Craig Counsell already toeing the company line on payroll expectations

The new Cubs manager is echoing a sentiment Jed Hoyer has clung to fo
Chicago Cubs Introduce Craig Counsell as Manager
Chicago Cubs Introduce Craig Counsell as Manager / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

No matter what Tom Ricketts, Jed Hoyer or Craig Counsell say, Cubs fans are expecting big moves this winter - including a major free agent signing. With the team linked early and often to names like Shohei Ohtani, Cody Bellinger and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, it's hard to envision what would be dubbed a 'successful' offseason that doesn't include a major free agent splash.

But I've got to give credit to the new Cubs manager because, on day one, he's already adopted the company line on free-wheeling free agent spending. Of course, that probably comes from years of operating within the confines of the Brewers' small market budget, but it's still worth taking note of.

"Free agency can get you in a lot of trouble. There are certainly the options to (spend big). There are also the options to talk about anything and other ways moving forward. I think Jed made that clear in the press conference. That's exciting to hear. But I think how you build a team that can continue to compete, it certainly takes more than free agency. I think we all know that.”"

Craig Counsell on 670 WSCR
Jason Heyward
World Series - Cleveland Indians v Chicago Cubs - Game Five / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages

He's not wrong. There are plenty of examples of high-dollar free agent deals gone wrong - just look at the Cubs' own Jason Heyward deal that has finally come off the books or the Angels' signing of Anthony Rendon, to name a couple.

But there are ways to mitigate risk - and the Cubs can't shy away from adding big-time names simply to avoid potential pitfalls. Chicago has no choice but to add some power bats to the offense, regardless of whether or not they manage to bring Bellinger back into the fold. The bullpen needs more reliable options and a front-end starter would go a long way toward solidifying the rotation.

Now, neither Counsell nor Hoyer is saying the Cubs won't be players in free agency. The former made that clear - but also pointed to other areas of opportunity the front office could tap into when building out the 2024 roster, including a farm system that ranks among the best in baseball.

"Look, free agency is fun. It's really fun to talk about. It’s fun to write about. Here, I think it's certainly on the table to do. The mission for (president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer) is what's the best way to build something for a long time? When I say the organization is in a healthy place, he has all the options on the table to do that.”"

Craig Counsell

We'll see what the winter months bring. But don't expect Hoyer to convince Tom Ricketts he should start spending like Steve Cohen - because, as we saw last year, adding a bunch of big-name free agents and hundreds of millions of dollars in payroll doesn't already lead to success. Just ask the Mets.