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Chicago Cubs at Winter Meetings: No splashing needed

Oct 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts (left) hands the National League Championship Trophy to President of Baseball operations Theo Epstein after game six of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Cubs win 5-0 to advance to the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts (left) hands the National League Championship Trophy to President of Baseball operations Theo Epstein after game six of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Cubs win 5-0 to advance to the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /
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Many Chicago Cubs’ fans, players, executives and families are finally starting to come down a little bit. A few Tylenol, a long nap–and now it’s time to start planning for 2016. The comforting part? The Cubs are locked and loaded without needing to have a free-spending winter.

For Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein, the job he’s done over the past few winters will allow him to enjoy this winter without feeling the need to make that “big splash”. Now, the Cubs will still need to fill some holes. They’ll need depth in pitching. A possible “Plan B” in center field isn’t a terrible idea. But the idea that they need to spend top dollar to get a big-ticket free agent? That’s really sort of silly. And that’s all thanks to Epstein and the rest of the Cubs front office foresight.

The Cubs proactive approach to building this roster was well timed. With a relatively weak class of starting pitchers, the choice to either find a young arm from within–or possibly trade for one–is a brilliant stroke of luck. Had the Cubs not signed Jon Lester and John Lackey over the last two winters, it would be a tough go this year.

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One of the best on the market will be the one the Cubs let go, Jason Hammel. Another top free agent? Former Cub Rich Hill. There are other, but the money they will command and the numbers they have posted won’t match up. The Cubs avoided having to get involved in this mess by thinking ahead.

Building, not buying

And while many teams might be looking for the big positional free agent, the Cubs are simply developing them. Look, I’m a huge Dexter Fowler fan. And I have a deep hope that they can work out a deal to bring him back in 2017. Albert Almora, Jr. is promising, but I’m not sure he’s ready to take over duties as the everyday center fielder. But again, one of the better free agents in the market will come from the Cubs.

This doesn’t mean the Cubs will stand pat with their roster as it is. Theo & Co. will continue to improve it, through depth and talent using the pieces they have within the organization already. In the past, the only way for the Cubs to get “better” was to spend big money. That way of management has passed. This Cubs’ front office has developed one of the best core of hitters from top to bottom in baseball. Against the norm, and it worked.

Next: Cubs could still retain Fowler

The idea has always been to build a great offense, then sign pitching. When the plan was proposed five years ago, we were all asked to be patient. It wasn’t easy. But the plan has come together almost as it was drawn up. And now it’s still in full swing as the Cubs come off their first title in 108 years. This winter, it should be less nerve wrecking and more intriguing. But that happens when you’re the defending World Series Champs. #FlyTheW

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