This was a strange offseason for the Chicago Cubs – one that saw the architect of the team’s 2016 World Series run depart a year sooner than expected – along with several fan-favorite players, including Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora.
No move, though, turned people’s heads like the Yu Darvish trade that sent the 2020 NL Cy Young runner-up to the San Diego Padres for a package of young, yet-to-be-proven prospects and right-hander Zach Davies. Some late offseason additions helped course-correct this team, giving it a chance to compete in a very weak National League Central.
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So what grade should first-year president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer receive? According to Jim Bowden of The Athletic (subscription required), Chicago’s offseason moves warrant a ‘B’ – a respectable mark, to be sure, especially given then team’s lack of clear direction at times.
The offseason kicked off with the non-tender of two key players from that 2016 club in Schwarber and Almora. The Schwarber move sure looked like a major cost-cutting venture given he turned around and got more than was he was projected for through arbitration in a one-year deal from Washington. The writing had been on the wall for some time when it came to Almora, though, who hasn’t been the same player he once was in several years.
Cubs look to balance between rebuilding and remaining competitive
Like I said though. The story of Chicago’s offseason starts and stops with the trade of Darvish. While we’d all hoped to pluck away multiple blue-chip prospects from San Diego’s loaded farm system, we instead got one year of Davies and four far-off talents who we won’t be able to truly evaluate for a few years yet.
As the team spun its wheels with seemingly no money to spend, suddenly something changed. Perhaps the organizational outlook for 2021 seemed less bleak, because Tom Ricketts moved the needle north when it came to funds available to Hoyer and the baseball ops team. That led to several moves, including bringing back Andrew Chafin, signing Jake Arrieta and adding longtime Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson to the mix.
This all constituted more change than we’d seen in years from the front office under Epstein – yet fell short of what I think a lot of folks anticipated. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez – all free agents at the end of 2021 – remain with Chicago, as does two-time All-Star catcher Willson Contreras.
Watching Hoyer attempt to thread the needle here and balance between rebuilding and remaining competitive will be interesting, to say the least. But right now, the Cubs are probably the second-best team in the division, at least on paper, and that’s enough to get Hoyer a ‘B’ in his first go-round at the helm.