Chicago Cubs: The argument for rebuild
This is the 2019 Cubs with Jason Heyward, Jon Lester, Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels, four players who accounted for over 40 percent of the team’s total payroll last year. Not to mention, the team’s core is only going to get more expensive from here as they work their way through their arbitration years.
The pitching, aside from Kyle Hendricks, is aging, and the bullpen is in need of reinforcement. Anthony Rizzo has $14.5 million team options for 2020 and 2021 and will be a free agent in 2022 at age 32. Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber are all in arbitration and all reach free agency in 2022-23 as well.
It stands to reason that the Cubs won’t be able to extend all of these guys. The window of contention is closing. Could It make sense to trade off these pieces to restock the farm system, currently rated near the very bottom in the game?
It means turning back the clock to 2012 and suffering through two or three 100-loss seasons. Mortgaging the present to build for the future. However, Theo Epstein excels at this process. No one is better at it than he is. But does he want to end his tenure in Chicago on such a note?
We could see the Cubs vying for a ring again as soon as 2023, maybe sooner if the draft picks and previous trades produce well. The competitive window would be open for another five or six years potentially throughout the end of the new decade.
Finally, there will be a new CBA by 2022 and going into rebuild mode now might make sense if MLB and the MLBPA push for rules to prevent this very tactic. There has been discussion in that direction since the Cubs and Astros did it (quite successfully) in 2012 and now that the Orioles and Tigers, among others, are embarking on their own rebuilds.