It’s become a bit of a running joke over the last two weeks: the Chicago Cubs are connected to every single free agent in baseball.
The striking thing is that it’s not even really a joke at this point, because the Cubs really have been connected in one report or another to virtually every name free agent on the market right now. Heck, multiple reports have predicted the Cubs sign BOTH Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. That’s when you know things are getting a little nuts out there.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer pulled back the reins in a conference call with the beat writers (you can read full reports from Mark Gonzales, Carrie Muskat and Jesse Rogers, for example), noting the explosion of high-end Cubs rumors.
“One of the challenges we have right now is that we’re literally linked to every single free agent,” Hoyer told those reporters. “Some of that is agent driven, trying to connect us to everyone because they realize we have some payroll flexibility. We’ve said all along if the right things line up, we could have an active offseason. We’re not going to force it. A lot of the reports we read make it seem we’re going to have some kind of a supercharged offseason and I think that’s overstated.”
Even if the Cubs were planning to have a “supercharged” offseason, it’s not like it would benefit them to concede it right now. Agents would be sharpening their knives.
But I don’t think this is mere talk, or smokescreening, or anything other than Hoyer telling it like it is. The front office has been relatively clear that they weren’t expecting to add piles of impact pieces in free agency this offseason. Yes, if the right possibilities come up, they’ll do what they need to do, but both Epstein and Hoyer have mentioned the 15/18-month window to accumulate impact assets, mostly pitching. That means this offseason, the 2015 Trade Deadline, and then next offseason (with its loaded free agent class).
That is all to say: the Cubs are looking at some impact pieces (and may talk to a whole bunch of guys), but don’t expect them to add three or four. Instead, the Cubs may add an impact guy or two, and then some second tier or complementary pieces. And, throughout the process, they’ll consider the trade market. The rumors are fun to follow, but nothing has changed about the Cubs’ steady process of building up a competitive squad within the contours of the resources they have right now.
Don’t let that get you down, by the way. Adding $300 million worth of free agents in a single offseason is not, to me, a great approach to long-term organizational health. And, more importantly, for the first time in a long time, the Cubs really can plausibly consider just about any free agent, even if they won’t sign them all. It’s fun to have options.