CARLSBAD, Calif. — The Cubs are in a position they haven’t been in for quite some time. For the first time since 2011, they are entering an offseason without Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant or Javy Baez on their major-league roster.
The Cubs played the last two months of the 2021 season without their franchise cornerstones and now have to move in a new direction — a direction president Jed Hoyer and newly hired general manager Carter Hawkins are trying to navigate in their first offseason as a tandem.
They’ll get a chance to start in earnest at the GM meetings, which get underway Tuesday. And with so much uncertainty regarding the expiration of the collective-bargaining agreement Dec. 1, it wouldn’t be surprising to see several teams, including the Cubs, try to get ahead of the game before a potential roster freeze comes in early December.
The first order of business for the Cubs will be trying to shore up a starting rotation that was one of the worst in the game this past season. Fortunately for them, they caught a break when journeyman left-hander Wade Miley fell into their lap on waivers. They picked up his $10 million option Sunday, making him a virtual lock for the rotation in 2022.
The addition of Miley is a good start on the rotation overhaul, but there is still a ways to go in terms of improvement.
The thing Hoyer has harped on entering this offseason has been ‘‘intelligent spending’’ and finding the right players on the free-agent market. Where the Cubs think they are in terms of their competitive window likely will be reflected in their targets this offseason.
‘‘There’s a danger in free agency of committing a lot of years and a lot of dollars to players for the decline phase of their careers,’’ Hoyer said last month. ‘‘You always have to be mindful of what the biggest value is in that contract.
‘‘Free agency is valuable, [but] free agency is also dangerous. I think that there’s a reason that the best organizations generally build from within and use free agency to sort of finish off a club. I think building a club through free agency is really challenging.’’
A target who might make a lot of sense for the Cubs is right-hander Jon Gray. Because the Rockies surprisingly didn’t make him an $18.4 million qualifying offer, he enters free agency without the hurdle of draft-pick compensation for whatever team decides to sign him.
Besides starting pitching, figuring out what to do with the lineup also will be high on the Cubs’ list. As currently assembled, the lineup features several players who could be successful on a big-league roster, but it lacks cohesion.
One of the areas lacking with the offense is power, and the Cubs will have to find some this winter, whether that’s in free agency or on the trade market. Their current roster features no true power threats outside of Willson Contreras, Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom.
After the trades he made during the season, Hoyer’s goal was to put together a plan to get the Cubs back to contention. With the offseason here, it’s time to see those plans put into action. From ownership down, the talk has been of not wasting time with a long rebuild.
Wrigley Field wasn’t the packed house it usually is this past summer, and if there’s one thing that gets the attention of ownership, it’s empty seats. With the incentive to improve and the means to do it, it’s time the Cubs put their money where their mouth is.