Early this offseason, the name of the game for the Chicago Cubs is abundantly clear – shore up the existing roster with further depth and versatility.
Suffice to say, the two moves made this week by the Chicago Cubs probably aren’t what fans thought of when they looked ahead to this offseason. After all, you’ve got a free agent class headlined by the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Craig Kimbrel.
Yet, here we are sitting here talking about a light-hitting utility infielder and a left-handed reliever who has never put it together at the big league level. Good times on Cubs Twitter, let me tell you.
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But if everyone can take a minute to step back from the ledge (and seriously, you need to take a deep breath and move away from taking the proverbial leap). It’s precisely these types of moves Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have made so well in recent years.
Cubs missing on big-time deals
We, as a fanbase, are obviously more focused on the big-time signings and trades. And, if you look at the Cubs’ recent track record, it’s a pretty depressing picture. Epstein completely whiffed (at least in the short-term) on last year’s two (arguably three) biggest acquisitions.
Yu Darvish made eight very poor outings and did not pitch again after May. It made for an inauspicious start to the right-hander’s six-year deal, to say the least. His rotation mate, Tyler Chatwood, the Cubs’ first big signing last winter, led all of Major League Baseball in walks – despite losing his rotation spot for the last month-plus of the season.
The one ‘mixed bag’ big-name signing from last offseason? Brandon Morrow. When he was healthy, he was absolutely dominant. But he didn’t pitch in the second half, leaving a tremendous hole in an already thin Cubs pen.
But if you can pivot off those headline-grabbing moves and focus on the middle and lower-tier signings of recent years, you see a lot more regular success.
Cubs solid on depth signings recently
Take, for example, Steve Cishek and Randy Rosario from a year ago. Cishek emerged as the Cubs’ fireman from start-to-finish, pitching in a variety of roles for manager Joe Maddon. Rosario stepped up and pitched well from the left side, helping shore up a pen weakened by the transition of Mike Montgomery to the starting rotation.
You also have the Brian Duensing and Jesse Chavez-type moves in the world. Don’t get me wrong, Duensing fell to pieces last year and there’s no denying that. But in 2017, the veteran southpaw pitched extremely well. But the mid-season addition of Chavez kept the Cubs afloat in the second half last year and there’s no way anyone can suggest otherwise.
So what I’m really saying here is, sure, Ronald Torreyes and Kyle Ryan aren’t the sexiest moves to make. But Epstein and Hoyer have hit their target more than they’ve missed in recent years, so I expect solid contributions from both these guys in 2019.