Cubs preseason favorites to win World Series pennant

The Chicago Cubs are the preseason favorites to win the 2016 MLB World Series, according to odds-makers in Las Vegas. The Chicago Cubs have not won the World Series Championship in over 100 years, dating all the way back to 1908.

With a young and talented lineup, one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, a great manager and a couple of huge offseason acquisitions, this really could be the year for the Cubs to finally bring a World Series championship back to legendary Wrigley Field and their fans.

A lot of people thought that the Cubs were ahead of schedule last season, exceeding expectations by making it all the way to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) under new manager Joe Maddon, after finishing last place in their division in 2014.

Maddon took home 2015 National League Coach of the Year honors in his first season in the Windy City and guided Chicago to a 97-65 record in 2015, the third best record in the MLB. Even though the Cubs had such an impressive record, they only received the second Wild Card bid and had to travel to play the Pittsburgh Pirates in a National League Wild Card game, which they won 4-0.

Chicago then advanced to the National League Divisional series where they easily handled the St. Louis Cardinals 3-1 in a best of five series. And in the NLCS, the Cubs were just one win away from making it to the World Series before falling to the New York Mets four games to three in an epic seven-game series. Getting a taste of the World Series will only make the Cubs that much hungrier in 2016.

This offseason the Cubs team President and General Manager Theo Epstein spent $275 million in free agency to upgrade the team all over the diamond. Chicago upgraded their weak outfield by adding Jason Heyward from St. Louis, bolstered their batting lineup with the signing of Ben Zobrist from the Kansas City Royals and added a legitimate third starter to their playoff rotation with the addition of savvy veteran starting pitcher John Lackey from St. Louis.

Lackey was the Cardinals best pitcher last year once Adam Wainwright was lost to injury. Lackey had a 2.77 ERA, which was good for 10th best in the National League. Chicago added Lackey on a bargain, signing him to a two year, $32 million deal.  Zobrist was brought in on a four-year deal worth $56 million. Heyward headlined the offseason for Epstein and the Cubs, as he signed to play in Chicago on an eight year, $184 million contract.

The pitching staff in Chicago is led by National League reigning Cy Young winner in Jake Arrieta. Arrieta was near untouchable last year in a historic campaign, posting a 22-6 record to go with a 1.77 ERA and 236 strikeouts. Following Arrieta is a couple of 2013 World Series Champions in Jon Lester and Lackey, taking care of the two and three spot in the rotation. The addition of Lackey pushed back two reliable starters, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks to the back of the rotation as the number four and five guys for the Cubs starting pitching staff. On top of their stacked starting pitching rotation, the Cubs have an excellent bullpen led by closer Hector Rondon, who had 30 saves last season and an ERA of 1.00 in 70 innings of work.

No pitcher is going to want anything to do with the Cubs batting lineup this season, especially the top of their order. Chicago will be led off by their two new additions in second basemen Ben Zobrist and outfielder Jason Heyward.

Zobrist hit .284 last season, an on-base-percentage (OBP) of .364 and 37 runs scored in just 59 games of action. Heyward batted .293 last season in St. Louis with 13 homers and 60 RBIs. He also won a Gold Glove award for his spectacular defense. It will be tough to keep those two off of the bags.

Following the top two batters is first basemen Anthony Rizzo and third basemen Kris Bryant, both 2015 National League all-stars. Bryant comes into his second season as the reigning MLB Rookie of the Year. He hit .275 last season with 26 home runs and 99 RBIs. Rizzo was also a monster at the plate last season smacking a team-leading 31 home runs and 101 RBIs with a .278 batting average.

The Cubs certainly have what it takes to win it all this season and finally put an end to the longest streak in MLB history without winning a World Series. All of the pieces are in place, as team management has done all they can to set up a championship caliber team. They have a phenomenal coach, a loaded roster and an entire city behind them who really believe that this is the year.

Now it’s just up to them to get the job done.

Sports Editor for the Maine Campus.

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