It has been nothing but crickets from the Chicago Cubs front office since the surprising hiring of Craig Counsell, which came back in early November. No moves have been made outside of a few minor league deals and fans are naturally getting restless. Is it time to panic? If not, when? To give a quick answer, it's not time to panic yet but that time could come soon, depending how the market moves coming out of the holidays.
Expectations were high for the Cubs entering the offseason and there was hope they would be very aggressive out of the gate. The entire baseball world had its eyes on Shohei Ohtani as soon as the offseason began, something Cubs fans monitored closely. Not to mention the prospect of being in on Japanese star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, or trading for the likes of Juan Soto and/or Tyler Glasnow.
Ohtani, Yamamoto, Glasnow and Soto are now all off the board
It is more than clear that Ohtani was not interested in Chicago. Even SI's Tom Verducci spelled it out on The Dan Patrick Show. The Cubs reportedly made an offer of around 10 years and $500 million per Bruce Levine, but Ohtani never seriously considered it. It was just not going to happen.
In terms of the others. Trading prospect capital for Glasnow or Soto is not illogical, and there are strong arguments for making these deals, but there's another side to the coin. Soto is an expensive one-season rental (extending him midseason is very unlikely) and Glasnow has an extensive injury history. As for Yamamoto, the Cubs never seemed to be in on him seriously. He is getting 13 years and over $300 million, which is likely going to be well worth it for the Dodgers, but is still a risk considering he's never thrown a pitch at the MLB level before. However, risk or not, Ohtani was a big factor in Yamamoto's decision, and per Jeff Passan, he chose LA over a similar offer from the Mets.
To sum it up, Ohtani and Yamamoto were two historic outliers, and the Cubs did not risk putting valuable chips into an injury-prone player and an expensive rental. It is more debatable whether they could have or should have gotten Soto or Glasnow in a trade and, frankly, having Soto in this lineup even for a year would make a big impact, but Ohtani and Yamamoto were probably never in the cards.
So why should we remain calm? The board is not empty yet, both on the free agent side and trade market. Reports suggest the Cubs are interested in a Cody Bellinger reunion, and the team has also been linked to the likes of Rhys Hoskins, Matt Chapman, Shōta Imanaga, Pete Alonso, Josh Naylor, and Shane Bieber - among others. The free agent board also still has guys like Jordan Montgomery, Brent Suter, Josh Hader, J.D. Martinez and Blake Snell. Yes, we understand none of these bats are Ohtani or Soto, but a productive and successful offseason can still be had. This stuff does take time, especially dealing with Scott Boras on many of the free agents.
If dominoes start to fall, like Bellinger, Hoskins, Imanaga or Suter and they are all going elsewhere then there is reason to start to worry a bit. The fact of the matter is the Cubs cannot bid short on all of their targets; they need to be a big market team and get their guys. Bellinger will be the biggest deal of the remaining free agents but others should be reasonably attainable for a team like the Cubs. They also cannot be afraid to part with some prospect capital for valuable, controllable players.
There is, in reality, a small handful of desirable options off the board for the Cubs, though it seems bigger because those options were far and away the most valuable. As mentioned before, Soto and Glasnow could be used as examples of the Cubs not being aggressive enough, but there is no more to say about Ohtani. Patience is tough, but the cupboard is far from bare. Once it starts thinning, then more panic is warranted. Make no mistake: because I say 'do not panic yet' does not mean we cannot hold Jed Hoyer and the Cubs accountable if they flop this offseason.