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No more “Wait ’til next year”

Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo hugs Dexter Fowler after Fowler made a surprise appearance during Cubs spring training at Sloan Park in Mesa, Ariz., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. Fowler has agreed to a one-year contract with a mutual option with the Cubs. (Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

The Dexter Fowler’s signing solidifies it: This year there will be no “Next year”.  This is the year the Cubs win the World Series for the first time in 108 years.

After reports earlier in the week of Dexter Fowler signing with the Baltimore Orioles, Fowler showed up at Cubs Spring Training today to surprise his teammates after he signed a one-year 8-million dollar contract with a mutual option for the following year.

Fowler is the cherry on top of the Cubs already ridiculous offseason. After making it to the NLCS last season, the Cubs signed all-star outfielder Jason Heyward and veteran pitcher John Lackey away from the Cardinals, as well as adding utility man Ben Zobrist to play second base for them. With Fowler resigning, the Cubs have all their major pieces back from last year’s magical season and one of the most imposing lineups the MLB has seen in decades.

Highlighted in the series against the Cardinals was the Cubs’ ability to hit the long ball. With a middle of the order consisting of Rookie of the year Kris Bryant, MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo and sophomore slugger Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs should continue to hit the long ball in 2016.

The Cubs had the sixth highest scoring offense in the MLB in 2015, even with many of their top players not coming up until mid-way through the season. By the time the playoffs rolled around, the Cubs were starting four rookies, and with that influx of youth players into the roster, the offense should improve this season as the team gains more experience.

And that right there is the scariest thing about this Cubs team: They are only getting better. The Cubs arrived a year before scheduled last year with their deep playoff run. This was supposed to be the year the Cubs started contending in the NL central, instead it is the year the Cubs contend for a World Series title.

Not only do the Cubs have the most talented offense in the MLB, they also have a formidable pitching staff, anchored by 2015 NL CY Young winner Jake Arietta. The Cubs 2015 offseason was highlighted by the signing of ace pitcher John Lester, and while Lester had a great 2015 season, Arietta was the pitcher who really emerged and became the ace of the staff. The top two pitchers on the Cubs staff were dominant throughout the season, but as shown in the Mets series, the team lacked pitching depth after their two aces.

To remedy this situation, the Cubs brought in veteran pitcher John Lackey, the same pitcher who shut down their offense in game 1 of the NLDS. Lackey, while past his prime, is still an incredible pitcher, especially as a third starter. Hammel and Hendricks are good enough to round out the rotation, but are obviously the weak part of the staff.

The weak part of the 2015 Cubs team was their fielding, but signing one of the best defensive outfielders in the MLB in Heyward should help this problem. Detractors often point to the inexperience of this Cubs roster, along with the Cubs’ losing history being the reason they won’t win a world series.

People who say this don’t understand the clubhouse atmosphere of the Cubs at all. Joe Maddon is the best manager in the MLB, and along with veterans like David Ross, has created an incredible environment for the Cubs’ young players to go. Gone is the pessimism and pressure many past teams faced. This team doesn’t feel any of the weight of the franchise’s history on their shoulders; they take it as an opportunity instead of a burden.

The Cubs have the story, the talent and just the right amount of youthful ignorance and playoff knowledge to finally break the curse of the Billy Goat. This year is the year.

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Adam Reckamp, Author

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