New bleachers have been erected and videoboards beyond the outfield walls have brought Wrigley Field into the 21st century. New clubhouses and batting cages are coming soon. And the Cubs have just posted their best record since the 2008 team won 97 games en route to winning the National League Central. [Brett: And the Cubs basically did that again this year, you know, if you count the playoffs].
As the Chicago Tribune noted in a mid-September piece, it appears as if the Cubs have a lot going for them heading into the offseason when it comes to courting free agents.
Jon Lester had some interesting things to say about that process in Mark Gonzales’ linked Tribune piece, noting that while some of the exterior additions are nice: “[Y]ou’re attracting the wrong people if that’s what you’re concerned about. My biggest concern was ‘Are we going to be contenders? Are we going to win? Are we going to have the people here to do that?’ That’s what attracted me. The other stuff was an added bonus.”
On top of having a competitive club in a vibrant atmosphere, the Cubs could have additional payroll flexibility heading into 2016, per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. A significant increase in average and total attendance in 2015 could pay dividends for 2016.
As we’ve discussed, the Cubs could find themselves in search of a new lead-off man and/or center fielder if Dexter Fowler is allowed to walk in free agency.
And, of course, the team could probably stand to add another starting pitcher or two to fortify its rotation. The Cubs were 17-11 in games started by their No. 5 starter, but they used six pitchers in that spot, who combined to put together a total of just seven quality starts.
The team could dip into its farm system and plug prospect Albert Almora into a role if he can prove he is ready to carry that kind of load, and the same can be said with regards to addressing any pitching needs as guys like Carl Edwards, Jr. and Pierce Johnson find themselves on the fringes of a roster spot.
But it seems a bit early to lean so heavily on any of those guys, and, since trades cannot be assumed, the Cubs will likely have to dip into free agency. The nice thing, then, is that the Cubs have put themselves in a position where they can be an attractive place for free agents to sign, while not being overly reliant on it.
Money talks when it comes to getting free agents to put pen to paper and sign a contract. But no one knows what might or might not be a deal breaker as the team will eventually find itself addressing its needs prior to the 2016 season.
As it stands, the Cubs look to have an ideal balance of young, successful talent and income that makes Chicago a very attractive landing spot for free agents in the years to come.