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The Cubs and MLB offseason and why health information is so important

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A look at what happened this past winter and how teams could have known about the coming pandemic.

Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

I'm not a fan of "waiting until later" to entirely assess a transaction. I wrote an article this off-season assessing the Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio trade. The deal made sense at the time. Brock and Billy Williams were primarily left fielders. The Cubs' coaches hadn't upgraded Brock's defense, and they relied on him to be a Williams-esque masher, which he wasn't. What happened after, with new information, should alter what couldn't have been known in the first place. This is a look at the 2019-20 Cubs offseason.

I really do dislike "distant revisits." Who should (insert team here) have selected in the first round in (insert year here)? If you want to answer that, go back in time to research what was being said about the next three or four names being discussed. Perhaps a national journalist or club beat writer had a feel on something that almost happened. For instance, I had heard chatter that the Cubs might have been trying to cut a deal with current Mets prospect and right-handed pitcher Matt Allan. Sixteen years from now, Ryan Jensen versus Allan might be worth discussing. Only, though, because there was chatter. Declaring a player the Cubs had no reason to be discussing contract numbers with last June is a futile effort.

Similarly, discussing the Jose Quintana trade is more silly than discussing why the Cubs didn't sign Quintana when the Yankees released him in November 2011. The Cubs needed a pitcher in 2017. Quintana had been good. That he has underwhelmed, perhaps, wasn't the expectation. Dylan Cease would be possibly riding the Des Moines shuttle, and Eloy Jimenez (who I dig) is a brutal defender. It made sense. It hasn't panned out.

The Cubs had one decision to make as the 2019 non-tender deadline approached. Quintana or Kendall Graveman. Most people agreed Quintana, though Arizona Phil made a somewhat compelling argument to retain Graveman. I thought Quintana made sense in November. After that, though, everything was stuck in the mud until early March, when the Kris Bryant arbitration case was decided. At that point, the Cubs could consider other moves, but not really until then, with the "$208 million as a de facto salary cap" mindset held by many owners. The bullpen had been pieced together at garage sale prices. Anything else goes back burner for awhile.

Information matters. For instance, if players received comprehensive physicals in trades in 1964, Broglio might have whiffed it. Knowledge and actionable information aren't anecdotal, they are vital. Back about a week ago, I asked my Twitter list when a reasonably aware person should have known COVID-19 was going to be significantly disruptive. By the time I fought off people thinking I was being partisan politically (I wasn't), it was a fun chat. If you had really good knowledge, you should have known by the second week of January. Eventually, I settled for the afternoon Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. By January 27, you should have known. Many of us were still oblivious for another month or more. However, if your job was to know what would be disruptive, that was a fair date.

MLB teams still had no idea. The media had no idea. The Dodgers, who later traded Jeter Downs and Alex Verdugo to get nine months of Mookie Betts and three seasons of David Price, had no idea. Should they have? I doubt anyone expected how big the disruption would be. However, as teams look back at the last three months in the future, all MLB teams ought to get about putting together an "Health Information System Department." A few scientists, a higher-up from the CDC in Atlanta. Spend $300,000 a year to get severity opinions before other teams have it. Information, before the fact, wins.

People laughed at minor league pitching development positions. Mental skills coordinators were avoided. Players didn't used to lift weights in the offseason. Teams are limited in how much they can spend on international signings per annum. Draft bonuses are tightly monitored. However, a team can spend freely on facilities, executives, and coaches. In two years, MLB teams ought to be raiding whatever facilities have the best international disease control specialists. If a quality executive has information on an upcoming disruption before others do, the team ought to be able to capitalize without looking out of place. If the $600,000 a year or so a Short-Season pair of teams being eliminated would cost is cleaned from the books, spend it on something that can be useful. Information to improve the team's future. Epstein had a really good off-season, it appears.