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The Future of the Cubs

Ok, so it's been a while since I wrote something. I've been producing graphics for other posts, mostly on time (Sorry Staci!), but the energy to actively write something just hasn't been there. Even though I admit that my last year has definitely been better than most, it's still been a LOT. However, with a healthy year for my family behind me and my second Moderna vaccine scheduled for next week it feels as if a weight is slowly being lifted. I've finally started thinking about more than just 'tomorrow.'

Funny enough, a conversation about Nolan Arenado and his contract/value going forward is what started my thought process on the future of the Cubs. Regardless of the roster construction for 2021, change is coming. As we all know, almost all of the core will be Free Agents at the end of the year. I think how the roster shakes out in the coming months will be drastically different than what we are accustomed to, because the man in charge is now Jed Hoyer. Theo Epstein was a master at rebuilding teams, but once the teams reached contender status his magic waned. Caveat: I'm not a scout nor do I have insider access (or pretend like I do). I'm just a dude sitting at a computer, but as I sit here and think about the team I feel like maybe I've stumbled on something. Looking back it feels like Theo was more of an 'emotional' leader while Jed appears to be more of an 'accountant' in the very best way possible. Let me explain...

Theo loved *his* guys (maybe even to a fault), and targeted specific guys to add to the team. He targeted Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, and Tyler Chatwood. He WANTED Aroldis Chapman. The whole baseball world knew he wanted Chapman and he overpaid (probably). There were rumors that the Yankees wanted Schwarber in an Andrew Miller deal, but Kyle was one of his guys. There was a rumor of a deal centered on Albert Almora for Christian Yelich, but Al was Theo's first 1st rounder. For better or worse, Theo identified his guys and stuck with them and this is why I think the future of the Cubs could get very interesting. From what we've seen so far, Jed seems to be a complete 180 of Theo.

Now, I freely admit it could very easily be due to fallout of the pandemic but it seems like like Jed approaches the roster more analytically. Here's where my accountant analogy comes into play. It feels like he has values attached to players/positions and won't exceed that number, which we saw this offseason with LF and the rotation. Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester have moved on while similar players like Joc Pederson and Jake Arrieta have filled those holes for less money. While Spring Training stats don't mean diddly, the early returns favor the Cubs.

That's a lot of context to get to my point about the future of the Cubs. Unless they sign below market extensions, I think this is the last we time see Kris Bryant and Javy Baez in Cubs uniforms. The 'Belle of the Ball' for this last free agent class was George Springer and he barely got a 6yr/$180m deal. Coincidentally, that's close to what Spotrac has projected for Kris Bryant in Free Agency (6/160). Now, let me get this out of the way. I *LOVE* Kris Bryant the player and the person. He's the guy you want representing your team. However, barring a 2016-like season, with guys like Freeman, Lindor, Story, etc. leading the way he's not going to be THE GUY in Free Agency. Maybe fans in the stands will change the financial situation, but I don't see 6/160 as an easy get for him. He will be the best FA 3B, so I suppose it's possible. Baez is an even more difficult position as the SS position is absolutely loaded in Free Agency. As much as I love Javy, he has the highest ceiling but also the lowest floor of all the SS FAs.

Regardless of HOW they spend on those positions, with no real options to plug in the holes, they're going to have to spend money to keep/replace the production at 3B and SS. (Rizzo is excluded from this convo because I think he gets extended, FWIW.) Here's where it gets interesting for me as I think Jed can separate the numbers from the player. From a purely numbers position, I can see a scenario where KB and Javy aren't the best options for the team going forward. If KB is seeking $26+m/yr in Free Agency, why wouldn't you look at Lindor for a little more money? If Javy is looking at $19+/yr, why wouldn't you look at Seager, Story, or Correa?

I think the next few weeks and months are going to be very interesting because if neither signs an extension, then we'll finally have the core shakeup because once they hit Free Agency there is going to be better value options, especially when considering other 'premium' players. Then again, maybe Brennan Davis becomes a force and they can afford to splurge on KB, Javy, and another FA bat. Maybe. But, they'll still have the starting rotation to 'fix.' Either way, I hope we have the right 'accountant' running the show because it's about to get interesting.


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