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Sep 18, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (40) rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Milwaukee Brewers in the seventh inning at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

With the end of MLB's regular season coming next week, Bally Sports will review the performance of each club with an eye looking at what happened in 2021 and another at what could happen next season. Our next MLB Exit Interview is with the Chicago Cubs.

What went right

• They threw a combined no-hitter June 25 against the Dodgers, with Zach Davies starting, Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin middling, and Craig Kimbrel closing. Funny thing: Kimbrel had no idea there was a no-no going.

• Patrick Wisdom can play third base. He has four defensive runs saved (via Fangraphs) and is three outs above average (via MLB Savant) at the hot corner. He can hit a little, too. A 30-year-old who excelled at Triple-A but never got much of a chance in the majors before this season, Wisdom has batted .237/.304/.530 with 27 homers in 353 plate appearances. He has regressed some in the second half, notably because of a 41.9% strikeout rate, which is way too high. But this is the "What went right" section, so don't dwell on it!

• After a disastrous start statistically that included a painful rib injury from a collision in May, outfielder Ian Happ seems to have things figured out at the plate. He's batting .272/.340/.554 with 14 home runs in his past 215 plate appearances heading into Tuesday.

• With an eerily similar story to Wisdom's, 29-year-old slugger Frank Schwindel finally got a chance at the majors after mastering Triple-A with multiple teams. He has responded with a .363/.408/.673 with 13 home runs and a .450 wOBA in 184 plate appearances. Those stats are well beyond what he produced in the minors, and Schwindel has a .377 BABIP, so there is bound to be some regression. BUT... he's also got a 15.2% strikeout rate, which is fine, and it's been going down.

What went wrong

• They have lucked out with individual COVID-19 cases among players, at least when compared to what's been reported with other teams, but the front office was vocal with its disappointment over the inability to reach an 85% vaccination threshold.

• The Cubs spent 25 days in first place (mostly in June) and were as many as 11 games over .500 before a collapse that included an emotionally draining sell-off of World Series icons. Gone are Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Báez. What goodwill many Cubs fans had for ownership went with the players, though the Cubs did get a good prospect for Báez.

• They've gone 25-50 since the no-hitter.

• The starting pitching just cratered. The reunion with Jake Arrieta did not work out and he hit the road. Kyle Hendricks is somehow 14-6, but his ERA (and expected ERA) are near 5.00. Adbert Alzolay has been disappointing as a starter and Keegan Thompson hasn't worked out (yet) as a starter, but it’s early for both. Alec Mills, who threw a no-hitter in 2020 if you remember, has been OK. But he should be the fifth starter if all is well otherwise.

• Jason Heyward is a great human being but his hitting really deteriorated. He's slugging about .383 since joining the Cubs in 2016. He's under contract through 2023.

Top player

Catcher Willson Contreras, even though offensively he took a huge step back — and it wasn't just because the season crumbled to heck after the trade deadline. He wasn't hitting that well in the first half, either. He needs to bounce back.

Top rookie

Wisdom has a 150 at-bat edge on Schwindel, even if he might have less WAR at the end of the season. The best non-older rookie is Thompson, who is 26.

Reasons for optimism

• Their top prospect, outfielder Brennen Davis, is batting .270/.379/.513 with 18 home runs in 375 plate appearances at three levels. He had a 30.7% strikeout rate at Double-A, where he spent the most time. He's been promoted to Triple-A and turns 22 soon. It won't be long until he's with the big team.

• They made a shrewd trade of Kimbrel, sending him to the White Sox for young second baseman Nick Madrigal and right-handed reliever Codi Heuer. Kimbrel has an expensive club option for 2022, money better spent elsewhere (if ownership spends it). Madrigal won't be able to help them until next season because of a torn hamstring, but the standings were a lost cause this year anyway. Heuer isn't due a big paycheck for years and has pitched about as well as Kimbrel did for the Cubs.

What needs work 

• They need to add at least one starting outfielder — someone good — in free agency, plus at least one expensive starting pitcher. And this is assuming that Wisdom and Schwindel will be multi-win players, which you can't really do yet. Is ownership about to do that?

• They only have two players in the top 100 as ranked by MLB (Davis, along with left-hander Brailyn Martoínez) so if help is on the way from the minors, most of it isn't coming up soon. The deals for the old World Series guard should bear some fruit at some point.

Check out our earlier MLB Exit Interviews

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