The Chicago Cubs have already had a busy off-season. Though, the acquisitions made to the organization were to the front office and the coaching staff. Even without making any roster changes to this point, the Cubs have to be viewed as winners this off-season. The additions of president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, and vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod already make the Cubs a much organization than they were at any point during the 2011 season. Plus when you throw in new manager Dale Sveum to the picture, the Cubs are headed in the right direction.
Though, every baseball fan knows what the off-season is about. The off-season revolves around the Hot Stove. In a society and sporting industry that is dominated by twitter, fans are checking their feeds repeatedly throughout the day hoping for any rumor involving their current team. There have been plenty of rumors linked to the Chicago Cubs. Between Mark Buehrle, Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols. Yoenis Cespedes, and Yu Darvish the Cubs have been linked to many players on the free agent market. But the question on every Cubs’ fan mind is when are the Cubs going to start making additions to their roster?
The answer may be real soon. Coming off of the general manager meetings last week in Milwaukee, Epstein and Hoyer have made contact with a handful of agents and player representatives in hopes of putting the pieces in place for deals to be completed in the coming weeks. Hoyer also admitted last week that he has spoken to a number of teams regarding possible trades. The plan for the Cubs is to rebuild, but contend at the same time. This is why many teams have contacted the Cubs regarding available players on the roster. Matt Garza, as expected, has been a popular name on the Cubs’ trading block. Note that just because the Cubs are listening to offers for Garza, does not mean they intend to trade the 27 year old starting pitcher.
As for when the Cubs will dive into the free agent market, the consensus seems to be that Epstein and Hoyer are trying to set up deals to be completed in the days leading up to–and during–the Winter Meetings. The winter meetings kick off on December 5 and last the entirety of that week. The Cubs have been one of the most notorious active teams at the winter meeting; as former general manager Jim Hendry laid the foundation for the Milton Bradley signing at the ’09 winter meetings, and signed Carlos Pena at the ’10 meetings.
One player who is expected to be declared a free agent by the time the winter meetings begin is Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes has been hailed as the greatest player to come from Cuba in a generation. All signs point to the Cubs being serious–if not, the most serious–bidders for Cespedes. After McLeod personally put Cespedes through a private workout, both Epstein and Hoyer are currently in the Dominican Republic speaking with Cespedes’ representatives. If there was any secret to who the Cubs’ top free agent target is, Epstein and Hoyer may be showing their hand by having first hand contact with Cespedes and his “people”. The current expectation is that Cespedes will receive a six year deal, worth anywhere from $30 million to $50 million.
With the front office turnover complete, and Sveum in charge of constructing his coaching staff, Epstein and Hoyer appear to be focusing on making improvements to the Cubs’ roster. Those improvements could come from subtracting players in order to build the farm system or by signing top international free agents. In any event, business should pick up for the Cubs in the days leading up to the winter meetings.