Does delayed offseason start now for Cubs? Lingering questions as CubsCon wraps up

The traditionally quiet time on the baseball calendar between the convention and spring training might be more compelling this time around for the Cubs.

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“He’s played himself into a really good market, and we’re not sure we’re going to be able to bring him back,” Theo Epstein said of free agent outfielder Nick Castellanos.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Three days of countless questions to front-office personnel, players, the manager and coaches at the Cubs Convention revealed precious few answers to some of the most pressing questions about the team’s roster and direction as it heads toward spring training Feb. 11.

That won’t make fans any less likely to boo the occasional Ricketts or Marquee Sports Network executive they might encounter in the next few weeks, but it should make this traditionally quiet period of the baseball calendar a more compelling time to see what gets answered in the next three weeks.

Will the Cubs trade any core players and/or trade for a significant addition to the roster?

This might be a question that lingers through the spring — if not until the trade deadline July 31 — even if the Cubs pull off a trade before camp opens. For now, president Theo Epstein and manager David Ross say they expect third baseman Kris Bryant to be on the roster on Opening Day. But Epstein also said he hopes to make some moves between now and then.

In other words, it takes two to make a rumor more than a rumor and significantly more than that to get a deal done. So stay tuned.

‘‘It’s going to be a whole different team without him,’’ All-Star shortstop Javy Baez said of the possibility that Bryant is traded. ‘‘We’ll see if that happens and who’s coming and who’s not. Hopefully we’ll keep Kris here his entire career. . . . If [a trade] happens, I don’t know what’s going to be the reaction of the fans and of the players, to be honest.’’

Somebody say Javy Baez? Will the 2018 National League MVP runner-up ultimately provide the headline of the Cubs’ winter by reaching agreement with the team on a long-term extension?

This might be the likeliest question to be answered in the near term now that the sides have gotten their $10 million contract for 2020 done. Any extension that starts in 2021 won’t affect the Cubs’ luxury-tax liability this season and would provide a foundation piece with cost certainty as the team makes extended plans for another potential championship window.

‘‘Hopefully if it happens, [it happens] before the season,’’ Baez said. ‘‘If not, there is no pressure. When the right deal comes, we’ll be ready for it.’’

Why hasn’t Nick Castellanos signed anywhere as a free agent yet, and does that mean he’s waiting for the Cubs to free up payroll space to bring him back after an electrifying two months last summer?

Not necessarily. Despite a lot of mutual admiration and respect on both sides, Castellanos isn’t the best fit — maybe for either party — when considering position options, projected numbers against expectations created in 2019 and the multiyear price tag.

‘‘We love him,’’ Epstein said, echoing previous comments. ‘‘He exceeded all of our expectations. . . . But he’s played himself into having a really good market, and we’re not sure we’re going to be able to bring him back. But we’re sure we’d like to have him back.

‘‘I think he’s in a pretty good spot, based on everything he’s done in his career and his age [27]. But we’ll see.’’

How are the Cubs going to start the 2020 season? Who will take the first at-bat as their leadoff man March 27 in Milwaukee?

Short answer: ‘‘That’s a good one. I don’t know,’’ Ross told a fan Saturday.

Longer answer: The Cubs have used 17 leadoff hitters in three seasons since Dexter Fowler left as a free agent, including 10 currently on the roster. And Ross said he is spending a lot of his time ‘‘looking at that heavily.’’

Rookie Nico Hoerner has the ‘‘ability and the mindset’’ to grow into that role someday, player-development exec Matt Dorey said Sunday. But Ross calls it a wait-and-see proposition.

‘‘I haven’t [decided on] anybody that I won’t put up there,’’ he said. ‘‘But there’s nobody that’s jumped out at me, either.’’

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