I recall, nearly six months ago when the Cubs basically passed over every impact free agent save for Dansby Swanson (who was a consensus Plan B), we tried to figure out what the plan was even as the sound bytes were flying:
From six months ago
- There was a plan in place by Jed Hoyer and the front office with the blessing of ownership, but the marquee (pun intended) free agents decided that the Cubs were not in competition shape. This is probably bullshit because the Rangers threw a ton of money at Marcus Simien and Corey Seager and now Jacob deGrom and that team was trash for the past few seasons. Then the Giants, who aren’t in much better shape, threw all the money and years at Carlos Correa, so if they had the money, the free agents would come. Which brings us to…
- Jed had a plan, but it did not involve setting or matching the developing market. This is what I would call stubbornly stupid because the pieces available out there filled a need and the club (either for real or through smoke and mirrors) had the financial resources to make it so. And that suggests…
- Jed had a plan, and thought the money was there, but it was really smoke and mirrors after all.
The fear then was that this team would be hard pressed to go .500, but I guess most of us still had the rose-colored glasses on and wanted to believe that a team with a suspect offense could still get by with pitching and defense. And for a while it seemed to work through April, and then May happened and as of this writing, the Cubs have to win out to salvage their West Coast road trip. The thing is that despite being (by percentage points) the fourth-worst team in the NL, the Cubs are still somehow within 7.5 games of first place and 6.5 games back of that final wild card spot, with caveats that they still have to leapfrog all the teams in front of them, but this shouldn’t precipitate a hard sell off and we’ve argued that they should definitely not go full fire sale on the last Dreamcast.
I am unsure who to blame at this point. If this is a purely personnel problem, that’s on Jed Hoyer and/or Tom Ricketts (and various Ricketts siblings) for not ponying up the cash to really take advantage of what has turned out to be a terrible division in a so-so league. If it’s a performance problem where the players aren’t playing up to their potential (I still refuse to believe this is the true talent level, but I guess the projection systems have to be right sometimes), then that’s a David Ross problem and even with another year left on his contract, he probably needs to be replaced, particularly if he keeps putting out those weird lineups (but with Bellinger out and everyone scuffling and the bullpen being bad, what else can he do?).
What I will come back to is that they cannot sell. Marcus Stroman has that opt-out, and while he has been splendid and turned out being the undisputed number one on this staff, he shouldn’t be number one going forward. By trading Stroman, they’re going to have to replace number one AND number two, depending on if Jameson Taillon ever gets going or if Kyle Hendricks does enough to trigger that club option. There’s so much talent in the minors right now, even if it’s not on an Elly de la Cruz level, that they need to have a baseline for them to come up and thrive with a solid veteran presence.
As we’ve said for a while now, there’s still time for a turnaround, but time runs out at some point.