The Chicago Cubs have had such a quiet offseason this winter that you could practically hear a pin drop at Wrigley Field. But with 2020 finally upon us, the inactivity is likely nearing an end.
Yes, matters are more complicated because due to the complete absence of payroll flexibility and the lack of trade value outside of stars such as Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras. With half the offseason in the rear view mirror, the Cubs have plenty of voids that need addressed.
Chicago needs at last a couple more bullpen arms. They would like to bring in a new center fielder, though Shogo Akiyama signing with the Reds could make things tougher in that department. Lastly, Theo Epstein and co. need to figure out how in the world they are going to “move money around” (as it has been stated at least 100 times) if they want to re-sign Nicholas Castellanos.
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Of course, there is not a whole lot of time to achieve all of these goals. As crazy as it sounds, pitchers and catchers report in just over a month. However, there are reasons to believe the Cubs will be among the most active teams in January.
For starters, the team will most likely get a resolution to Kris Bryant’s grievance. Even if Josh Donaldson signs before the Cubs get a ruling, they will garner interest from any team that misses out on Donaldson whether that be the Nationals, Braves, Rangers or even Twins.
Moving Bryant is a polarizing decision and would absolutely detract from the 2020 Cubs, but it would also result in a projected $18.5 million coming off the books and – ideally – added prospect capital as the team looks to build for the future.
Then there are the pitching needs. Fortunately for the Cubs, most teams have decided to prioritize positional needs over replacing key figures in the bullpen, but there will still likely be a mad rush to sign relievers in this next month.
Brandon Kintzler might be a guy the Cubs look to re-sign, but they very well could have stiff competition in his market. The same goes for Steve Cishek. Most of these middle-tier relievers tend to get snatched up in the last month of free agency.
Aside from the internal needs, the other reality is the shortage of quality options in center field and second base provokes a sense of urgency. This is especially true with Akiyama now off the market.
You know what else provokes a sense of urgency? The Reds and Brewers have managed to make impactful moves that could make them even tougher next season. Sure, there has been some acknowledgement that the 2020 season could represent a step back.
But how far back?
A failure to make any moves–yes, that even includes a hypothetical trade involving Bryant or Contreras – would be a death knoll on Chicago’s ability to provide a clearer vision for the future. Epstein is unlikely to let that happen, which is why fans should expect a lot of activity in January.