December 1st, the first day of the last month of 2022. Aside from a few of those "middle tier" options in Anthony Rizzo, Mike Clevinger, and now Jose Abreu, it has been primarily deadlocked in terms of free agency. If you haven't had a chance to read Jeff Passan's newest piece, I highly suggest you give it a glance. There is an excessive amount of funds to be dispersed this winter. Passan estimated a total approaching nearly 3.0B in free agency dollars about to be dedicated to over 100 free agents worthy of major league contracts.
"Next week's meetings provide a fertile backdrop for those compromises. An annual gathering of the sport taking place in person for the first time since 2019, the winter meetings feature no deadline, no imperative. Some have flown by with nary a transaction of significance. But executives and agents agree that this incarnation is shaping up to drop a couple Mentos in a soda bottle and that the real movement could start Friday or Saturday before the meetings begin and extend beyond their Wednesday conclusion."- Jeff Passan
To examine a few key points in this paragraph, first, let's start with the understanding that the last two seasons have been highly unusual. Last year, you had a flurry of moves so early into the offseason due to the impending lockout, and the year prior there was an unprecedented pandemic that screeched the tires of all American sports to a halt.
Elsewhere, Gordon Wittenmyer and Tim Stebbins of NBC Sports Chicago met with Dave Kaplan on the latest episode of the Cubs Talk Podcast. Stebbins explains that from a fan standpoint it's easy to forget that the last two years have been crazy regarding MLB offseasons. The last time we had a typical winter was in 2019 and it was the winter meetings that served as the catalyst for a flurry of activity then led to the full-on explosion of the hot stove.
Chicago Cubs: The winter meetings next week will begin the frenzy
I too believe that the Clevinger and Abreu signings this week serve as the first couple chip aways that will immediately chisel a rock-solid offseason wide open. Before you know it, you'll receive that breaking news notification as we recently did with Jose Abreu that another top name is off the board. Once the big-market teams that are believed to be swimming in the deepest end of the free agent pool miss on their primary target, in most cases an Aaron Judge or Jacob deGrom, they will swiftly revert back to the next best thing. From there, bidding wars will commence and you'll have a firestorm of signings that will break news left and right.
That's where the Cubs come in. We know they weren't in on Anthony Rizzo, but we also know now that the team made an aggressive offer to Jose Abreu in the realm of 2 years/40MM. To say the least, the Cubs making an aggressive push was exactly what fans needed to see if there was any growing skepticism. They tried to make it work and another team swooped in and offered what no longer made sense for the Cubs. Most of the players that the Cubs have been connected to are at a standstill because the top guys are still on the board.
It will be a ripple effect for Chicago. We know they aren't going after Judge, deGrom, Justin Verlander, or Carlos Rodon. We do know that directly under that, they are very much in play for the top-tier shortstops, other starting pitchers, outfielders, first basemen, catchers, and presumably the trade market. After saying they were targeting Abreu and then reaching out with a solid offer, there's no reason to think they won't be doing the same for everyone else they've been connected to this winter. Until then, like several other teams, the Cubs are somewhat stuck until the biggest fish are off the market.
Considering this system is one where everyone gets their chance to be the best player available once more and more come off the board, it's important to remember that players wait for their turn. They wait for the bidding war which ultimately drives their price up or ensures they receive the best offer possible without any chance of passing up something that could have been more lucrative when it's all said and done. Either way, once the hot stove explodes, expect the Cubs to be in the thick of it.