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Cubs sit out Harper’s bazaar but that doesn’t mean front office done with roster

A 2016 MVP in Bryant and 2018 MVP runner-up in Javy Baez are two big reasons the Cubs like their roster -- whether Bryce Harper is around or not.

MESA, Ariz. — So the White Sox’ feelings were hurt when Manny Machado signed with the Padres. And rock band Smash Mouth was disappointed when its favorite team, the Giants, lost out on Bryce Harper to the Phillies.

But the Cubs? Aside from maybe a little gnashing of teeth in the front office when the budget numbers for the winter came in, they seemed to take it a lot better than the fans when the top free-agent bats passed them by.

‘‘Sure, I would have loved to have him here,’’ third baseman Kris Bryant said of his pal Harper, who signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. ‘‘But you look at the circumstances. I know that, as a team, we’re making a whole lot of money. You see what’s going on around the field. But at the end of the day, those guys [in the front office] are going to be the ones that we have to trust in what they’re doing.’’

The Cubs weren’t the only team among the usual big spenders to avoid the deep end of the free-agent pool this winter, but they might have been the most conspicuous.

Their franchise-record payroll budget (more than 210 million) was nearly tapped once they exercised their $20 million option on left-hander Cole Hamels. And because the brass was open about it all winter, not even the players were surprised when the Cubs didn’t go after a fourth nine-figure free agent in five years, no matter how perfect the Harper fit might have seemed.

‘‘Right now, I’m not surprised at all that we [weren’t] in the mix for those guys,’’ infielder-outfielder Ben Zobrist said. ‘‘But I might be a little bit more surprised if we were doing really well in the division and, come July 31, this is the same exact group that we have now.’’

That’s the thing: The Cubs might not have Harper, Machado or any new starting player of any kind, but that doesn’t mean the playoff team they envision in 2019 is complete.

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‘‘You always look at it that way,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said of trying to fill needs closer to the trade deadline. ‘‘We don’t know what it’s going to be, but certainly there’s going to be a major focus to make sure we’re in position to improve the team in the middle of the season.’’

It might not be the ideal way Hoyer and president Theo Epstein like to go about roster enhancement in the midst of a competitive window, whether in Boston a decade or more ago or in Chicago now.

‘‘There’s offseasons when you’ve got pre-arbitration players that are cheap and you’ve got a lot of money to spend, and those are fun and active winters,’’ Hoyer said.

Free-agent whiffs last offseason on right-handers Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood meant the Cubs felt compelled to pick up their option on Hamels.

But the internal optimism during this cash-strapped winter always included adding a healthier left shoulder for Bryant and a healthier right elbow for Darvish to a team that won 95 games without those last season.

The Cubs also figure to be tested by a National League that improved dramatically almost across the board. Only the Marlins are true tankers in the league. Beyond that, only the Giants and Diamondbacks don’t realistically consider themselves good enough to fight for a playoff spot.

‘‘I think every series that you go into in the National League is going to be a fight,’’ Hoyer said.

But Bryant said: ‘‘I look around the room, and I’m super happy with the people we’ve got here. I think it’s important to be happy for what we’ve got here, rather than what we didn’t get. I’m happy for Bryce; I would have loved to play with him. But it just didn’t work out, and now we’ll just have to beat him.’’

It might not be the ideal way Hoyer and president Theo Epstein like to go about roster enhancement in the midst of a competitive window, whether in Boston a decade or more ago or in Chicago now.

‘‘There’s offseasons when you’ve got pre-arbitration players that are cheap and you’ve got a lot of money to spend, and those are fun and active winters,’’ Hoyer said.

Free-agent whiffs last offseason on right-handers Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood meant the Cubs felt compelled to pick up their option on Hamels.

But the internal optimism during this cash-strapped winter always included adding a healthier left shoulder for Bryant and a healthier right elbow for Darvish to a team that won 95 games without those last season.

The Cubs also figure to be tested by a National League that improved dramatically almost across the board. Only the Marlins are true tankers in the league. Beyond that, only the Giants and Diamondbacks don’t realistically consider themselves good enough to fight for a playoff spot.

‘‘I think every series that you go into in the National League is going to be a fight,’’ Hoyer said.

But Bryant said: ‘‘I look around the room, and I’m super happy with the people we’ve got here. I think it’s important to be happy for what we’ve got here, rather than what we didn’t get. I’m happy for Bryce; I would have loved to play with him. But it just didn’t work out, and now we’ll just have to beat him.’’