Maybe it’s the slow offseason, the Cubs’ recent mediocrity, or some combination of the two, but there’s been a strangely pervasive belief among fans that the team can and should only sign impact players. But, you know, not impact players who could potentially block top prospects or hamper the team in five years. So when anything is written about someone who isn’t a superstar, the overwhelming reaction is to slam the Cubs for being cheap or to excoriate the mere suggestion of signing a role player.
People really need to step back and realize that the Cubs are going to sign more than one free agent, so pointing out how someone would be a good fit doesn’t mean eliminating all other players as options. If I seem a little salty, just chalk it up to being dumb enough to read the comments more often than I should.
The biggest failure of the post-World Series era of 2017-21 wasn’t that the Cubs had a bad core or that they didn’t extend star players, it’s that they failed to develop pitching and couldn’t balance the roster offensively. The best teams don’t win because they have nine All-Stars in the lineup, they win because they have a solid mix of complementary talent.
While the Cubs are obviously in need of difference-making additions, not everyone they sign this winter can or should be in that top tier. That’s why someone like Jeimer Candelario might have worked well as at least a part-timer over at third base. Alas, there won’t be a reunion because he has opted to sign in Washington on a one-year deal with as-of-yet-undisclosed financial terms.
This one doesn’t sting at all, certainly not the way José Abreu joining Houston did, it’s just a reminder that free agency is indeed underway even if the Cubs haven’t really done anything yet. The possibility still exists that Jed Hoyer is just waiting to pounce on a shortstop — ideally not Dansby Swanson — as part of a plan that is more aggressive than we have seen yet.
But the longer the Cubs sit back, the greater the likelihood that they’ll have to hope the market comes to them so that their intelligent spending isn’t just another way to say “cheap.” Even if Hoyer isn’t just blowing smoke, we’ve heard way too much over the last few years about waiting for the time to be right and not just spending to spend. Thing is, you may have to get out of your comfort zone to land the player(s) you really want.
As long as Hoyer can go out and do that, he can afford to get cute with some fringe bounceback candidates with big upside and small contracts. Here’s to hoping something happens soon.