If you were expecting a big splash this offseason, you haven’t been paying attention. The most any reasonable Chicago Cubs fan should be expecting for this offseason is a set of well-intentioned, short-term, low-cost moves, together with an effort to pursue Masahiro Tanaka, if he’s made available. Not get Tanaka, mind you. No team in baseball should be expecting that. Just expecting to pursue.
So, against that backdrop, I’m not sure why comments from Cubs GM Jed Hoyer and super-agent Scott Boras this afternoon at the Winter Meetings are getting so much play. Angry play.
From Hoyer, who was featured briefly on MLB Network:
— MLB Network PR (@MLBNetworkPR) December 11, 2013
Nothing there is a surprise or inconsistent with what the Cubs have said all along. There are too many holes on the big league roster and too few dollars available right now to do the kind of patching necessary to put a credible playoff contender on the field in 2014. You may rail against it. Gnash your teeth. Pound away at your keyboard in the comments. But this is our lot, and it is ours to accept.
The “Mariners” bit is getting a lot of attention, given that they’ve been in the news over the last week for being anything but a model organization. It appears, however, that Hoyer was merely referencing the fact that the Mariners are making big moves (Robinson Cano) and rumored to be in on every big name, after having built up a young core. As Theo Epstein and Hoyer have both said repeatedly, they hope that will be the Cubs soon. Whether “a couple years” means next offseason or the next, I don’t really read a whole lot into the literalness of colloquialisms. It just means not this year.
And then there was Boras, speaking simultaneously before a crowd of media, remarking that the Cubs’ rebuild is “an all-day sucker.” The reference, which was initially lost on many, meant that he sees the Cubs’ rebuild taking a very long time. He mentioned the Cubs’ market size and their refusal to spend commensurate with that market size during their rebuild.
Once again, none of this is new for Boras, whose job it is to get as much money for his clients as possible. Having a large market team like the Cubs sitting out the proceedings is bad for business, and Boras has sounded like a jilted lover for quite some time.
In the process, though, he threw the Cubs’ ownership under the bus:
Boras on Cubs: "The baseball ops people – I know them (and) I think they want to win today. But they also work for people."
— Patrick Mooney (@CSNMooney) December 11, 2013
I understand the frustration, both from Boras and from fans. At the same time, I accept the realities discussed above. I also accept that, other than a few, select players – Tanaka, maybe Shin-Soo Choo – the biggest name free agents this offseason simply don’t make sense for the Cubs. Unless you’re going to add an Ellsbury, AND a Cano, AND a Garza, AND a Nathan, there’s very little reason to add any one of those guys, whose most useful years will come when the Cubs aren’t competitive. I like Choo’s skill set to hold up long enough to be useful to the Cubs when they’re competitive (and they do need an outfielder), but that’s about it for the big guys not named Tanaka.
In other words: the Cubs aren’t going to do something just to do something, regardless of the financial situation. That’s the oft-referenced “syncing up” of the baseball and business plans. I’m sorry if it aggravates Boras or some of the fans.
(It’s not hard to imagine that Choo, represented by Boras, was specifically on Boras’s mind when he made the “all-day sucker” comment, and expressed frustration thereafter. My guess? The Cubs have been showing interest in Choo all along, but the baseball ops guys have explained to Boras that they can’t go to the ridiculous seven-year, $140 million level right now. Boras angry. Boras smash.)