The mood is rapidly souring on what's supposed to be a transformative offseason for the Chicago Cubs. After coming away from the Winter Meetings with a shiny new Jameson Taillon and Cody Bellinger in tow, it's been nothing but bad news bears for the Cubs with some of their top free-agent targets flying off the board while they sit on their hands. Leaving so many great players on the table after making a pair of solid complimentary deals already gives the impression that the front office has no real game plan set or, worse, was never interested in spending for the kind of jumpstart offseason fans hoped for.
What's even more confounding is that they're doing all of this in the shadow of last offseason. Say what you will about the Cubs' moves last year, but they did set themselves up well for the near future with Marcus Stroman, Seiya Suzuki, and Yan Gomes. You could argue they should've added more then, but Jed Hoyer did what was promised - add decent players when you can and build towards something better in 2023 all while giving a slim chance at competing in 2022.
The problem, however, is all of those deals make infinitely less sense if the Cubs fail to meaningfully add this year. Stroman and Gomes in particular could be gone after next year. Stroman signed with the Cubs for three years at $71 million with an opt-out before the third year. Considering that he was great in 2022 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.147 WHIP and only got better as the season went on, another good season will likely mean he'll take that opt-out in search of a better deal. Gomes, meanwhile, will be a free agent outright after 2023.
The Stroman and Gomes deals were a waste if the Cubs fail this offseason
The hope was that by 2023, the Cubs could turn it around and Stroman and Gomes' efforts would go toward a winning ball club. No significant improvements to this team mean those deals will have been worth nothing other than getting recognizable names for a couple of years to placate fans. That may not have been the initial thought for those deals from Hoyer and the Cubs but without more urgency, that's exactly the way those deals are trending. Why even make these short-term offers if nobody is coming to supplement them and they'll never sniff a competitive team?
Doing little this offseason is a slap in the face to these guys who signed with Chicago in hopes of being a part of that brighter future. I love Stroman and Gomes has been a solid catcher for the team, but it'd be a travesty to make these signings worth nothing for all involved aside from maybe lining up Stroman for a better payday. These are players that actually wanted to play for Chicago and responding to them with crickets won't exactly play well with other free agents that may look to sign with the Cubs. Thanks to the nature of these deals, particularly Stroman, another year of uncompetitive play could even mean bidding farewell to these guys at the deadline for more prospects. Seeing another big sell-off like that is the last thing fans would want.
The one exception here is Suzuki. He's under contract for five years and looks to be a fixture in right for the foreseeable future. It's still not a good look to waste two of those years on nothing though. The signing made plenty of sense at the time considering it was his first year in the U.S. Even if the Cubs didn't compete, it would sting a little less for him to go through an adjustment period on an uncompetitive team. Past that first year though? It makes ZERO sense to keep trotting him out and relying on him to be one of the main offensive contributors. It's disrespectful to a talented player coming over from Japan with hopes of being part of something special.
If the Cubs needed another reason to actually try and get something done this offseason, there's hardly a better reason than actually capitalizing on the good players on your roster and proving to them that you're willing to put a competitive team around them. As much as we liked these deals last year, this year's inactivity would make all of it complete nonsense. It would be nothing but smoke to cover up a lack of willingness to really open up the checkbook.