As the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves prepare for the World Series opener on Tuesday, the Chicago Cubs are beginning the preparations for what should be an important off-season as the overall direction of the organization will be decided with the moves that the team makes this winter.
The Cubs are essentially painting from an blank canvas this off-season. At the July 30 trade deadline this past season, the Cubs took a wrecking ball to the core of their Major League roster as first baseman Anthony Rizzo, third baseman Kris Bryant, and shortstop Javier Baez were all traded.
After the trades of Bryant, Rizzo, and Baez; the thought has been that the Cubs are preparing for another rebuild and do not plan on contending for the post-season for at least the next season or two. With that idea, the thought has been that the Cubs will be careful with their spending this off-season and remain on the sidelines for most of the top tier free agents. That was not the tone that Cubs’ president of Baseball operations Jed Hoyer had when he met with reporters earlier this month to talk about the team’s plans this off-season.
"“We’re certainly going to be active,” Hoyer said. “But I think we need to be active in a way that we feel like we’re getting the right value for the dollars we’re spending, and we’re also making sure we’re not hindering ourselves going forward.”–MLB.com"
Even if the Cubs do not want to be among the top spenders in Major League Baseball again this upcoming season, the fact of the matter is that the Cubs will have to, at the very least, spend the money they saved by trading starting pitcher Yu Darvish last season and the money saved from no longer having Rizzo, Baez, or Bryant no longer on the books. At the very least, the Cubs have the money to sign at least one top tier free agent without pushing their payroll towards the luxury tax line.
That is the reason why the Cubs may decide to find their next “Jon Lester” this off-season. In other words, finding a veteran in which can be the anchor of the next contending team for the Cubs. While that certainly could be in the form of a starting pitcher, don’t discount the idea that it could be a position player. More specifically, it could be a free agent shortstop.
The Chicago Cubs will have money to spend this off-season and that could signal the signing of top tier shortstop this winter.
The Cubs have a large question mark at the shortstop position. While Baez is a free agent and reunion is possible, the free agent market for shortstops is very rich for a team that has a dire need at the position. That should be why it is no surprise to learn that the Cubs are among the most likely teams to sign free agent shortstop Trevor Story this winter, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com lists the Cubs among the five favorites to sign Story:
"5. CubsChicago did a reset at the Trade Deadline, dealing away Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Craig Kimbrel among others, but the Cubs don’t figure to go into a long rebuilding mode. President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer recently said the club will be “really active in free agency” this winter, so the idea of the Cubs signing one of the big-name shortstops is certainly in play."
After spending the first six seasons of his Major League Baseball career with the Colorado Rockies, Story is set to become a free agent this winter. With the Rockies last season, Story had a .251/.329/.471/.801 clip to go along with 24 home runs and 75 RBIs. An interesting quirk from Story’s 2021 campaign is that he compiled wRC+ of 100 per Fangraphs. Being his offensive output last season, from a runs created perspective, was average.
A signing of Story by the Cubs would certainly signal that the team is serious about their intentions to return to being competitive sooner rather than later. The issue is that every action, and not talk track, that the team has made since the second half of the 2018 season has indicated that Cubs’ chairman Tom Ricketts no longer wants to spend financial resources on the Major League product. If that is going to be the case this season and the Cubs sit on the sidelines for free agents such as Story, then this will be a much longer rebuild than what the team is projecting when they speak with the media.