What is the ceiling for a retooling Chicago Cubs team in 2022?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

In the midst of the dreariest and most morose Chicago Cubs baseball in about nine years, there’s gotta be hope for the future, right? Team president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer’s word choice in this latest teardown may be just the hope that some are looking for, even if the trust in the Cubs’ head decision-maker is a bit lacking of late (or in general). That word choice may seem semantical to some, but his use of the word “retool” rather than “rebuild” in the wake of the most dramatic teardown Cubs fans have ever seen has to be important, right?

The question begs, if Hoyer isn’t interested or planning on a long-term rebuild a la Theo Epstein’s masterplan, how long is this “retool” going to take and when should fans expect their team to be good again? 2022? 2025? Owner Tom Ricketts said it’s not the same kind of rebuild as 2012, so there’s that, but that doesn’t give us a lot of meaningful answers. Not to mention, there might be a big difference in the timeline to some fans who are still reeling and emotionally raw after saying goodbye to numerous heroes.

Chicago Cubs: 2022 ceiling depends entirely on what Hoyer does in the offseason

To the point, is there a chance the Cubs could actually be decent or (gasp) contenders next year? With what’s going on right now and the seemingly Triple-A quality lineups the team is trotting out at the moment, it may seem laughable to think Chicago could challenge for the NL Central next season, but Ricketts and Hoyer aren’t fools – they want to make money and do well. Even if making money is the number one priority, one has to figure that more money is to be made when the team is packing the seats at Wrigley Field as well as the surrounding areas the ownership group has so famously built up the last few years.

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The easy answer is: yes. There’s a chance the Cubs could be good next year with a new cast of characters. Is it likely? I have no idea. To be fair, most of what Hoyer can do in the offseason in preparation for next year is complex and convoluted to say the least, mostly due to the fact that the MLB’s collective bargaining agreement with the MLBPA is expiring after this 2021 season.

If, among other things, the new deal includes a permanent NL DH and no more luxury tax, that could completely change the strategy and possibilities for a club with the means of the Cubs. While most would concede that the Cubs are at least two years away after trading away six former All-Stars in the past calendar year, it is conceivable that free agent signings or trades could jumpstart the more conservative timeline. Where is the ceiling on a team for next year – it could vary wildly depending on what happens in matters outside of Hoyer’s (and Rickett’s) control.

That being said, if the front office and ownership is being honest about expecting to turn things around faster and retool, perhaps with the right moves and lots of salary space it’s possible the Cubs could be back in some form of playoff contention in 2021. My best guess is that the Cubs will need to sign or trade for two outfielders, two starting pitchers, and someone to play on the left side of the infield wherever they aren’t going to put Nico Hoerner. Is that doable? Again, it sounds like a lot for one offseason, and more likely in two, but it’s not impossible if Hoyer would “hit” on his hot stove moves.

Reflecting on a difficult Cubs weekend. dark. Next

Here’s hoping it’s a very exciting offseason to move the needle a bit with this ceiling, because let’s be honest, what’s being trotted out on the field right now isn’t the most exciting brand of Cubs baseball and it’s certainly not something fans have become accustomed to.