2. Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs won the World Series as recently as 2016. They tried to contend for the next few years, but could not make it past the NLDS in 2017 or 2018. At that point, the Cubs' front office found it best for the team's future success to begin selling off former centerpieces and letting key players sign with other teams. The rebuild was started in 2020 and finished around 2021.
Since then, the Cubs have toiled at the bottom of the division. While they made some moves this offseason, only Dansby Swanson's record deal moved the needle for the team with offseason projections. Signing Cody Bellinger felt like a flier, Jameson Taillon was never going to be a top-end starter, and Trey Mancini appeared to be a filler piece for a team. However, Dansby has been as reliable as ever, and Bellinger has returned to his MVP status this year. This set the Cubs up to be buyers at the 2023 trade deadline when they traded for All-Star Jeimer Candelario from the Washington Nationals.
The Cubs figure to be in on Shohei Ohtani this offseason, as they were back in 2018. The Cubs also have a top-three farm system. Pete Crow-Armstrong is the 12th-ranked prospect overall and the 5th-best outfielder. Kade Horton, a right-handed pitcher, is ranked 31st overall, and Kevin Alcantara, an outfielder, has been an impressive prospect who is rising in boards across the country. Having Cody Bellinger on their roster this year has allowed the Cubs' brass to make an early pitch for him to stay in the Windy City.
A franchise with money to spend, a third overall farm system, and talent already on the major league roster spell trouble for divisional rivals. The Cubs are a force to be reckoned with both this year and next year. Should they sign Shohei Ohtani this offseason, the Cubs will vault into one of the best teams in the National League, let alone the division.