SAN DIEGO — On your mark, get set, go.
The stage is set for a whirlwind winter meetings, with the inaugural MLB Draft Lottery, the Rule 5 Draft, manager news conferences and a charity auction benefitting the new Boys & Girls Club in Uvalde, Texas. And, of course, there’s always a spike in free-agent signings and trades.
‘‘We’re in the market for good players,’’ Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said during the general managers meetings last month. ‘‘So we’re not that positionally focused.’’
That answer has the benefit of not revealing too much. But the Cubs’ wealth of young players who are comfortable at multiple positions means the team isn’t as positionally restricted as more established clubs. The Cubs could add a power bat at a number of positions, and they need reinforcements in their rotation and bullpen.
Here are the Cubs’ most pressing needs entering the winter meetings Monday:
A top free-agent pitcher came off the board early, with the Rangers signing Jacob deGrom to a five-year, $185 million deal. But as of late Sunday, Carlos Rodon, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw still were available.
There also has been buzz around Koudai Senga, the free-agent right-hander coming to the majors from Japan. Senga’s representation planned to meet with the Cubs at the GM meetings last month in an early survey of his suitors. The Athletic reported Sunday that the Cubs also had checked in with two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.
The Cubs will need to add plenty of ‘‘quality innings,’’ as Hoyer put it, this winter. They’ve shown a knack for getting production out of veteran relievers on short-term deals.
For example, look at Chris Martin, who signed a two-year, $17.5 million contract last week with the Red Sox. A year ago, he joined the Cubs on a one-year contract worth $2.5 million, plus incentives. He posted an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio, the Cubs traded him at the deadline and he finished the season with the Dodgers in dominant fashion (1.46 ERA).
So while bolstering the bullpen will take more transactions, the rotation additions will be the bigger indicator of the Cubs’ success next season.
Willson Contreras, who declined the Cubs’ qualifying offer last month to enter free agency, leaves a hole at catcher and in the lineup. So who will join Yan Gomes behind the plate?
The Cubs have shown interest in World Series champion Christian Vazquez, according to multiple reports, and his defensive prowess lines up with the team’s priorities at the position.
Contreras headlines the free-agent catcher class, which, along with Vazquez, also includes Gary Sanchez, Omar Narvaez, Mike Zunino and Tucker Barnhart.
The Cubs have the flexibility to add power at a number of positions, including shortstop, first base and center field. If they want to get a little more creative, the list could go on.
The strength of the shortstop free-agent class has been well-documented, and Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson are still available.
The Cubs are excited about power-hitting first-base prospect Matt Mervis’ emergence in the minors in 2022, but they still could use someone with more experience to pair with him at first base and designated hitter next season.
Two top first basemen already have found landing spots. Anthony Rizzo re-signed with the Yankees for two years and $40 million guaranteed, and Jose Abreu joined the Astros on a three-year, $58.5 million deal. But the Cubs were unlikely to compete with teams willing to commit that much to a first baseman when they hope their future at the position already might be in the organization.
The pool of free-agent center fielders got a little more interesting when the Dodgers non-tendered Cody Bellinger last month. His offensive production has dropped off since his 2019 MVP season, but he has a sky-high ceiling. The Cubs could add a consistent center fielder or fill the position by committee, as they did last season.