What's next for Cubs this offseason?
Jayne Kamin Oncea - USA Today Sports

What's next for Cubs this offseason?

by - Staff Writer -

The Chicago Cubs shocked the baseball world last Monday with their managerial shake-up. Not only did the Cubs fire David Ross, who many around the industry viewed as a good manager — but he was also a person the Cubs handpicked to hire. But in a corresponding move, the Cubs swooped in and stole (for lack of a better term) Craig Counsell from the division rival Milwaukee Brewers and financially flexible Mets to be the 56th manager of the Chicago Cubs.

There is a palpable excitement that Cubs fans understandably have thanks to the hiring of Craig Counsell. The reason that excitement is justified is that you do not sign a manager to a record contract without the intention of winning. You bring in the manager who many believe is the best in baseball because you think he is one of the missing links between your team and a championship. The expectations are heightened.

But there is no secret that the Cubs need to improve on the field to make that happen. So, what’s next?

The off-season has to start with Cody Bellinger, who dazzled in his first season with the Cubs, so much so that he was awarded Comeback Player of the Year. The good news for the Cubs is that they benefitted from Bellinger’s services all year long and allowed him to fall in love with Chicago. The bad news? He is a Scott Boras client who hits free agency after a great season — so the price will obviously be high.

Early reports show the Giants and Yankees interested in Bellinger and the Cubs hoping for a reunion. The fit is so obvious for the Cubs, but whether they are willing to win a bidding war remains to be seen.

Should the sign Bellinger, that at least fills centerfield or first base — one of the Cubs’ potential holes.

There are many different avenues that the Cubs could go to acquire an additional bat — whether it be spending at the high part of free agency for a guy like Shohei Ohtani or bringing back a player like Jaimer Candelario.

With Christopher Morel turning into a true DH and getting some work at first, third base is an area of concern that, if not filled by Candelario, isn’t necessarily expected to be another season of Patrick Wisdom and Nick Madrigal platoon. The Cubs could explore contracts with Justin Turner or Matt Chapman or potentially engage with Whit Merrifield or even Tim Anderson about a move there.

If the Cubs don’t sign Bellinger, that certainly opens up first base (especially with the question marks surrounding Matt Mervis) and the Cubs have early on been rumored to consider veterans Rhys Hoskins — on a deal similar to what they gave Bellinger a year ago — or Joey Votto.

But another understandable pivot to missing out on Bellinger could be trading for a big-name bat available, like Juan Soto, Pete Alonso or potentially Jose Ramirez. This could also be the Cubs’ pivot if they miss out on Shohei Ohtani, as they can still acquire and then sign a middle-of-the-lineup bat.

One of the obvious trade candidates for these players includes Christopher Morel, so if he’s gone — there’s a chance the Cubs would explore a reunion with Jorge Soler, or sign a player like Hoskins with the intention of being a full-time DH.

As for the pitching side of things, the Cubs have been rumored to be looking to add two starters— since Marcus Stroman opted out of his contract and elected free agency.

The crowned jewel of the free agent class besides Ohtani is Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Japanese sensation who is expected to earn over $200 million. The Cubs will be in on him, and if that does not work out, the top of the market is still loaded with pitchers like Blake Snell, Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson, Jordan Montgomery, Eduardo Rodriguez, and more.

The Cubs would likely hope to sign one of those pitchers and potentially trade for another, with pitchers like Tyler Glasnow, Dylan Cease, or even Corbin Burnes rumored to be available via trade.

Of course, the off-season could not be complete without signing at least a few veteran relievers.

Regardless, the Cubs are expecting an extremely active offseason in both free agency and the trade market.

I think success is graded if you can add two high-end, middle-of-the-order bats and two top-of-the-rotation-type pitchers. In an absolutely perfect world, you finish the off-season with Cody Bellinger, Shohei Ohtani, Tyler Glasnow, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto (or something similar) all in pinstripes.

At the very least, we know that Hoyer does not bring in Counsell without earnest intentions to improve and contend. Counsell does not accept the job without believing in the plan that Hoyer used as a pitch to Counsell. So Hoyer believes Counsell is the guy to take the Cubs to the promised land, AND Counsell believes in that plan and thinks he is the right guy for the job.

I’m all in. What an exciting time to be a Cubs fan.

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