CHICAGO – If you were watching the opening ceremonies at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on Friday evening, you’d see a lot of the same people coming across the stage.
That’s not a terrible thing since the Cubs still have a healthy amount of the talent that brought a World Series championship back in 2016. However, the group missed the playoffs last year and had a few holes in the lineup and the pen that could have used some addressing.
Yet with some of their younger stars approaching major paydays, and a grievance hearing that’s taking its time, Theo Epstein’s moves this offseason have been in form of a few minor trades. No guaranteed contract signings have occurred, and with the looks of it, not many will barring a significant change of thinking.
“For big market teams, as you move deeper into the CBA, unless you’ve got an opportunity to reset along the way, maybe a year where you weren’t competitive at the trade deadline or something and you can reset, it was going to be tough to squeeze additional talent on the roster,” said Epstein on Friday. “That’s not an excuse, that’s not to blame anything, but that’s part of a pattern going on in the game. In our case, it’s a little extreme, where we haven’t signed a guaranteed free agent to a contract this winter, but it’s not outside of the norm with the general trend of what’s happening in the game.
“It doesn’t mean that we can’t be successful or those teams that have less active offseasons can’t be extremely successful.”
That’s true, but the Cubs still need to find consistency in center field and a reliable bullpen with the hope that closer Craig Kimbrel can find his form during his second year with the franchise. First year manager David Ross could have an answer on how to bring the best out of some players, which may be the hope for Epstein as the Cubs look for a restart to their current run which began with a trip to the NLCS in 2015.
“I think we’ve got a good team and a lot of young guys still here,” said infielder Javier Baez when asked about the lack of additions this offseason. “We’ve just got to see what’s going to happen this next month.”
Most have looked towards a move with Kris Bryant since his contract demand at the end of the 2021 season with agent Scott Boras could make him difficult to sign. If the grievance filed by the player against the Cubs is ruled on in his favor, he could be a free agent at the end of this year, which could future force the Cubs’ hand.
Even that may not lead the Cubs to make a move yet but for the moment the team’s trying not to fret as they approach the start of the Ross era of their team.
“People want to say quiet, but if you don’t remember too long ago, we were the team making all the moves and doing this and doing that,” said outfielder Kyle Schwarber. “You have to keep that in perspective and keep it in perspective that what we have here is still the top tier of a lot of baseball teams.”
They’ll have to be at their best this spring, because help may not be coming from the outside for a while.