No, seriously, everyone is available and the Cubs are going to sell off lots and lots of players. So they say, apparently. Again.
The latest report from Mark Feinsand and his sources is the strongest yet about what to expect from the Cubs this offseason:
Hot Stove notes: What’s on tap for the Cubs now? Could Cano’s suspension open the door for LeMahieu in Queens? Who is the hottest closer on the free-agent market? https://t.co/yx1U0SO7e2
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 19, 2020
A number of rival executives around the league believe Hoyer will move a number of players in the coming months, with Kris Bryant and Javier Báez the names mentioned most. The Cubs had been telling teams as much since the season ended, letting it be known that nearly anybody can be had if the right offer is there.
“They seem to think a heavy restart could be in order,” a National League executive said. “Won’t be easy, though, because of the money their guys are set to make. If someone can extend Bryant or Báez, they are probably still pretty good gets.”
Bryant, Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber are all slated to become free agents at the end of the 2021 season, while Willson Contreras can become a free agent after the ’22 campaign. Yu Darvish has three years and $59 million left on his contract, while Kyle Hendricks has three years and $43.5 million remaining on his deal.
All seven players were mentioned by executives as potential trade chips this offseason.
“They are open to all kinds of stuff,” the NL executive said. “They aren’t a group afraid to make big moves.”
An American League executive believes Chicago will move at least two of the aforementioned group in an effort to save money and undergo a reset of sorts.
“My sense is that the Cubs are very open [to anything],” the exec said.
I can’t ignore up front that we have heard versions of “open to anything” over the last few years. So, consider that my obligatory caveat on it up front. Every team should be open to anything at all times. So, what are we really saying here?
But I also have to acknowledge that we’re now hearing it about THIS offseason from multiple sources (multiple media AND multiple sources in the game). Whether it’s legit or not, this is pretty clearly a message the Cubs are putting out there to other teams. We can’t deny it at this point. A “heavy restart,” where multiple name players are dealt at the expense of the 2021 season, is clearly quite possible.
I also, also have to acknowledge that the Cubs are now one year closer to everything changing on the roster organically anyway, so the “threat” of making massive changes now feels more credible than it did a year or two years ago. (I mean, I argued back then that massive changes were needed, but the Cubs probably felt they had more flexibility then than they do now, for both financial and chronological reasons.)
I also, also, also have to acknowledge that the Cubs just transitioned from Theo Epstein to Jed Hoyer a year earlier than expected, and likely did so for a reason. Well, they did it for a lot of reasons, as Epstein explained, but I don’t think you’re a conspiracy nut to think the transition does provide additional cover for the organization to make big, controversial roster changes.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to do the thing people always do and just say, “Ah, but THIS time it’s different!” There are still massive hurdles in place for the Cubs to actually overhaul the roster in this environment. It remains entirely plausible – likely, even – that only a guy or two is moved or non-tendered, and then some smaller, targeted signings are made, and mostly the Cubs are running it back in 2021. I would prefer a more comprehensive approach, capturing value now where it exists, with a very focused eye on transitioning through the 2021 season and competing aggressively in 2022+.
Maybe we’re getting signals now that the Cubs – under Hoyer – also prefer that approach? I guess we’ll find out very soon, because the non-tender deadline (less than two weeks away) is going to be a huge moment where the Cubs either have to have dealt certain players already, or will have to decide whether they can “afford” to commit to these contracts for 2021, not knowing if they’ll later be able to move them.
The next two weeks could become very uncomfortable, and all I can say right now is that I hope the decisions that are made are all coordinated to work with a broader, longer-term plan in mind.