Jed at the buzzer: Hoyer, Cubs make big free-agent splash ahead of MLB lockout
Before the collective bargaining agreement expired Wednesday, the Cubs made a flurry of moves, including signing right-hander Marcus Stroman to a three-year deal.
It appeared the Cubs would be left out of the free-agent frenzy before the expiration of the collective-bargaining agreement. But after signing catcher Yan Gomes and outfielder Clint Frazier on Tuesday, they saved their best for last on Wednesday.
The Cubs capped the day by signing free-agent right-hander Marcus Stroman to a three-year, $71 million deal before the lockout took effect. The team also brought back outfielder Michael Hermosillo on a major-league deal.
The expectations weren’t high for team president Jed Hoyer and the Cubs, and with no major moves before this week, it was easy to understand why. But with their flurry of moves, they proved one thing: The Cubs are open for business again.
“I totally understand,” Hoyer said Wednesday. “We have such a different sense of the pace of the offseason when you’re in the business and you’re in the office and the conversations are going on. So I understand when people might get frustrated at the pace of things. . . . You can’t let that bother you. You have to realize that we have a better sense of that because we have all the information.
“I understand why a fan might not feel like there was any activity because until there was a deal, there’s the appearance of inactivity.”
Hoyer has been adamant that the Cubs were going to spend and be competitive in 2022. But making the team’s pitch to potential free agents would be a good test to see if that was possible.
The Stroman signing showed that the Cubs were willing to put their money where their mouth is and that they still appeal to free agents even after tearing their team down last season.
“I think them going and getting me kind of speaks to that point,” Stroman said. “They’re definitely not in a full rebuild. They definitely want to win.
“I’m excited to compete here, and I’m coming in here to win. I’m not coming in here just to come in here. I’m coming here to compete and win with this group of guys that we have and kind of bring that passion and that emotion and just let it show to the crowd.”
It was clear from the beginning of the offseason that revamping the rotation was a priority. The additions of Stroman and left-hander Wade Miley give the Cubs a strong set of starters to slot in next to Kyle Hendricks and Co.
The next order of business would be finding a shortstop to shore up the middle of the infield.
If there’s one thing Hendricks, Miley and Stroman do well, it’s induce ground balls. Being able to make plays on the back end becomes a priority.
“Yeah, definitely it’s gonna be a focus,” Hoyer said Wednesday. “I think we’ve seen the same things that you just mentioned. Infield defense is always important, but that’s certainly something that we’ll talk about a lot over the next few weeks.”
The Cubs have been rumored to be involved with superstar shortstop Carlos Correa. Shortstop Trevor Story also could be a fit on the North Side. Stroman’s $71 million contract is market value for starting pitching, but the deal doesn’t put the Cubs in a spot where they can’t continue to add.
“I think staying nimble is something we always talked about,” Hoyer said. “[Stroman is] certainly well deserving of a high [average annual value]. But I think being able to keep the deal at three years just provides us with some financial nimbleness going forward. But certainly he’s earned the higher [average annual value] with his performance.”
Owners have instituted a lockout, so a roster freeze is in place. Teams are not allowed to trade, sign or even talk to players until a new CBA has been agreed to.
Hoyer and the Cubs will now go into the bunker as the league and the players’ union try to hammer out a deal. But being able to make a splash at the 11th hour as the league was preparing to lock down puts the Cubs in an advantageous position when the impasse eventually ends.