Odds or ends? Looking ahead at status of a Cubs core betting on itself
With few players under long-term extensions, the Cubs need a strong start to the season or all bets are off. The last betting window for this group might be closed by the trade deadline July 31.
LAS VEGAS — Left-hander Jon Lester, the longtime ace up the Cubs’ sleeve, read the hand as soon as it was dealt.
‘‘I can kind of see where you’re going with the question, as far as why haven’t we signed our guys,’’ he said to the reporter asking about all those contract extensions young White Sox players and prospects have been signing.
‘‘We have guys that are just betting on themselves. Once you reach a certain point, it’s like, ‘Why not test free agency and see?’ We wait to get that leverage, and when we do, sometimes it’s good to wait.’’
Lester put those chips on the table on the eve of the Cubs’ annual spring-training trip to Las Vegas over the weekend — at the time during their competitive window they face their longest odds of keeping the core together.
The Cubs’ inability to get long-term extensions done with anybody but Kyle Hendricks and David Bote the last few years has left Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber and possibly even Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo in limbo when it comes to their not-so-distant futures with the Cubs.
‘‘You have two different types of players,’’ Lester said. ‘‘I’m more of a guy that likes the security of it. You’ve got guys that don’t; they’ll bet on themselves and play it out to the end. I think there’s nothing wrong with either of those.’’
And without a strong start this season, all bets are off and the last window for this group might be closed by the trade deadline July 31.
‘‘There’s no secret that there’s a sense of urgency around here, and that’s how we’re preparing,’’ manager David Ross said.
Until then, here were the lines on all these guys betting on themselves as they headed out of Vegas on Sunday night:
Odds Bryant is still a Cub for the Wrigley Field opener March 30: 2/3
‘‘[President] Theo [Epstein] keeps asking for the moon for me, which is pretty cool because I’m not going to get traded then,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘Keep doing that, Theo: ‘We want the team’s best player and their top two prospects. That’s all it’s going to take.’ ’’
Odds Baez agrees to a contract extension before the Cubs break camp in two weeks: 6/1
Baez said Christian Yelich’s below-market extension with the Brewers has no bearing on his talks with the Cubs.
‘‘Hopefully, we get mine done,’’ Baez said. ‘‘We’re working on it.’’
It has been months of working on it, with little indication in recent days that a deal was imminent.
‘‘All we can do is make offers, make our intentions known and then see if we can get something done,’’ Epstein said of extension efforts with players in general.
Odds Bryant still will be a Cub the day after the trade deadline: 5/2
‘‘Realistically, we’re a bad start away from this team being blown up by the deadline,’’ Rizzo said.
Odds the Cubs keep the roster together and add help at the deadline: 5/1
‘‘We’re a good start away from adding on to a legacy,’’ Rizzo said.
The Cubs also are projected to exceed the luxury-tax threshold for the second consecutive year, so borderline competitive or hanging-in-there probably won’t cut it when the front office makes the call about whether to add or dump.
Odds Rizzo will get an extension offer before next season: 125/1
He will turn 31 in August, and the Cubs have him under control for one more season on a $16.5 million option. There’s no reason to talk until then, especially if the roster is in transition and luxury-tax concerns are still in play.
‘‘[Baseball] is a business,’’ Rizzo said. ‘‘It’s as cutthroat as ever now.’’
Odds Craig Kimbrel will lead the Cubs in saves in 2020: Even
Kimbrel, a seven-time All-Star closer who struggled after signing last summer, is the $43 million question for the Cubs and could have a disproportionate effect on trade-deadline decisions.
Odds Cubs ownership puts to rest to much of this uncertainty and spends on players in proportion to revenue increases: 208 million/1
As Rizzo said recently: ‘‘Money talks.’’