Many, many words have been written on this site, both by me and by you, the BCB reader, about the lack of activity by Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer. No major-league free agents have been signed, and the last major-league trades made by Hoyer were the ones acquiring Jeimer Candelario and Jose Cuas at the July 31 trade deadline.
Before you get all revved up and angry again, I wanted to share something with you. Josh and I were discussing what’s happened so far this offseason — largely revolving around the Dodgers — and this is what he said:
People are ignoring that the Dodgers have been planning for this day for years. They arguably the best middle infield in the game with Corey Seager and Trea Turner and they let them both walk. They let Max Scherzer walk. They let Cody Bellinger walk — yes, he wasn’t performing, but it’s not like they wouldn’t have wanted him back. When they signed Trevor Bauer, they intentionally had the contract run out at the end of this year. (The Dodgers didn’t know how that one was going to turn out.) Clayton Kershaw and his contract might retire. And they didn’t try to sign anyone last winter. Aaron Judge would have been terrific for them and they made no attempt to sign him.
People are also ignoring that Japanese players generally have a predisposition, if other things are roughly equal, to play in Los Angeles. Sure, Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego have some appeal, but only San Francisco can come close to matching the Dodgers’ money and that they haven’t really been competitive since Buster Posey retired works against them. The Mets reportedly matched the Dodgers offer for Yoshinobu Yamamoto — but he’d rather go to LA for a lot of reasons. And Shohei Ohtani intentionally structured his contract to make that happen. (And let’s be clear. Ohtani signed a 10-year, $460 million deal. The $700 million was just for show.)
There was nothing the Cubs could have done to sign either Ohtani or Yamamoto. Supposedly, Ohtani made it clear to the Cubs early that he wasn’t interested in coming to Chicago. And Yamamoto wanted either NY or LA and with Ohtani recruiting him, LA was the natural choice.
On top of that, even after these two signings, the Dodgers still don’t have the highest payroll in the game. That’s still the Mets.
Obviously the Dodgers are the favorites to win the World Series, but if you want to bet “Dodgers” or “the field,” the field is still the overwhelming favorite.
I am frustrated too by the Cubs’ inaction this winter — but I think they are pretty much at Scott Boras’ mercy and Boras has no problem taking his free agents into February if that’s what it takes to get the best deal. Someone pointed out that Boras also represents Rhys Hoskins and it is very much to his and Hoskins advantage to not sign with anyone until after Bellinger signs. I don’t blame Boras for that — that’s his job.
The point about Boras is valid, even though in some ways I think waiting does a disservice to his clients. At a certain point, waiting is going to reduce, not increase, the amount of money a free agent will get.
Further, of MLB Trade Rumors’ Top 10 free agents, six remain unsigned. Of their Top 50, 32 — nearly two-thirds — still await a contract. That includes players who could really help the Cubs, including Jordan Montgomery, Shoto Imanaga and Robert Stephenson, among others.
I continue to preach patience, especially this week, when many players, agents and executives might want to chill with their families instead of negotiating contracts. It might be that free-agent activity won’t increase until after New Year’s Day. When there will still be about seven weeks until the first Spring Training games.
There’s still lots of time for Jed Hoyer to make the 2024 Chicago Cubs a better team. As always, we await developments.