Cubs: Recapping the team’s recent flurry of free agent signings

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

For all the comments on social media about the Chicago Cubs sitting on their hands this offseason, Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins have actually been among the busiest front office executives in the league this winter. Now, that might not have led to the headline-garnering deals fans hoped for – but there’s no arguing that Chicago has been working to add to the roster of late.

In recent days, the Cubs have, of course, added Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki, the team’s biggest signing in years, in addition to infielders Jonathan Villar and Andrelton Simmons and pitchers Drew Smyly, Daniel Norris, Chris Martin and David Robertson.

Now, asking oneself whether or not the majority of these signings would have been more notable several years ago is fair. But as the front office looks to focus on evaluating just what some of the players on this roster could have to offer long-term in 2022, these stopgap signings have potential.

Almost unanimously, this group comes in on short-term deals – with Suzuki being the lone exception. That means there’s no long-term risk, something we have long known Hoyer is looking to steer clear of this early in his tenure – and a ton of short-term upside.

There’s little doubt – this bullpen needs help. With Adbert Alzolay already shelved to start the year and right-hander Codi Heuer lost for the season recovering from Tommy John, the last thing the Cubs needed was another loss, but that’s what it got this week with Brad Wieck hitting the 60-day IL with a left elbow strain.

Chicago Cubs have their work cut out for them when it comes to the bullpen

Chicago was already extremely weak from the left side in the pen, especially if Justin Steele manages to crack the rotation out of camp. So there’s hope now that someone like Norris and/or Smyly can pick up the slack in a significant way.

Norris really struggled in Milwaukee down the stretch last year, but has found success against lefties in his career. Of course, the left-handed specialist role is largely a thing of the past with the three-batter minimum, but, if deployed effectively, perhaps he can make an impact out of the pen.

The former Tigers southpaw – at least by several metrics – was unlucky in 2021 and, given the Cubs’ past success of identifying such guys and helping them turn things around, it’s easy to see into the mind of the brass here. Smyly at least feels like more of a certainty, but it’s unclear what his role will be.

He could challenge Steele for the final spot in the rotation given his past as a starter. Of course, Cubs fans will remember that Chicago signed him a few years back as he recovered from Tommy John, only to flip him to the Rangers in a deal that allowed Theo Epstein to bring back Cole Hamels in 2019.

Robertson and Martin will both get a look in the pen, along with reunited veteran Jesse Chavez, as David Ross looks to piece something workable together with Chicago eyeing that expanded postseason possibility, especially with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on the wrong ends of rebuilds.

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In the infield, Villar and Simmons will both play key roles – especially with the uncertainty that accompanies Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal, as well as David Bote’s injury that will keep him out to open the year. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the Cubs and there’s more work to do in the handful of weeks left before the regular season begins.

If, somehow, Chicago is in the hunt for October baseball in 2022 then this approach will have far exceeded expectations. But even if it goes as many anticipate, a midseason sell-off of guys on expiring contracts could add further depth to an already drastically improved farm system. Again, these moves are all about one thing: the long-term.