CHICAGO -- Could Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant follow his National League Rookie of the Year season by being named the NL Most Valuable Player Award winner in 2016? Which Cubs pitcher might win the NL Cy Young Award, Kyle Hendricks or Jon Lester? Both were named finalists, and Cubs skipper Joe Maddon was a nominee for the top manager honors, as determined by the voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
The finalists were announced Monday on MLB Network. The NL Manager of the Year Award will be unveiled Nov. 15, the NL Cy Young Award on Nov. 16 and the NL MVP Award on Nov. 17.
Bryant, 24, followed his sensational rookie season by leading the NL in runs (121) plus setting career highs in home runs (39) and RBIs (102). Twenty players have won the top rookie honors and been named MVP, but Bryant could join Dustin Pedroia (2007-08), Ryan Howard (2005-06), and Cal Ripken Jr. (1982-83) as the only players to win the awards in back-to-back seasons.
Sammy Sosa was the last Cubs player to win MVP honors, back in 1998.
Hendricks and Lester finished 1-2 in the NL in ERA this season. Hendricks, 26, led the Majors with a 2.13 ERA, going 16-8 in 31 games (30 starts). Lester matched a career high with 19 wins and compiled a 2.44 ERA in 32 starts. Lester, 32, has the edge in innings (202 2/3) and strikeouts (197) while Hendricks totaled 190 innings and 170 whiffs.
The Nationals' Max Scherzer, who struck out 284 over 228 1/3 innings and won 20 games, is the other NL Cy Young Award candidate.
Jake Arrieta won the NL Cy Young Award in 2015, and the Cubs could join a select list of teams that have won the top pitching honor in back-to-back seasons. That includes the Dodgers (Don Drysdale in 1962, Sandy Koufax in '63); the Yankees (Sparky Lyle in 1977, Ron Guidry in '78), the Orioles (Mike Flanagan in 1979, Steve Stone in '80), the Brewers (Rollie Fingers in 1981, Pete Vuckovich in '82), the Phillies (Steve Carlton in 1982, John Denny in '83), the Braves (Greg Maddux in 1995, John Smoltz in '96), the Blue Jays (Pat Hentgen in 1996, Roger Clemens in '97) and the Indians (CC Sabathia in 2007, Cliff Lee in '08).
Maddon, who won the top manager award last season, is a finalist along with the Nationals' Dusty Baker and the Dodgers' Dave Roberts. The BBWAA ballots were cast before the postseason began.
Maddon, 62, has 200 wins in his two seasons, the most by a Cubs manager in consecutive seasons since Frank Chance won 208 in 1909-10. Maddon won the American League Manager of the Year Award twice (2008, '11) while with the Rays.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.