As more and more high-profile players start to get connected to a team, I.E. Freddie Freeman to the Dodgers, Jays, Red Sox or Yankees, Seiya Suzuki potentially to half a dozen clubs and Carlos Correa back to Houston, It begs the question: Why aren’t the Chicago Cubs flexing their financial strength and rapidly adding impact talent?
The answer, albeit not what you may want to hear as a die-hard fan, is rather simple. The Chicago Cubs aren’t ready to compete yet. For months I have been saying the team will have all this revenue to acquire free agents to lead them back down the road to success as soon as next season if Tom Ricketts would just spend what’s available. As time goes on though and I start to look over this free agent class, it’s not that there isn’t a huge assortment of top-tier talent available. Instead, there are a few other reasons I can point to in explaining the team’s inaction so far.
For one, this free agent class is primarily players that are currently in their prime or just about to fall out of it (with a few exceptions). Therefore, putting your fandom aside, it must be asked: By the time our current young talent in the minors who hope to be part of the next core, how much will the star free agents we want today still have left in the tank?
Sure, Freeman is about as elite as it gets at first base and we can afford him. The same can be said for Carlos Correa at shortstop. Nick Castellanos has a career .319 batting average at Wrigley Field and we could technically afford all three and then some. So why not go all-in as a super team for the next three years until these prospects are ready to be called up? Because none of these guys are shopping for two or three-year deals at this point in their careers. They’re looking to get paid handsomely for many years to come. It is the most important part of their career in terms of earning power – and they’re not about to throw it away.
Those long-term mega deals, which often extend well past player’s primes, can handcuff a team down the stretch in major ways. Freeman is entering his age-32 season and while he’s been solid to this point, it’s not unnatural to see things start to tick down from there. Anthony Rizzo, former beloved Cub, is no different. Are you confident someone like Castellanos will be the player he was in 2021 three or four years from now? I’m not.
If Brennen Davis, Pete Crow-Armstrong and Cristian Hernandez were ready for the big leagues today, the Cubs’ approach would likely be wildly different than what we’ve seen. The sad reality is a team’s window closes much faster if you are locked in to bad contracts you can’t get rid of. Sure, you can sign everybody to big deals right now and open your window for about three years or so. Or, you can wait until your prospects are ready for the big stage and open your window even longer by supplementing them with high-dollar signings then.