Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A Cubs Offseason Recap To Get You Ready For Spring Training

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Football is officially behind us, and it’s officially time for baseball. 2024 is a new year full of opportunities for the Chicago Cubs as the team and invitees make their way to spring training in Mesa, Arizona. The debate of whether 2023 was a successful season or not can officially be behind us – it’s all about the here and now.

It has been over four months since the last time the Cubs took the field and just over three since we’ve seen a pitch thrown in the majors. Since then, depending on your angle, either a lot has happened or not enough has happened around the Cubs organization. Holes still need to be filled, and decisions must be made, but the Cubs arrive at camp in a better position than they have.

If you have not been following along during the offseason, no one blames you. It’s your time to unwind and regroup. But now that baseball is back, let’s get you all caught up before you get to camp.

Cubs Secretly Sign Counsell

The Cubs’ 2023 season ended in disappointment. After staying in contention for the division title and a wild card berth, they dropped five of their last six to seal their fate. It was believed David Ross and most of his coaching staff would be returning for the 2024 season, but that seemingly changed overnight. After President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer conducted a secret meeting, it was announced the Cubs relieved Ross of his duties and named former Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell as his replacement.

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The Brewers permitted Counsell to explore different managing opportunities before the completion of his contract. He did so with at least the Cleveland Guardians and the New York Mets. But the minute his contract concluded and he was still available, Hoyer asked him for a conversation.

The Cubs made Counsell the highest-paid manager in the league with a contract valuing over $40 million over five years. For Cubs fans, it felt eerily similar to when the team relieved Rick Renteria of his managerial duties to make way for Joe Maddon in 2015.

Expectations for the offseason skyrocketed because of this move. The Cubs ditching Ross for the division rival’s manager seemed to be the first message of many to follow directed at the league that the Cubs were ready to win. With plenty of room in the budget and one of the most extensive free agent classes ever, it was set up to be the winter of the Cubs.

A Couple Swings And Misses

This offseason’s most prominent name on the free agent market was two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. Through the winter meetings, there were so many rumors swirling around who was in and out of the running to land him. People were tracking private jets online and getting clues about dinner reservations in a pursuit we will never forget. Ultimately, it came down to the Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers won the fight and agreed on a massive (and creative) contract with Ohtani.

The next big superstar available after Ohtani was Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto. After another lengthy pursuit involving the Cubs, the Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox, and the Philadelphia Phillies, Yamamoto also signed a lucrative deal with the Dodgers. The Dodgers made it known they planned to sign whoever they wanted for any amount needed. Although disappointed, Cubs fans knew other options were available for the team to sign.

Cubs’ Offseason Acquisitions

On January 8th, it was reported that the Cubs agreed on a deal with Japanese left-handed starter Shota Imanaga. But their week did not stop there. Just before the annual Cubs Convention kicked off, they announced a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers to acquire their top prospect, infielder Michael Busch. These were the Cubs’ first notable moves in an offseason in which they were expected to spend and acquire more than most other teams.

The next big move came on February 1st when the Cubs signed relief pitcher Hector Neris to a one-year deal. He helps fill out a bullpen in desperate need of depth and stamina.

Imanaga, Busch, and Neris have been the highlights of this offseason thus far. I say thus far because if the Cubs plan on competing in 2024, they cannot be done making moves. Did you notice a familiar name missing from the list?

Cody Bellinger Is Still Unsigned

Former Chicago Cub and 2023 Comeback Player of the Year Cody Bellinger has still not signed a deal to play anywhere. Bellinger, a client of agent Scott Boras, says he’d like to be back in Chicago playing for the Cubs. The Cubs say they’d like Bellinger back on the team. So what’s the hold-up? Money, of course.

The Cubs are not reaching for the number Boras, and his client would like them to. Luckily for them, another team doesn’t seem to be taking a bite of that number elsewhere, either. This standoff is expected to end eventually, and the two sides will get a deal done, which is great for Chicago. Because if the Cubs fail to sign Bellinger, they must temper all expectations of the upcoming campaign.

Big Names Are Still Available; Work Still To Be Done

Bellinger cannot be counted on to save this team alone. It will take the guys still on this team, plus a couple more moves made before spring training. Although the starting rotation may seem set, World Series champion Jordan Montgomery and Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell are still available on the free-agent market. Designated Hitter JD Martinez and veteran Brandon Belt are still looking for a new home. We could even see the Cubs stray from the market and make a big trade to fill out this roster.

Justin Steele, Dansby Swanson, Nico Hoerner, and Ian Happ (to name a few) know the foundation is set for the Cubs to make a move forward in 2024. But a couple more pieces are needed to sure up the path. In 2014, the Cubs completed their fifth consecutive losing season and won it all two years later. This Cubs team is much better than the ’14 squad, but the future is just as bright. As sure as God made green apples, the Cubs will be back – maybe sooner than we think.

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