The Cubs officially fired their first shot of their offseason of change, non-tendering two mainstays in Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. on Wednesday. Now that they’ve made their first move, the next step for president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer and company will become clearer in the next few weeks.
MLB saw more players non-tendered than ever before Wednesday’s deadline. In the past, players who were non-tendered were fringe guys or players who likely wouldn’t make a 26-man roster. But with finances in flux across baseball because of the pandemic, teams had to go in different directions. Many of the players non-tendered this year were arbitration-eligible and were expected to get raises.
These aren’t bums. These are solid MLB players who have had success, with some having superb seasons in 2020. This adds a new wrinkle to what already was a slow offseason as players such as Schwarber, Eddie Rosario, David Dahl and others have entered the free-agent market.
Combine that with the fact that top free agents — such as George Springer, DJ LeMahieu, Trevor Bauer, JT Realmuto and Marcell Ozuna — haven’t been signed yet, and you have the makings of a market that resembles molasses.
Another factor that has made projecting the market difficult for teams is the unknown of having the designated hitter in the National League next season. If there was an agreement between MLB and the MLBPA, teams could go about their business as usual. But not having a resolution puts both parties at a disadvantage, especially for players such as Schwarber, Ozuna, Rosario and Joc Pederson, who could use 15 additional DH openings to find new homes.
With the winner meeting starting next week, the clubs will turn their attention to the trade market. Kris Bryant is the player who likely will get the most attention, but the Cubs still have other names who could bring back a solid return.
Hoyer didn’t rule out the possibility of Schwarber returning to the Cubs, but with the team wanting to change its lineup, parting ways with the slugger might be in the best interest of both parties.
The Cubs’ wish list includes at least one starting pitcher, a position player with the ability to make consistent contact and a few arms to round out the bullpen. But getting the offense back to a consistent place looks to be a priority.
“I think, on the offensive side, we want to look and feel and perform differently than we have the last few years,” Hoyer said last week. “So I can’t define significant as you might define it, but do I think we need to be different as an offense? Without question, and I think that we have to identify some of the things we’ve done poorly, and we have to work to improve them.
“That is this game, right? You’re always tackling a new challenge. There’s nothing ever perfect. You never have a perfect roster, you never have a perfect situation. And right now, the thing that we’re trying to figure out is why we struggle offensively, given the players we have. So, yes, I do think the offense will look different next year.”
One name who could be a fit for the Cubs is Dahl, who was non-tendered by the Rockies on Wednesday. The left-handed-hitting outfielder is only 26 and was an All-Star in 2019. He could be the type of offensive player who gives the Cubs a different look.
Dahl’s biggest drawback has never been about talent, but injuries. He has never played more than 100 games in a season, but he could be the type of player a team with financial restrictions could target.