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Emma: With Jason Heyward, Cubs A Real World Series Contender

By Chris Emma--

(CBS) The Chicago Cubs are a legitimate favorite to win the 2016 World Series.

Believe it or not, the championship goal that has alluded the Cubs for years is now the expectation. Team president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has built the Cubs into the team to beat in 2016.

On Friday, the Cubs locked in superstar outfielder Jason Heyward to an eight-year, $184 million deal. The three-time Gold Glove player who boasted a 6.5 WAR in 2015 took $16 million less to leave St. Louis and the division-rival Cardinals, joining  a movement in Chicago.

Heyward is the rare 26-year-old star on the free-agent market, a commodity well worth the investment. Frankly, when the Cubs' television money kicks in starting in 2020, money will hardly be an object for the organization. Who knows what the club can do in that time.

Remarkably, the Cubs have added Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey to a team that won 97-games, and they've done this without compromising their loaded farm system and terrific organizational depth.

Additionally, they've added Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan from the Yankees in exchange for Starlin Castro, and bolstered the bullpen by acquiring Rex Brothers from the Rockies and locking in Trevor Cahill, a talented arm who was found on the streets by Epstein. And, according to 670 The Score reporter Bruce Levine, the Cubs aren't done adding this offseason.

Just like bringing in Joe Maddon and Jon Lester last season made the Cubs a playoff contender last season, adding Heyward to Zobrist and Lackey makes this team a championship favorite.

Heyward, who is one day younger than All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, is yet another superstar talent joining a lineup that includes Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber Addison Russell and more; a team that features NL Cy Young Jake Arrieta and a steady pitching staff.

The Cubs have a rotation that features four players in the top 30 of WAR rankings. They added nine wins above replacement this offseason alone, even with the move of Castro.

In Heyward and Lackey, the Cardinals lost their top two players in WAR, with both turning down offers in St. Louis to join the Cubs.

Now, just a year removed from futility, the Cubs' "plan" has led to an NLCS appearance in the first year of truly competing, major improvements to the ballpark and the kind of team players hope to join. Heyward turned declined more money to join something he believes in.

In Chicago, there is a thriving culture instilled by Maddon, a positive environment created by chairman Tom Ricketts, and the promise of arguably the best roster in baseball, now made even better with a superstar talent.

Everything has come together for the Cubs, a real World Series favorite.

Chris Emma covers the Chicago sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.  

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