The Cubs agreed committed to over $300MM in free-agent spending this past offseason and that paved the way for the expectations changing for the team at the Major League level.
Since the 2021 Major League Baseball trade deadline, the Cubs were in a clear rebuild. That would be the reason why no one was surprised to see the Cubs struggle out of the gate during the 2022 season and that allowed the team to go through one more selling cycle at the trade deadline last season.
Entering the 2023 season, the Cubs were believed to have put an end to the cycle. Shortstop Dansby Swanson was the prized free-agent signing for the Cubs this past winter and his arrival along with the additions of Cody Bellinger, Trey Mancini, Brad Boxberger, and Jameson Taillon were believed to have raised the team's floor of expectations from where it was at during the 2022 season.
50 games into the 2023 season and the floor does not appear to be raised at all.
For the Cubs in 2023, their saving grace is the hot start they had to the season in April. Had the Cubs experienced the struggles they had in May at the beginning of the season, there would be no question that the team would reverse course and have yet another selling cycle at this season's trade deadline.
Fortunately, the National League Central, thanks to the struggles of the St. Louis Cardinals this season, is incredibly weak this season. Despite their recent struggles, the Cubs are only five games back in the division as we enter Memorial Day weekend.
Though, as Jed Hoyer alluded to earlier this week, it doesn't remain early forever. This next month of games is important for the Cubs as they must increase the differential between their current version and the lowly product we saw in the first half of the 2022 season. If they can't, the trade deadline this season will have a much different tune than previously anticipated.