It’s becoming a theme as we head into the final six weeks of a season where the Cubs are not “competitive”: for so many reasons, it’s important that the Cubs demonstrate that they can be “competitive” next year.
What does that look like in August and September of a lost season? How does it delicately coordinate with the reality that more losses are good for the Cubs’ lottery standing in 2023? How much does any of it matter when compared to the offseason decisions the Cubs do or do not make?
These are all reasonable questions that, at most, have abstract answers. But I think they all generally point the importance of seeing a roster at the end of the year that looks like it could compete in 2023 – 85 wins on paper come Spring Training? – with an offseason of moves that coordinates well. You’ll kinda know it when you see it. And there’s a bit of a chicken-or-the-egg component, since the offseason moves will help dictate the outcome of 2023, but those offseason moves will, in part, be predicated on how the rest of 2022 looks.
So, whatever the precise contours, it’s going to matter how things “look” on October 5, when the season ends, and it’s going to matter what the Cubs are thereafter able to accomplish in the offseason. As I said this morning, I think it’s going to be key to at least keep being something shy of terrible.
With that as the background, I was highly interested to hear free-agent-to-be Trea Turner’s thoughts on where things stand with the Cubs, and/or what he would need to see before he would seriously consider signing with them in the offseason.
“From multiple organizations, you’d want to know what they expect or where it’s going or what they’re trying to do — kind of a vision,” Turner told Wittenmyer. “Whatever that vision is it is. But I think that’s mandatory. You need to know how the next few years look and how that pertains to you and your family and your career. It’s definitely a factor in picking a team.”
As to speaking on the Cubs, specifically, Turner kept things general, noting that it seems like other players like the city, the ballpark, the fans, etc.
For me, the point here is less about Turner, specifically, anyway. Whether he is your – or the Cubs’ – preferred free agent target this offseason, what matters is what we’ve talked about for months (even going back to Carlos Correa’s comments on why he isn’t going to sign up for a rebuild anywhere). Players generally want to play for winners.
These guys are all going to get huge contracts, and those contracts *ARE* what is going to matter most. Full stop. Don’t try to argue otherwise, because the history of major player signings is littered with guys who took the most money they could get, and the teams they signed with wound up being terrible. There is not a thing wrong with wanting to get the best deal you can possibly get.
HOWEVER, when a player is so sought-after that several teams are in for his services, and there are similar price tiers available, then the quality of the team is absolutely going to be an important factor in where the guy ultimately signs. Sure, you could blow another team’s offer completely out of the water, but you don’t want to have to do that if your aim is to not harm your own long-term competitiveness in the process.
In other words, let Turner’s comments be further confirmation of the theme we keep hearing about for a club like the Cubs in a moment like this: there will be an evaluation of how things are looking with this roster (and the farm system) when free agents are making their decisions. It will matter how the Cubs’ season finishes up. How the players develop. How the plan for turning the corner is laid out.
So, keep that in the back of your mind as you’re watching the Cubs the rest of the season. Yes, losses “help” the draft order for next year, but if they come because the performance is so abysmal that the roster suddenly looks brutal heading into the offseason? That isn’t going to help the Cubs land the guys they want – assuming their vision is to turn the corner in 2023, that is.