The Cubs had plenty of time to evaluate their situation after a season in which they traded three of their biggest stars. Now that those evaluations are done, it’s time for president Jed Hoyer to get to work on getting the club turned in the right direction.
For the first time in several seasons, the Cubs will be looking to do something they haven’t done since 2018. Spend money. And with a $41 million payroll going into the 2022 season, they have the resources to improve what became, at the end, a roster void of major-league talent.
“As we build this, I think it’s really important to make one good decision after another,” Hoyer said Wednesday. “And I do think that’s how I think about the offseason. We’re trying to try and build a roster that can compete. We’re also trying to do it without . . . we’re not looking to win the offseason, which I think can be a real negative. Both in terms of the season next year, but also in terms of the future.
“I think I’ve said repeatedly that we do have financial flexibility. We have money to spend this winter but I think it’s really important that we do that in an intelligent way.”
The Cubs have a lengthy checklist as the team continues to flip its roster in the hopes of becoming a contender again.
It’s no surprise that starting pitching is No. 1 on Hoyer’s list.
Simply put, the rotation was just not good enough. The Cubs’ starters had a 5.27 ERA, which ranked 27th, and getting a start over five innings was a rarity, putting added pressure on the bullpen.
“If you sort of look at the whole season, there’s no question that we have to acquire more pitching, better pitching this winter,” Hoyer said. “I think that’ll be the No. 1 priority, because that was the downfall of this season. Our rotation was short and we weren’t effective enough in terms of run prevention.”
Catcher Willson Contreras had a front-row seat to the pitching deficiencies and sees pitching as an area he’d also like to see improve next season.
“I‘ll be honest, I think we need some pitching stuff,” he said. “We have power guys, we need some more command guys.”
Hoyer expects the Cubs to be active, but when that activity actually will begin is still to be determined. Much like the last two offseasons, this winter isn’t expected to move quickly early, especially with the collective bargaining agreement set to expire Dec. 1.
It’s hard to imagine much getting done without a new CBA, and teams and pending free agents likely are going to wait to see how things unfold and what new rules are enacted before making any decisions.
Based on current tension between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association on a variety of issues, it could be after the new year before things pick up.
“I think pro scouting and all the other guys in the office [research and development], analytics, we’re obviously looking carefully at both the free-agent market and the trade market,” Hoyer said. “I think it’s our job to get ahead of that to make sure we’re as prepared as possible from an evaluation standpoint, as prepared as possible from a strategic standpoint. We will spend this whole month preparing and then we’ll be ready to go when the offseason starts.”