With reports floating around everywhere that the Chicago Cubs are going to be one of the most active teams on the trade and player movement fronts this offseason, the question must be asked – why? Why are the Cubs, who just finished in third place in the National League Central division, fired incumbent manager Joe Maddon and replaced him with Dancing with the Stars participant and former MLB catcher David Ross, deciding to be so active this offseason?
Are they just that impatient to finally get back to winning? Is the media pushing them and is their fanbase putting the team underneath an unfair microscope?
Regardless of what is forcing Theo Epstein and the front office’s hands, it looks as though they are very much committed to reshaping the vast majority of their roster this winter. Through trades and signings, promotions and releases, the Cubs are currently on a track to completely redo their roster in a big way.
First off, their franchise cornerstones look to be shortstop Javier Baez, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, third baseman Kris Bryant, and catcher Willson Contreras, all of which have been mentioned in some sort of capacity during the 2019 offseason.
The team has publicly let it be known that they are currently working with Baez and his agent on a contract extension, which looks to be the first kind of momentum that the team has done in working towards locking up their core. With the team prioritizing Baez over the others, it shows how they feel about the rest of their core and the likelihood in which they can hold on to all of them.
On top of the Baez extension talks, the Cubs have been reportedly looking into shipping both Bryant and Contreras out of town, which would represent two backward moves for a franchise that is sick and tired of missing the postseason.
The Houston Astros, which have decidedly had bigger fish to fry this winter in terms of offseason priorities, are rumored to be towards the front of the line if the Cubs do become serious about dealing Contreras. A deal focused around outfielder Kyle Tucker or fireballer Forrest Whitley would most likely do the trick for a deal to come to fruition.
For Bryant, he has been a key cog in what has made the Cubs so successful, including fielding the final out of the team’s most recent World Series championship in 2016, when they came back from being down three games to one in the series against the Cleveland Indians.
Any sort of a trade involving Bryant as the centerpiece would require a ton of work for both sides to make it work and the Atlanta Braves look to match up the best in making a deal work, only if third baseman Josh Donaldson does not return to the Braves.
While a trade or two may be in the interest of bettering this franchise, the Cubs should steer away from going full nuclear on their team. It is hard to build a team in the first place and have the vast majority of its core come together at the same time, so to tear it apart would just be much more of a step in the wrong direction than in the right.
Epstein and his front office have done crazier things in the past, but it is not out of the question that a substantial deal could occur at some point this winter. When desperate teams come to terms with needing to improve through desperate measures, they face a few very serious questions that they need to address, which can turn into putting a team back even further than they already were.
For the Cubs, the current status of the team is not worthy of needing to tear down; however, the rest of the NL is hoping that all critical thinking goes out the window with the Cubs this offseason, because they have the right pieces in the right places to make some noise again in 2020.