Do you really remember it? Do you remember starting the season with the best offense in baseball only to lose Kyle Schwarber in a freak collision in the Arizona outfield? Do you remember how long it took Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to build that team?
Three years of pain. Three years of truly terrible baseball in terms of the onfield product before 2015 when the Cubs overperformed and beat the Cardinals to make the NLCS.
So why was patience so much easier in 2012-2015? There was a vision and that vision was communicated and carried out with the fans in mind.
Before the 2015 season, the Cubs brought in MLB Trade Rumor’s second highest-rated free agent, Jon Lester, on a six-year $155 million dollar contract as a 31-year-old.
Before the 2016 season, they brought in MLB Trade Rumor’s second highest-rated free agent, Jason Heyward, on an eight-year $184 million dollar contract. They brought back Dexter Fowler on a one-year $13 million dollar deal, they brought in Ben Zobrist on a four-year $56 million dollar deal and they brought in John Lackey on a two-year $32 million dollar deal.
At the end of those deals, the Cubs would be paying a 38-year-old Lackey, a 34-year-old Heyward, a 38-year-old Zobrist, and a 36-year-old Jon Lester.
Imagine hearing Jed Hoyer come out and consider paying anyone a contract that late into their career. Where Theo Epstein tried to be balanced in his approach, Hoyer is conservative. There is no way around it.
Hoyer loves the phrase “intelligent spending”. He’s been quoted in the Athletic as saying:
"It’s always a challenge, especially when deals go long,” Hoyer said. “A lot of players can help you right now, but if you’re talking about a deal that goes way past their prime you have to factor that into the transaction. It’s always a balance..."- Jed Hoyer (Sahadev Sharma, the Athletic)
With all due respect to one of the men who helped end the 108-year drought, the cart is far before the horse in that quote. This team, as currently constructed, is not good enough to win in 2024.
Despite being in a division with some of the smallest markets in the game, the Cubs appear to have only the second or third-best roster in the NL Central.
Chicago is the 3rd largest market in the US. The next closest in our division is St. Louis at 24th, followed by Pittsburgh at 26th, Cincinnati at 36th, and 2023 NL Central Winner Milwaukee at 38th. But tell me again how we need to wait out Scott Boras to avoid paying players who can help this team win.
To everyone that says you don’t win rings in the offseason: respectfully, sit down.
The Texas Rangers decided that waiting for prospects to rise through the ranks wasn’t going to be enough to win their first World Series in franchise history so over two offseasons they brought in Corey Seager on a 10-year $325 million dollar deal, Marcus Semien on a seven-year $175 million dollar contract, and Jacob DeGrom on a five-year $185 million dollar contract. If we decide that Arlington is close enough to count as Dallas-Fort Worth then they qualify as the fifth largest market but they were able to find $685 million dollars for three players. But please, tell me again how we need to wait out Scott Boras to avoid paying players who can help this team win.
When asked if the Cubs had discussed a long-term deal with him, Justin Steele simply responded “no” and the sides agreed to a one-year $4 million dollar contract. Jed Hoyer has been unwilling to pay big free agents to come to Chicago, he’s been unwilling to pay the players that have a track record of helping the team win, and he’s condescended the fanbase at every turn telling us that he’s spending “intelligently.”
The record on the field shows that is not the truth. His negligence in building a bullpen last season prevented the Cubs from making the playoffs. His unwillingness to pick a lane at the trade deadline last year as either a buyer or seller left the team in a position where they missed the playoffs and have already lost one of the two trade pieces they had at their disposal to free agency and there is literally not a single shred of empirical evidence that should suggest that he will bring back Cody Bellinger.
At Cubs Con last week Dansby Swanson was quoted as saying:
"“Other than the billion dollars spent out West, there really hasn’t been a ton (of action). Yeah we would have loved to have Ohtani, right? You would have loved to have had Yamamoto. You would have loved to have gotten Soto. But there’s a lot of things within that that shouldn’t really get your frustration level up.”"- Dansby Swanson (the Athletic)
With all due respect to the lone high-dollar signing that Hoyer has brought in recently, my frustration level is up. The word fan comes from the word fanatic. It is literally an oxymoron to have a rational fanatic.
What is the difference between the Cubs and the Yankees or the Dodgers? The answer is not money or market size, the answer is an unwillingness to use it.
At the time of writing, Cubs fans are having to pretend to be excited that we signed a 31-year-old pitcher from Japan with a rough track record against non-Japanese opponents and a trade that brought in a first-base/DH type in return for the best pitching prospect the Cubs have had since Mark Prior.
Even in a world where those moves pay dividends, they didn’t occur in a vacuum. Busch’s signing allegedly will assist in negotiations with Comeback Player of the Year Cody Bellinger and Imanaga comes in as Marcus Stroman goes out.
The Cubs replaced a 4.4 WAR player who can play Gold Glove defense in the outfield and at first base for a 26-year-old defensive liability who hit .167/.247/.292 in his 27 games in the majors last season.
The Cubs replaced a pitcher who threw 112.2 IP in the first half of 2023 with a 2.96 ERA with a guy who has never pitched in Major League Baseball.
The team that Jed Hoyer inherited from Theo Epstein was a playoff team and he tore it down to the studs.
He’s entering his fourth season as President of Baseball Operations. In Epstein’s fourth season, he helped build a roster that would make the NLCS and the following season he won the World Series.
Unfortunately for Cubs fans today, the story appears likely to play out very differently this time around because if the Heywards, Zobrists, Lackeys, and Lesters of the world were available today, Jed Hoyer wouldn’t think of them as “intelligent signings”.
So here’s to another mediocre season, led by a mediocre President of Baseball Operations who brought in a manager known for getting the most out of mediocre teams.
This is not good enough.
The city deserves better and the fans deserve someone that is intelligent enough to know the definition of “intelligent spending”.