Cubs fans aren’t the only ones having to deal with a slow start to the offseason
If you blinked, you might have missed the 2020 Winter Meetings last week. The top stars were mostly signed at this stage last winter, but that is hardly the case this time around. But, while clubs haggle over numbers and wait for stars to make up their minds, the Cubs could have an opportunity to improve the club.
The market is moving slowly, which -as is the case with most thing – can be attributed to the fallout from the pandemic-shortened season and the general negotiating between teams claiming to be strapped for cash and players hoping to earn their just due.
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Yet, some teams are getting aggressive in jumping the market, and not necessarily the ones you might expect.
The Kansas City Royals are hoping to be more competitive in 2021, and general manager Dayton Moore went out and inked both left-handed starter Mike Minor and first baseman Carlos Santana to multiyear deals. The Royals also brought back Greg Holland, who otherwise would have been one of the better relievers on the market.
Now, the Cubs are not a low-payroll club like the Royals, but they will likely operate in similar fashion. The money coming off the books – notably Jon Lester, Tyler Chatwood and Jose Quintana – should allow Chicago to target specific players and make strong offers, though they could very well follow Kansas City’s model of inking veterans on cheaper, short-term deals.
Numerous contenders are going to bid for top tier free agents. But that also means these clubs have to be more judicious with their funds to stay involved in these stars’ markets.
The Cubs are not going to bid for top players, and thus can be more assertive in going hard after specific targets they would like to sign.
Chicago’s reported interest in Jackie Bradley Jr. is a perfect example. Bradley is not a top tier free agent, but he is desirable for his platinum defense and upside as a center fielder who has slugged in the past. Chicago could sign Bradley to boost run prevention and give the team a left-handed bat with some pop, while also moving Ian Happ to left field.
If Chicago is intent on adding Bradley, they could press teams like the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros into action (or inaction) by making a more aggressive offer.
Additionally, the Cubs are one of any number of teams in need of starting pitching, and could very well pursue some of the many veterans available. Jed Hoyer has already suggested a reunion with Jon Lester is possible.
Teams in on Trevor Bauer, Jake Odorizzi and some of the other top starters will have to compete with crowded markets. Chicago, meanwhile, could swoop in on guys like Rich Hill or perhaps a bullpen arm like Archie Bradley, though the latter could have quite the market.
For those still skeptical of the Cubs’ targets or plans in free agency, guess what: they are not going to spend a whole lot. Dismissing players because they will not go for “top dollar” is nonsensical, especially because Chicago does not have the budget to sign bigger names.
However, the inactivity could still result in the Cubs growing more active in plugging holes with middle tier players or starting pitchers, among other issues.