For some Chicago Cubs players, the end of the 2017 postseason isn’t just a goodbye for the winter break– it’s a goodbye to the Cubs.
As the team evaluates its needs heading into the offseason, changes will inevitably be made and Joe Maddon knew that as he entered the locker room following the team’s painful season-ending loss in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers.
“There was of course a couple of guys that it gets a little bit touchier and emotional with that may not be here next year,” Maddon said after the game. "So I wanted to make sure I touched base with them too."
Rumors have swirled and players have hinted that the team will likely lose two of its star pitchers before next season – Jake Arrieta and John Lackey.
In the last two games of this season, both pitched what may have been their last in a Cubs uniform.
Arrieta is a free agent at season's end, and has indicated that he will not take a discount to stay in Chicago.
He hinted at a potential end to his time with the Cubs following his powerful Game 4 performance, which led the team to their first and only win in the NLCS.
"I still intend to have another start in this ballpark," the pitcher said after the game. "Hopefully, it's not a goodbye. It's a thank you."
Arrieta transformed himself after arriving in Chicago in 2013, winning the National League Cy Young Award in 2015 and throwing two no-hitters with the Cubs.
Lackey, who signed with the Cubs prior to the 2016 season, has won three World Series rings in his big league career.
Maddon, who said he goes “way back” with Lackey, talked about the pair’s time together with the Angels 2002 World Series team, where Maddon was a bench coach.
“It’s really special for me with John,” the Cubs manager said. “I think that might be it, I’m not 100 percent sure he’s not coming back next year.”
As the team celebrated their National League Central Title last month, teammate Jon Lester hinted that Lackey likely wouldn’t be returning after this season.
“He’s one of the best teammates and people I ever got to play with,” Jon Lester said as the team celebrated in the visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium. “Tonight was probably his last regular season start. Here’s to one hell of a (bleeping) career.”
In two seasons with the Cubs, Lackey has a 23-19 record with a 3.92 ERA in 59 starts. He was one of the team’s starting pitchers during their 2016 title run, giving up seven earned runs in 13 innings of work during the playoffs.
On Thursday night, he entered Game 5 in the fourth inning, with the score already at 7-0, and pitched for two innings before he left the mound at Wrigley Field for what may have been the last time in his career.
“So hopefully it’s not [the end] but if it is, I had that chance to be with him in that moment,” Maddon said. “That’s pretty special for me, maybe not as special for him, but it’s special for me.”