Chicago Cubs: Were the Winter Meetings the calm before the storm?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs have openly talked about their needs.  Speculation about what big name the team could lure began as far back as a year ago. What next?

So what exactly is the plan this offseason? Are we talking about the Chicago Cubs shoring up the pen and adding some veteran bench guys or is there some kind of Zero Dark Thirty covert courting of a major free agent going on?

Theo and Jed at the Winter Meetings, or were they?

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer weren’t quiet during the recently concluded Winter Meetings and Rule 5 Draft.  Both talked … about financial creativity, veteran leadership and Kyle Schwarber not being available.

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But if there are behind the scenes negotiations happening, then the intelligence community should be this good at keeping secrets.  At the Winter Meetings, an event where the rumor mill burns as hot as the hot stove gets, the Cubs were on the back burner.

In Las Vegas, the boyhood home of Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper, those two hit the town with their wives, going to hockey games and posing for pics.  The bromance was in full view.  Tweets were tweeted; rumors swirled.  They got more attention than Theo and Jed.  But nothing happened.  Does it matter that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas when nothing happens in Vegas?

Other teams didn’t wait around. They are banking on Tom Ricketts eventually tossing caution and money to the wind and signing a big name free agent, one who is likely a pal of Kris Bryant.

Even before the Winter Meetings, the Cardinals traded for Paul Goldschmidt and his three Gold Gloves and career .297/.398/.532 slash.  They sent young right-hander Luke Weaver, backup catcher Carson Kelly and infielder Andy Young to the Diamondbacks.  Goldschmidt is one of the best, if not the best first baseman in baseball, along with Joey Votto and Anthony Rizzo.  That trade boosts the Cardinals defense and adds a fearsome bat to their lineup.

Cubs moves underwhelm

Sure, the Cubs picked up the option for Cole Hamels for a cool $20 million – a big enough move to be sure.  Except everyone had already baked that into the expectations for this offseason.  A club that said it needed bullpen depth saw Jesse Chavez go back to Texas and ended the Drew Smyly experiment by trading him to Texas (saving $7 million, effectively making Hamels’ option $13 million). Then, the front office did nothing to replace them.

They traded Tommy La Stella, the best pinch hitter in the game, for a Double-A pitcher and then non-tendered Ronald Torreyes who they obtained in a trade from the Yankees. We unanimously assumed he would be the replacement for La Stella and potential starter for the first month of the season in lieu of the suspended Addison Russell.  Oh, then and they tendered Russell a contract.

If you’re scratching your head over all of this, you’re not alone.  Add to that the Cubs have said they are seeking a veteran catcher.  And yet several have been signed already and none by Chicago.  There are still opportunities out there and a bad contract swap has been rumored between the Cubs and Blue Jays, Tyler Chatwood for Russell Martin.

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It’s quiet; maybe too quiet

Does all this mean another major deal won’t be done?  Does Theo have a trick up his sleeve or was Cole Hamels really the big signing this year?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it seems like if there is a big signing it’ll hit like a Seal team op.