Without a doubt, the number one question I received in the wake of the Chicago Cubs signing Jon Lester this week – which followed a Jason Hammel signing and a Miguel Montero trade – is: “OK, cool, but what’s next?”
I can’t blame the question, and I certainly did my part to hint at the relevance of wondering what was next when I initial wrote up the implications of the Lester signing. When you get a big-time, impact player like Lester – especially when his best years are most likely to be in the near-term – making additional moves would be both understandable and laudable.
Yes, but, is there actually more on the way?
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Jed Hoyer said as he was heading out from the Winter Meetings, per the Tribune and ESPN. “We leave here with some irons in the fire, both trade-wise and free agent-wise …. We have a lot more holes to fill. If you stay active and stay involved, sometimes things happen in the offseason that you might not even expect.”
So, what’s next?
Well, to be quite clear, I think the Cubs are most likely to look at three realistic areas: adding a lefty reliever, adding a bench bat (probably a right-handed outfield bat, good clubhouse type), and considering a roll-the-dice, low-risk starting pitcher. From there, the Cubs will undoubtedly look at trade possibilities – moving out a starting pitcher or two, seeing what teams are offering for Welington Castillo, possibly adding a short-term impact player if the price is low enough. (I suspect they’ll also be spending the offseason crossing their fingers that big-time Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada doesn’t do anything soon.)
In other words, I’d expect there to be plenty of rumors going forward, and moves trickling in as we head into January. To be sure, the most active part of the offseason for the Cubs is probably now behind us, but I agree with Hoyer when he says that the Cubs aren’t a finished product just yet. And, because of the composition of their roster and the relative full-ness of their 40-man roster, if the Cubs do make other additions going forward, that will necessarily spur activity on the other side of the coin.
All in all, we know the front office’s MO: they will try to improve for 2015 to the extent they can do so without dramatically harming the long-term future.
Relatedly, I remain very interested to see what each of the rest of the NL Central teams do going forward this offseason. The Cubs have improved, rather dramatically, this week. The Cardinals still look like the class of the Central, with the Pirates right behind. Will the Cardinals add another starting pitcher (they really should)? Will the Pirates try to add a bat to replace what they lost, offensively, in Russell Martin? Will the Reds continue to sell? Will the Brewers do anything at all?