in on Sosa's ever-changing appearance that has sparked A LOT of attention lately.

"But the color, I'm tired. I think he uses the same product Michael Jackson did," Guillen said. "It's funny because I work with him — we talked to him a lot for ESPN Deportes. When you're lying, that's when people don't get it.

"Listen, if you want to change your color, why not? You got the money, you got the time if that's what you want to be. But if you say, 'Well, I got too much color because of the sun when I was playing.' OK...You live in Miami, you grew up in the Dominican. To me, I just laugh."

Scouting the Cubs' competition: Will the Nationals finally win it all before Bryce Harper leaves?


Scouting the Cubs' competition: Will the Nationals finally win it all before Bryce Harper leaves?

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Washington Nationals

2017 record: 97-65, 1st place in NL East

Offseason additions: Miguel Montero, Matt Adams, Joaquin Benoit, Matt Reynolds, Jeremy Hellickson, Tommy Milone

Offseason departures: Adam Lind, Stephen Drew, Jose Lobaton, Jayson Werth, Matt Albers, Oliver Perez, Joe Blanton

X-factor: The health of their stars

Health is an X-factor for any team, but it carries more weight in D.C. than anywhere else in baseball.

Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Stephen Strasburg are three of the Nationals' best players and yet three guys that can't seem to stay healthy for a full season. Couple that group with leadoff hitter Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy coming off knee injuries, the health questions are running rampant in Washington.

Those are the Nationals' projected Top 4 hitters and No. 2 starter. If they all stay healthy, they'll put up some whopping numbers. But if history repeats, it will make the road quite a bit tougher despite a weak NL East.

Projected lineup

1. Adam Eaton - LF
2. Trea Turner - SS
3. Bryce Harper - RF
4. Anthony Rendon - 3B
5. Ryan Zimmerman - 1B
6. Howie Kendrick - 2B
7. Matt Wieters - C
8. Michael Taylor - CF

Projected rotation

1. Max Scherzer
2. Stephen Strasburg
3. Gio Gonzalez
4. Tanner Roark
5. A.J. Cole


When healthy, this may be the most talented roster in the NL. Harper, Rendon, Murphy and Turner could all wind up as serious contenders in the 2018 MVP race while Scherzer and Strasburg figure to garner some Cy Young votes once again.

The Nationals also have the advantage of a pretty rough division, at least on paper. Three teams are rebuilding and the Mets haven't made the playoffs in a couple years now. Getting to play 18+ games against all four of those teams is a godsend.

Which is good news for a Nationals fanbase that is absolutely starving for some actual postseason success. Wade Davis and the Cubs knocked Washington out last fall and 2018 represents what figures to be the final chance to win it all (or even win A playoff series) with Harper before he gets a $400 million deal elsewhere (like Chicago??).

The 2018 Nationals have no holes. If any of their starters falter, they have Hellickson available. If any of their position players struggle, they have depth in the form of Kendrick (once Murphy is healthy), Montero, Adams, Wilmer Difo and Brian Goodwin.

And the bullpen is very, very good thanks to a bunch of moves before the 2017 Trade Deadline and also have Benoit and Koda Glover expected to start the season on the DL.

The Nationals will be playing in October this year. But what they do in the postseason is a question that won't be answered for 6 months. 

Prediction: 1st in NL East, playoffs