The Cubs are once again in an unsavory position thanks to a slow offseason.
Remember last offseason when the Chicago Cubs waited and waited for a ruling regarding Kris Bryant’s service time grievance from 2015? The team couldn’t really shop him via trade because they had no idea what they were shopping. There’s a big difference between one and two years of control over a former MVP.
This winter feels similar. The offseason is moving at a historically slow pace, with just three of MLB Trade Rumors’ top 25 free agents signing to-date. Two of them, Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman, accepted qualifying offers – so, really, we’re talking about one major free agent signing since the World Series ended.
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Nationals fans got a Christmas gift while Pirates faithful were dealt yet-another gut punch, with the Bucs sending fan favorite slugger Josh Bell to D.C. in a trade this week. We can hope that’s a sign of a Hot Stove that’s finally heating up because the uncertainty on all fronts is preventing teams, players and everyone involved from preparing and planning for next season.
As for the Cubs, new president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer put his first mark on the club three weeks ago when he non-tendered a pair of former first-round picks in Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora. Neither have signed yet – although I suspect Schwarber will garner plenty of interest once the calendar turns to 2021.
But the real question facing Hoyer and the front office is what to do with a number of pending free agents heading into their final year of team control. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Craig Kimbrel could all be in the waning hours of their respective Cubs careers unless the team can lock them up with extensions.
The problem in trying to plot a course forward is no one seems to have any idea what the 2021 season will look like, how many games will be played or if it’ll even start on time. Owners are pushing for another delayed start, hoping more vaccine distribution will equate to smaller risks and, potentially, fans in the stands. Players want their full salaries after playing under prorated sums this year.
What I fear will happen is it’ll be another month or more until there’s clarity on that front. If the market doesn’t pick up its pace in a hurry, you’re going to see an unprecedented number of top-level players without a contract as camps open across Florida and Arizona in February.
The looming CBA expiration casts further shadow over everything – making this whole scenario even less savory. Will the Cubs tear it down to the studs and start over? Or do they try, one last time, to re-create the magic from 2016? We don’t know – and can only hope the new year will get the wheel moving in a dramatic way.