If it seems like forever since there were any major-league moves, you’re correct. Six weeks to be exact. Unfortunately, this long, cold winter for MLB, the players’ union and fans doesn’t look like it will take a turn for the better anytime soon.
Because of the pause in what was becoming a fast-moving free-agent market, the Cubs, like many teams, weren’t able to make all the necessary moves to reshape their roster. But to the surprise of many, they made a flurry of moves before the lockout, putting them in a much better position for when the lockout eventually ends.
They were able to attack a glaring need from last season, signing veteran catcher Yan Gomes to a two-year, $15 million deal to help keep Willson Contreras fresh behind the plate.
Then they took a swing at upside, signing outfielder Clint Frazier and bringing back outfielder Michael Hermosillo on one-year deals. Frazier and Hermosillo are toolsy players still in their primes who have yet to reach their full potential, but they’re worth a gamble for a team in rebuild mode.
But the Cubs’ biggest move came just before the deadline. They signed right-hander Marcus Stroman to a three-year, $71 million deal to shore up the rotation.
“I think they’re definitely not [in] a full rebuild,” Stroman said in December. “I think they definitely want to win now. I mean, obviously, this is a city that has an incredible fan base, and baseball is a competitive sport. You never know what you’re going to get going into any year.”
There weren’t many areas of strength for the Cubs in 2021, and the rotation was definitely a weakness. But with the addition of Stroman to go along with right-hander Kyle Hendricks coming off an up-and-down season and southpaw Wade Miley, who was claimed off waivers early in the offseason, the Cubs might have forged a strength again.
With the lockout in effect, there isn’t much the Cubs can do in terms of additions to the major-league roster, but there’s plenty of work that can be done when it ends.
After the market comes back to life, the Cubs likely will begin by exploring the shortstop scene. They have the versatile Nico Hoerner penciled in at the position, but with Carlos Correa and Trevor Story available, there’s room for an upgrade.
Correa is the big fish of the offseason, and several teams still are looking to spend once the lockout is over, so he’s expected to have no shortage of suitors.
The Cubs also should be looking to add some veterans to the bullpen. The relief corps that featured Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel was one of the best in baseball before the trade deadline.
After all three were dealt at the deadline, the Cubs were left with a talented but inexperienced pen. The team is excited about Codi Heuer and Manny Rodriguez, but providing reinforcements is the goal for the front office.
“I love power pitching,” team president Jed Hoyer said last month. “I love our pitching. . . . I think there’s no doubt, as we’ve talked about that. We want to diversify our arm angles and pitch mixes and stuff like that. And certainly in the bullpen, that’ll be something we’ll focus on.”