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Will Cubs rebuild or try to contend in 2021? Why that’s unclear following their Yu Darvish trade


#Heading into this offseason, the #Cubs were definitely one of MLB’s most intriguing teams to watch. There were lots of decisions on big-name personnel that needed to be made, and the franchise was at a bit of a crossroads after a disappointing finish to what started as such a promising 2020 season.

#So far it’s certainly been interesting and, actually, a bit confusing.

The first domino was former president of operations Theo #Epstein deciding to step down, leaving the keys with long-time general manager #Jed #Hoyer. #Having just gone through the best six-year window in franchise history and with the state of the roster and financial obligations, I wrote why #Hoyer really has his hands full (not that he can’t manage it; just that it’s an incredibly difficult situation to navigate right now). #From the 2016 core, #Kyle #Schwarber, and to a lesser extent #Albert #Almora, were then shown the door as non-tenders earlier this month.

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#Many questions remained.

#In making the trade #Hoyer did to send #Yu #Darvish to the #Padres, it looked like we knew what direction the #Cubs were going to take. They sent the #Cy #Young runner-up to a contender for a mid-rotation arm and four prospects, none of whom are even close to MLB-ready. They are years away in a best-case scenario.

A move like that seems to indicate a long-term rebuild is coming, right? The mid-rotation arm is #Zach #Davies, who is set to hit free agency after 2021, which means it looks like the inclusion was to fill a rotation spot to start the year, yes, but also deal him ahead of the trade deadline. #It lines up with a rebuild.

#Now, let’s be clear: #Trading #Darvish in and of itself isn’t necessarily a horrible move for a team wishing to both stay relevant in 2021 and also build a prospect cache while looking toward the future. There was an argument to be made for moving him now. #He’s a power arm heading to his age-34 season with a spotty injury history. #He was terrible in 2018 (injuries were the biggest culprit, but, again, pitchers break) and for the first half of 2019. #He was an utter beast in 2020, so this is the highest his value will be. #With $59 million left on the final three years of the deal, an early, major arm injury to #Darvish in 2021 all of a sudden makes him a sunk cost.

#From that perspective, dealing him made some sense for a team hoping to continue contending, so long as the return did. The four prospects all being so far away from the majors is what made many believe the #Cubs were going the route of a rebuild, though.

#That’s why #Hoyer’s comments on #Wednesday were so confusing.

#Hoyer spoke to reporters and painted a different picture. #He said the deal wasn’t a salary dump, as many believed it was. #He essentially said the #Cubs are hoping to retool on the fly (full story here) and build toward a good, near-term future while remaining competitive in 2021 and stocking the farm system. The hope is to avoid a long-term rebuild.

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#That’s good! #Why are the four prospects all teenagers who haven’t had experience above #Rookie #Ball, then? The #Padres are stacked with upper-level minor-league prospects who will likely be helpful MLB players soon (not to mention some MLB players who could’ve been in play; though we can’t be sure).

#Hoyer made some comments on the call regarding projectable prospects that spoke to that. #In a manner of speaking, not every prospect is acquired with the intention of keeping him. The #Cubs grabbed #Gleyber #Torres and #Eloy #Jimenez years ago as talented, raw teens during the international signing period. #Torres ended up being part of a trade that helped the #Cubs win the 2016 #World #Series. #Jimenez helped land them #Jose #Quintana in a deal that is very likely going to end up looking terrible for the #Cubs long-term, but #Quintana was an integral part of an NLCS team in 2017 and 95-win team in 2018. #For all the #Cubs knew at the time of the trade, it was paving the way for another #World #Series title.

#As such, I suppose it’s possible we can take #Hoyer at his word here and maybe one or more of these players will eventually help the #Cubs while maybe one or more is used in a big trade to land established MLB talent in a near-future? #It’s possible.

#Further, if the #Cubs were going through a major rebuild, the next player to deal would probably be #Willson #Contreras, due to having multiple years of control left and being a top-flight catcher (who made gigantic strides as a framer in 2020; previously his only real big question). The rumors of #Contreras being on the block started flying right after the #Darvish deal. #It made sense.

#Hoyer said this, though (via NBC #Chicago), on his call with media #Wednesday: “The reports are fictional. There’s no other way to say it.”

#Hoyer went on to give a good explanation, which is that if other teams call him about any player, he’s going to listen, but that he’s not actively shopping #Contreras and is planning on keeping him. #Again, via NBC #Chicago:

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“I think #Wilson #Contreras is one of the top handful of catchers in baseball,” #Hoyer said. “#We control him for two more years and I think that catching is a strength of this team as a result of having him on the roster.”

#Something else that is important from the call: #Hoyer said he’s going to go the entire offseason without hiring a GM. #So that means he’s taken over #Epstein’s role but no one has replaced his old role. #Surely the #Cubs valued the job #Hoyer had been doing all these years in the GM role, so are they really thinking they don’t need to replace his production? #Let’s not overthink this one. #It’s the almighty dollar again.

#What to make of all this? #How to tread forward? There are so many moving parts for #Hoyer to juggle. #Remember, he said they are trying to field a competitive team in 2021. #Among the moving parts …

  • The #Cubs are still in the business of saving money, whether they want to admit it or not on the #Darvish trade. #Otherwise where is the new GM? #Hell, #Epstein left eight figures on the table when he resigned.
  • #If a deal for #Contreras comes along they love, they’ll probably do it, but I take #Hoyer at his word that they intend to keep him, especially with #Victor #Caratini traded along with #Darvish. #That is, unless they are lying and really are doing a long-term rebuild.
  • #Javier #Baez, #Kris #Bryant and #Anthony #Rizzo are still set to hit free agency after 2021. #Hoyer needs to decide what to do with each in terms of holding, trading or extending. #Three separate and very complicated decisions.
  • The offense has been pretty broken since the 2018 #All-Star break. #How to fix this with outside help in juggling the financial issue?
  • #Kyle #Hendricks is due $42 million for the next three seasons. #Will they keep him? #If they really are trying to stay competitive, it makes sense. #Do consider, however, that #Hoyer mentioned in his call not wanting to hold onto players too long (he mentioned the #Tigers and #Phillies are examples of this happening in the 2010s) and that #Hendricks is headed to his age-31 season.
  • The current rotation is #Hendricks, #Davies, #Alec #Mills and two question marks. #Is #Adbert #Alzolay ready? #Would they really want #Colin #Rea in there with three other soft tossers?
  • #Craig #Kimbrel isn’t tradeable, is he? #After a horrifying start through four outings, he had a 1.42 ERA with 26 strikeouts against seven walks in his last 12 2/3 innings. #In #September? 7 1/3 IP scoreless with 13 strikeouts and zero walks. #If anyone would take him for the one year left on his deal, surely #Hoyer would do it, even if eating some of the $16 million he’s owed.
  • #How about #Ian #Happ’s status? #After an unexpected and somewhat lengthy demotion to start the 2019 season, #Happ has hit .260/.350/.530 (130 OPS+) with 23 homers in 387 plate appearances. I wrote last year that he could bridge the gap between championship contenders, but there are only three years of control left. The #Cubs appear to have missed their window with the likes of #Baez, #Bryant and maybe #Contreras on extensions, so maybe they look to lock #Happ up longer-term?
  • #Also, maybe just extend #Contreras if you aren’t rebuilding? #He’s a prime power-hitting catcher with an elite arm and has added above-average framing to the mix.

There’s more, but we can stop.

#Remember when I said #Hoyer has his hands full? #Yeah, he needs to deal with all of this while also trying to stock a farm system that was emptied out for these past handful years without falling out of contention while dealing with financial constraints. #Oh, and the fan base is angry now!

I started this off by saying the #Cubs were one of the most intriguing teams to watch this offseason. #In judging how things have unfolded so far, watching them proceed further becomes exponentially more intriguing. #Sometimes we know teams are rebuilding. #Sometimes we know they are going all out to win (hi #Padres). #Sometimes they are just boring. #Sometimes they are so stacked they don’t really have to do much (hi #Dodgers). #With these #Cubs, we thought they were a clear rebuilder after the #Darvish trade. Then #Hoyer spoke and, heading into 2021, it remains unclear which direction they’ll go. #Get your popcorn.





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https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/will-cubs-rebuild-or-try-to-contend-in-2021-why-thats-unclear-following-their-yu-darvish-trade/

##Cubs #rebuild #contend #unclear ##Darvish #trade

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