If you have the impression that the Cubs haven’t done much yet this offseason (apart from a new manager and coaching staff), you’re right:
With the Rays set to sign Tsutsugo, only six teams remain without an MLB FA:— Jon Becker (@jonbecker_) December 13, 2019
Hmm. That’s three rebuilding teams, a club that lost 91 games in 2019, a team that just traded away its best pitcher... and the Cubs, who supposedly want to be a contending team in 2020.
Now, let’s be clear: Simply signing “an MLB FA” is not necessarily magically going to make any team a championship-caliber ballclub. There are considerations of where any free agent is going to fit on a roster, as well as financial considerations, and... oh.
Well. The Cubs probably could have afforded that, had they so chosen. This is less money (on an annual basis) than Cole Hamels made in 2019. The Cubs have apparently drawn a luxury-tax line in the sand, and so here stands the probable 26-man Cubs roster as of this morning, December 16:
Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Alec Mills
Craig Kimbrel, Tyler Chatwood, Kyle Ryan, Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck, Dillon Maples, James Norwood, Duane Underwood Jr.
Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini
Anthony Rizzo, David Bote, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Nico Hoerner, Robel Garcia
Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Tony Kemp
You might disagree with a couple of the bullpen and backup position player selections I’ve put in that list, but hear me out. That 26-man roster contains exactly zero players who weren’t in the Cubs organization at the end of the 2019 season. Pitchers such as Jharel Cotton, CD Pelham and Dan Winkler, who are the sum total of Cubs acquisitions so far this offseason (along with Rule 5 pick Trevor Megill), seem more suited for Iowa Shuttle duty than being key parts of a playoff-contending bullpen.
That’s still a decent enough team, presuming they stay healthy. But the bottom line is that the Cubs need help, especially for a rotation spot and in the bullpen, and some of the top free agents are now signed. When the Winter Meetings ended, general manager Jed Hoyer hinted the Cubs had laid groundwork for some trades that could happen:
“We have a sense of which teams are interested in our players,” said Hoyer, speaking in general terms. “I don’t think a team that hasn’t checked in with us and hasn’t expressed interest ... all of a sudden comes out of the woodwork. We know the players involved. I don’t think we know who will be involved yet ... because a lot of those teams are in the free-agent market as well.
“We have clarity (about) who can be involved, but we don’t know which teams will be eliminated from that, based on free agency.”
Hmm. That gives “clarity,” said Hoyer, but it’s still a pretty generic statement. In addition to being 101 days from the season opener in Milwaukee, we now stand fewer than 10 weeks from the first spring training game February 22.
Time to get to work, Theo & Jed.