There have been lots of changes just from the end of the 2019 season for the Cubs, as they’ve hired a new manager, revamped their player development staff, and now Theo Epstein is gone.
Jed Hoyer is running the show now on the north side and it definitely isn’t the easiest job at this time, as the front office has to decide what players from the core are coming back, who’s getting paid and really what’s the overall direction for the next few years?
So far, the rumors point to the Cubs tearing it down this offseason.
MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand wrote about what’s next for the Cubs after the not-so surprising early departure from Epstein this week. Brace yourself Cubs fans because if these executives are correct, then we’re in for a lot of hurting this winter.
A number of rival executives around the league believe Hoyer will move a number of players in the coming months, with Kris Bryant and Javier Báez the names mentioned most. The Cubs had been telling teams as much since the season ended, letting it be known that nearly anybody can be had if the right offer is there.
Along with Kris Bryant and Javier Báez, executives around the league truly think any of the big names on the Cubs could be dealt.
Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber will be free agents following the 2021 season with Bryant and Báez, while Willson Contreras can test the market after 2022. Yu Darvish is under contract for three more years at $59 million (plus $3 million in Cy Young bonus) and Kyle Hendricks is also locked in for three more years at $43.5 million.
All seven players were mentioned by executives as potential trade chips this offseason.
“They are open to all kinds of stuff,” the NL executive said. “They aren’t a group afraid to make big moves.”
An American League executive believes Chicago will move at least two of the aforementioned group in an effort to save money and undergo a reset of sorts.
“My sense is that the Cubs are very open [to anything],” the exec said.
To tender or non-tender?
There has been a lot made about the Cubs possibly non-tendering one or maybe even a few players from the core simply to save money this offseason. The two biggest names being tossed around have been Bryant, who will get a raise from his $18.6 million salary, and Schwarber, who just doesn’t have much trade value at this point and will also get a raise in his final arbitration year.
Yet, I’d argue that it makes no sense at all to non-tender those guys even if you think the trade values are low. We’ll get to Bryant, but if the National League does get the DH in 2021 and hopefully permanent after that, then that opens up 14 more clubs that could be interested in Schwarber. So, no need to give up on Schwarber now when his perceived value is low.
As for Bryant, he played injured for most of the shortened 2020 season, with his power numbers looking terrible. Of course, that was after he suffered a hand injury. So, no, I don’t think Bryant all of a sudden sucks.
If the Cubs do plan to tear things down, which seems to be the direction they’re going, the best course of action is to hold on to Bryant and then see his value rise once again throughout the season. And then if you find a good deal, that’s when you trade him next summer. Doing it now and selling low on him simply doesn’t make sense. It’s bad business.
Who stays, who goes?
As for MLB reporters, the consensus seems to be that Schwarber will be the first to go. After Theo stepped down earlier this week, MLB.com gathered a group of their experts to discuss the future of the Cubs core.
While there were different conversations about Báez, Bryant, Rizzo and Schwarber, it was clear from their standpoint who should and will be dealt first.
Meyers: OK, last one: Of Bryant, Báez, Schwarber and Rizzo, how many will still be with the Cubs on Opening Day? Make a prediction, and be specific.
Petriello: Three. So long, Kyle. (I say this knowing that Joc Pederson is available for nothing but money on the market and is a comparable left-handed batter who can play better defense. I don’t envy Jed Hoyer’s decisions, is what I’m saying.)
Langs: Agreed. Three, and I think Schwarber is the one who will be gone.
Adler: Fine, I’ll be the one to say two: Báez and Rizzo. Gotta keep El Mago, and Rizzo is the soul of the team. I’ll go in on the Bryant blockbuster and a more basic Schwarber-for-pitching trade.
The last few offseasons have sucked for Cubs fans, but for the most part they were very boring. This year, lots of fans might get angry, but it certainly looks like it’ll be far from boring.