Although it marks the official start of Spring Training, pitchers and catchers reporting is not some hard-line cut-off for teams making moves. Frequently, we see lingering free agent signings in February and March, and even trades – usually at the margins of the roster – happen every year.
But the reality is, for the most part, the group you’ve got by the time pitchers and catchers are required to show up in Arizona or Florida to gear up for the season is the group you’ll be choosing from for your 26-man roster.
That’s why I’m pretty stuck on the idea that today marks one month out from Cubs pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa, Arizona for Spring Training.
Together with the Rockies, the Cubs are one of only TWO teams in all of baseball that has yet to sign a single big league, fully-guaranteed contract. The Cubs have made some non-guaranteed signings (a couple split deals for Dan Winkler and Ryan Tepera, as well as some minor league signings), but no big-league-roster free agent signings.
Neither have the Cubs made any major trades. They acquired bounce-back candidate Jharel Cotton for cash at the start of the offseason, acquired Trevor Megill in the Rule 5 Draft, and picked up CD Pelham on waivers. But no real trades, either coming or going.
The whole offseason to this point, instead, has been all about waiting. Waiting for the right moves to open up, sure, but let’s be honest – it’s mostly been about waiting for the Kris Bryant service time grievance to be resolved so that the Cubs could more seriously explore his trade market, and consider how that impacts their effort to stay under the luxury tax.
Even at this very moment, the Cubs are still waiting. And the roster mostly looks the same as the one that was deeply disappointing last year … minus Cole Hamels, Nick Castellanos, Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler, Ben Zobrist, and Pedro Strop, among others.
How much longer can the Cubs wait and still have a successful offseason? I suppose it depends on how quickly the last remnants of interesting free agents sign up elsewhere. If the grievance decision comes next week – which is possible – and the Cubs are ready to act right away, they can still have a mostly normal offseason for what they might have done even if they’d been able to proceed back in November. There are still some interesting bench guys out there (and a certain outfielder), still some of the interesting buy-low starting pitchers I wanted them to pursue anyway, and the relief market kinda stunk all along. It’s also always been an open question what the Cubs would want to do in free agency anyway, depending on what they get back in trade(s).
It can still happen. The Cubs *can* still have a successful offseason, particularly within the context of what I expect they’re trying to do (trade shorter-term assets for long-term young talent, get under the luxury tax, and give themselves at least a shot in the first half of 2020 without lessoning chance to really push in 2021).
But the clock is ticking, and there is only a month left before Spring Training begins.