Cubs need to walk the walk this winter after talking the talk

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

This week, David Kaplan shared that Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon are interested in coming to Wrigley and playing for the Cubs. Whoa, slow down – let’s hit the brakes. We’ve drank this Kool-Aid before. Just last winter, the flavor was ‘Correa.’ Remind me again: how did that go for us?

Winter is coming.

Yes, big Game of Thrones fan here and I think House of the Dragon is off to a decent start in a few episodes. Before the speculation begins about what moves Chicago may make this time around, especially with all signs pointing to a ton of money being spent, let’s take a look back at the events of last winter.

Cubs tried to thread the needle last winter – but came up short

Two days after the Atlanta Braves won the World Series last November, the Reds placed left hander Wade Miley on waivers and the Cubs grabbed him, investing $10 million. The southpaw was 12-7 with a 3.37 ERA, no-brainer. Miley has pitched all of five games with one victory this year, due to injury.

Harold Ramirez was purchased by the club Nov. 22, and was traded four months later to Tampa Bay for journeyman infielder Esteban Quiroz who is hitting .227 at Iowa. The thirty-year-old infielder has yet to crack that big league roster and has only 119 at-bats in Des Moines. Ramirez, meanwhile, is hitting .318 in 340 ABs for the Rays, which would be leading the league if he qualified. How’d this work out?

Marcus Stroman was a bit of a surprise signing Dec. 1. He’s been injured twice, as has much of the staff and is 3-7 with a decent 3.91 ERA producing a WAR of 1.8. Perhaps a bit more was expected for $25 million.

Four other players were signed right around that time, as well; Yan Gomes, Jackson Frazier, Stephen Gonsalves and Mark Leiter Jr. I like the Gomes signing, because I saw eight different catchers in 2021. I thought David Ross would have to get his face mask and chest protector out of storage and become a modern player-manager, it was that bad. Gomes’ offensive numbers aren’t impressive, and Willson Contreras has had a better year with a strong backup who has all the intangibles and I’m sure will be a positive influence on young pitchers.

Frazier looked like a ‘change of scenery’ acquisition, and after appendicitis in late April he went to Iowa and has not returned. The numbers there are worse than at Wrigley. Gonsalves and Leiter were signed under ‘you can never have enough arms.’  Gonsalves has only thrown twelve innings at Iowa with a lot of IL time. Leiter has been a serviceable swingman, with a 0.6 WAR. Putting those numbers and this season in perspective, that 0.7 is 15th of 61 players and sixth on the pitching staff. He has benefitted from injuries to others, there’s no doubt about that.

These six players have a combined 3.5bWAR for the Cubs. Then, as we all remember, the players were locked out by the league’s owners, throwing the entire offseason on ice for weeks on end.

In March, all teams had a flurry of signings. Jesse Chavez was back for a second run but was traded April 22 to the Braves for Sean Newcomb. The big lefty had a few nice seasons for the Braves, but hasn’t really been effective since 2019. I understand taking a shot on a reboot, but the results just haven’t been there.

With the health of David Bote, Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal questionable, Andrelton Simmons and Jonathan Villar were bought in for infield depth at a combined cost of $8.5 million. The expression “it seemed like the thing to do at the time” fits. Simmons was also hurt most of his time here, and both were gone by early August.

The signing of Japanese superstar Seiya Suzuki was another pleasant surprise. He got off to a scorching start in April and was the NL Rookie of the Month, but as all players learn, other teams adjust. I understand the incredible culture shock of relocating to a new country, and where are you going to get a good (Japanese) meal in Pittsburgh at eleven at night? He injured his finger and missed all of June. He’s picked up steam lately – and looks to finish his rookie year on a high note.

All the offseason additions weren’t underwhelming. Drew Smyly was a steal at $4.25 million, and the team will likely look to bring him back in 2023. David Robertson and Mychal Givens were both strong out of the bullpen and were flipped for two young pitchers, Ben Brown (very intriguing) and Saul Gonzalez (very big).

Adrian Sampson was signed, released, re-signed, and now he could end up fourth in games started, something I don’t think even he expected. In the ninth, after a few beers, I wonder “Could this be the next Jake Arrieta?” Chris Martin brought Zach McKinstry and Robert Gsellman is pitching in Japan. Whew.

Next. Cubs headed for their fifth-worst record in last 20 years. dark

I spent thirty-four years giving students thousands of grades. I don’t necessarily feel qualified to do it here, but do you see many A’s here? B’s? Of the 18 players mentioned, we’re not on the honor roll here. In fact, we may be on the brink of not being eligible academically to play sports.

Good luck next year, and I hope you can bring up your GPA: Good Players Achieving.