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Offseason In Review: Chicago Cubs

The Cubs maintained Cody Bellinger at a deal rate, changed Marcus Stroman, discovered a possible very first base service, and supplemented their bullpen – all while remaining listed below the very first competitive balance tax limit.

Major League Signings

  • Cody Bellinger, CF/1B: 3 years, $80MM.  2025 and ’26 seasons are gamer alternatives.
  • Shota Imanaga, SP: 4 years, $53MM.  2026 is a gamer choice that activates extra alternatives.
  • Hector Neris, RP: one year, $9MM.  Includes $9MM club choice for 2025

Options Exercised

Trades and Claims

Notable Minor League Signings

Extensions

Notable Losses

The Cubs’ offseason began with an essential option by beginning pitcher Marcus Stroman on November fourth: he chose to pull out of the staying one year and $21MM left on his agreement.  This developed monetary versatility and an uninhabited rotation area, making some sort of beginning pitching addition feel inescapable.

The following day, the Cubs secured a rotation area by making the anticipated choice to workout Kyle Hendricks’ $16.5MM club choice.  They likewise got the $6MM choice on catcher Yan Gomes.

Then the Cubs made a relocation couple of individuals saw coming: they generated Craig Counsell as supervisor, which needed the biggest agreement in MLB history for that task both in regards to overall and typical yearly worth.  David Ross was fired at the same time.  Counsell had actually handled the Brewers for almost 9 years, taking them to the playoffs in 5 of the last 6 seasons.  Counsell is considered as among the video game’s much better supervisors, and he frequently prospered in spite of below-average payrolls in Milwaukee.

The sensational Counsell-for-Ross relocation conjured memories of Theo Epstein’s opportunistic switch 9 years prior from Rick Renteria to Joe Maddon.  The Cubs’ signature gamer acquisition that offseason was the finalizing of Jon Lester, ranked 2nd on MLBTR’s leading 50 totally free representatives list.  After the Counsell hiring, it was natural to question if Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer would provide an extra offseason reward such as Shohei Ohtani or Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

The Cubs did reveal interest in a few of the offseason’s most significant names.  Reports recommend they made a genuine effort to sign Ohtani before he landed with the Dodgers on a heavily-deferred ten-year, $700MM offer, though the Cubs weren’t relatively a finalist.  According to ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez and Jeff Passan, as Ohtani’s totally free firm waned, representative Nez Balelo “proposed the same deal to at least three other teams,” the Giants, Blue Jays, and Angels.  As late as December 5th, Hoyer shot down a report that the Cubs’ optimism on Ohtani had actually subsided, however it most likely must have been subsiding around then.  The Cubs are not discussed because Gonzalez/Passan expert account of the finalizing.  Whether the Cubs left due to an aversion to satisfy Ohtani’s asking rate or due to his choice to play somewhere else stays unidentified.

Though Hoyer saw Yamamoto on a September searching journey to Japan, the Cubs were mostly missing from reports about his offseason totally free representative pursuit.  The reporting on Yamamoto’s totally free firm supplied no sign that the Cubs met Yamamoto or made a deal.  It is understood that both New York groups made strong deals to Yamamoto, who naturally injury up signing up with Ohtani on the Dodgers.  There isn’t much sign that the Cubs might have fairly won the bidding for Yamamoto, nor that they attempted to.

Likewise, the Cubs might have had interest in then-Padres outfielder Juan Soto, however if so they kept it peaceful in the report mill.  Soto varied from Ohtani and Yamamoto because it wasn’t approximately the gamer – that reward went to the group that made the very best deal.  Soto was a little bit of a hard suitable for a Cubs group with Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki secured at the outfield corners.

One significant trade target that made sufficient sense was Tyler Glasnow of the Rays.  According to Ken Rosenthal and Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, “the Cubs remained in the Glasnow talks until the end, but were not willing to make a comparable offer” to the Dodgers’ proposition of Ryan Pepiot and Jonny DeLuca.  Glasnow’s choices likewise mattered.  As Rosenthal and Ardaya put it, “He effectively could rule out certain teams by telling [Rays president of baseball operations Erik] Neander he would only stay with them for one season before entering free agency.”  The Cubs most likely might’ve provided enough to land Glasnow for 2024, however they would not always have actually had the ability to sign him to an extension.

Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee was silently on the Cubs’ radar too, according to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic.  Like many of this offseason’s huge names, Lee ended up in the NL West.

As 2023 waned, Cubs fans’ imagine Ohtani, Yamamoto, Soto, or Glasnow had actually been rushed.  The group had actually included a supervisory star, however absolutely nothing else.

A set of crucial relocations came within a three-day period in January.  First, the Cubs signed 30-year-old southpaw Shota Imanaga to a four-year, $53MM offer.  The group likewise owes a publishing cost of a minimum of $9.825MM to his previous group, the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.  Imanaga will make $23MM for his very first 2 seasons with the Cubs, after which the group should choose whether to work out a three-year, $57MM choice covering his age 32-34 seasons.  If they do so, it’d bring Imanaga’s overall to 5 years and $80MM, comparable to preseason agreement forecasts.  If the Cubs decrease, Imanaga will have a $15MM gamer choice for ’26.  If worked out, the Cubs will need to pick 2 years and $42MM for 2027-28.  If the Cubs decrease their very first choice, Imanaga exercises his ’26 gamer choice, and the Cubs decrease their 2027-28 choice, the pitcher has another $15MM choice for ’27.

It’s a relatively complex structure that uses the Cubs some step of security instead of the $80MM assurance a starter like Eduardo Rodriguez gotten.  Early returns on Imanaga recommend he can carry out as a mid-rotation starter, in which case his agreement represents a strong offer for the Cubs.  I don’t blame the Cubs for choosing Imanaga on his agreement to Stroman at $21MM for one year or $37MM for 2.

First base was a clear requirement for the Cubs, and they apparently amused a conventional service in Rhys Hoskins in addition to a fascinating one in Josh Naylor.  Eventually, however, Hoyer made an addition nobody saw coming over trading potential customers for the Dodgers’ Michael Busch, in addition to reducer Yency Almonte.  Busch, an MLB-ready 26-year-old novice, features 6 years of control staying.  He won’t even be paid an arbitration wage up until 2027, and he’s under group control for an overall of 6 more years.  If Busch becomes the above typical player his searching reports and Triple-A work recommend, this will end up being an inspired pickup by the Cubs.

The Cubs tattooed Hector Neris to a one-year handle late January, at a $9MM wage a bit beyond Hoyer’s normal convenience zone for reducers.  At that point, the Cubs might have considered their offseason done.  They’d changed Stroman, discovered a very first base service, and supplemented the bullpen.

Cody Bellinger has actually been notably missing from this post so far, which’s because Bellinger apparently looked for $200MM or more on a long-lasting offer.  Back in November, I believed he’d get it, and not from the Cubs.  I likewise felt that the Cubs’ inspiration on Bellinger would be restricted, offered the existence of slick-fielding center field possibility Pete Crow-Armstrong.  There were indications the Cubs did not have complete self-confidence in running PCA out to start the season, nevertheless.  Two, particularly: their interest in Jung Hoo Lee and Kevin Kiermaier.

So the Cubs hung back and stayed opportunistic on Bellinger.  As late as February 19th, owner Tom Ricketts stated, “There has been some discussions but it hasn’t become a negotiation yet,” calling out representative Scott Boras to buckle down.  About a week later on, Bellinger’s handle the Cubs was done, at a simple $80MM assurance over 3 years.  Yes, there’s drawback danger because Bellinger will just forgo his 2 opt-outs if he carries out inadequately.  But if he plays well once again this year and pulls out, the Cubs will have just dedicated $30MM.  The Bellinger finalizing extends the Cubs’ lineup and presses Crow-Armstrong back to Triple-A.  Bellinger can likewise move over to very first base must situations necessitate it.

Ricketts made his position on payroll clear because February 19th interview: “We’re right there at CBT (Competitive Balance Tax) levels.  It’s kind of our natural place for us. That should be enough to win our division and be consistent every year.”  That was before the Bellinger finalizing; with him, the Cubs are approximated at about $234MM, just $3MM listed below the very first CBT limit to which Ricketts referred.

As the calendar turned to March, the Cubs existed with a variety of chances to get on additional Boras surprise deals and press the group from “should be enough to win our division” to “likely to win our division.”  Likely due to the fact that of Ricketts’ hesitation to press payroll past its existing point (an approximated 10th in MLB), the Cubs handed down numerous huge name totally free representatives they quite might have utilized.

Matt Chapman was next off the board, signing a three-year, $54MM handle the Giants that consisted of a set of opt-outs.  Chapman would have been a “nice-to-have” for the Cubs, plugging in at 3rd base and pressing Christopher Morel primarily to the DH area.  It’s possible Chapman’s convenience in the Bay Area indicated the Cubs would have needed to go greater than the Giants, nevertheless.  The Cubs’ existing strategy appears to be blending and matching at 3rd base with Morel, Nick Madrigal, and Patrick Wisdom.

The Giants likewise took the chance to sign Blake Snell at 2 years and $62MM with a pull out.  Snell made a great deal of sense at this rate for the Cubs, though both he and Chapman would’ve needed the Cubs to surrender their second-round draft choice.  Jordan Montgomery stayed on the marketplace, nevertheless, and he would not need draft choice forfeit.

The Cubs’ rotation, when everybody is healthy, will include Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks, Shota Imanaga, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Wicks.  There is factor to think this is not a collection of 5 180-inning pitchers.  Javier Assad, Ben Brown, and Drew Smyly are extra alternatives to cover the inescapable injuries, such as the existing ones to Steele and Taillon.  Signing Montgomery to a one-year, $25MM offer and pressing everybody down an area was a chance the Cubs must’ve gotten on.   Instead Montgomery landed with the Diamondbacks, a group Ricketts want to imitate, because, “You don’t have to have the highest payroll or the biggest stars. If you’re playing well, anybody can beat anybody. I was happy for the Diamondbacks.”

If the Cubs deal with any type of beginning pitching depth issue this year, and Snell and Montgomery work pitchers, it will be quite simple to indicate their schedule in March.  To be reasonable, the exact same can be stated of numerous groups.

Once everybody is healthy, the Cubs’ rotation looks good, and their offense looks relatively deep.  The club likewise includes strong defense up the middle.  They’re best in the middle of an NL Central that presently has all 5 groups forecasting for 80-82 wins.  For a great deal of groups, that’s good enough.



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