Cubs

What's next for Cubs after Jason Heyward signing?

theo-epstein-cubs-whats-next-after-heyward-slide.png

What's next for Cubs after Jason Heyward signing?

Everybody wants to know what's next for the Cubs.

It's only natural given how active and aggressive Theo Epstein's front office has been this winter, following up on a 97-win season and trip to the National League Championship Series by keeping their foot firmly on the gas.

But no more moves are guaranteed. The Cubs could easily head to spring training with this current roster and expect to contend.

[RELATED - Joe Maddon knows Cubs have nowhere to hide: ‘We are the target’]

Before the Jason Heyward signing Friday, the Cubs still needed a centerfielder, but they feel confident with their new 26-year-old prize manning the gaps at Wrigley Field for the 2016 season.

After committing $272 million to a trio of free agents (Heyward, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist), plus Trevor Cahill's $4.25 million deal for one year, the Cubs have already gone over their initial payroll estimates for 2016.

Epstein addressed the media after Heyward's introductory press conference at Spiaggia's in Chicago Tuesday and admitted there might not be any more moves coming for the Cubs while also commending chairman Tom Ricketts and the business side for finding a way to free up some money to stay aggressive this winter.

"There's always a chance, but we've committed a lot of resources this offseason, mainly money," Epstein said. "... It's easy sometimes to sit back on the heels of a surprising 97-win season and be content with what you have and try to go out and do it again and contend again.

"But there was a real effort to go from good to great this winter and to capitalize on a moment in time when we have a lot of young, cost-controlled position players and Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in their primes.

"The business side really stepped up, trying to find some creative ways to push some of the postseason money onto this year's budget. We came up with some creative contract structures to allow us to add now, but this is the right time, strategically, with next year's free agent market not being quite as deep as this year's."

The Cubs essentially viewed Heyward as the right guy at the right time, deciding to go all-in now rather than play the long game. It also helps that they were able to defer a large chunk of Heyward's salary and signing bonus until the Cubs can cash in on a new TV deal following the 2019 season.

[MORE CUBS: Theo Epstein feels like Cubs are selling themselves now]

2015 was a surprising season for the Cubs, but getting swept out of the NLCS by the New York Mets also exposed weaknesses within the young roster - namely outfield defense, situational hitting and pitching depth.

The Cubs addressed all of those issues, as Heyward helps solve the outfield defense issue (whether he plays center or right) and he and Zobrist add contact, situational hitting and a patient approach to help lengthen the lineup.

In order to sign Zobrist, Epstein's front office had to make a "bank shot" move to trade Starlin Castro to the New York Yankees, but they received 28-year-old pitcher Adam Warren in return. Warren and Cahill provide rotational depth while also serving as proven arms out of the bullpen.

Lackey also adds a veteran presence that can take the ball every fifth day and the Cubs feel they were able to jump the market on signing the former St. Louis Cardinals ace before the price of pitching soared around the game.

The Cubs have done all this without dealing away any of their prospects or core players (apart from Castro) and they still hold all their trade chips if they want to add another young, top-of-the-rotation starter down the road.

[MORE CUBS: Why Jason Heyward chose Cubs over Cardinals]

"That does allow us - whether it's this winter or the trade deadline or next offseason - to be a threat to make significant trades that can help the ballclub going forward," Epstein said. "It doesn't necessarily have to happen in the next couple months.

"We feel great about the team as it constitutes right now. Let's go play. You always learn a lot more by watching your team play. You see how pitchers are going to show up, what you're going to get out of your starting rotation, who's going to stay healthy, how guys adapt to different positions, what holes emerge on your club that you have to fill, who's maturing and taking their game to the next level.

"None of us are smart enough to figure out exactly what our ballclub is going to look like at the end of the season, let alone at the trade deadline. ... I think we're well positioned to adjust."

Epstein admitted that he doesn't feel the Cubs are a finished product, but understands not every team will feel that way in December.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

He also again cautioned that "winning" the offseason is a dangerous tag to place on a team, even one with an arrow pointing straight up and a window of contention just starting to fully break open.

"There are a lot of things in this organization to be excited about," Epstein said. "At the same time, we haven't accomplished that much yet. We did have a special year in a lot of ways. We finished in third place. We didn't advance to the World Series; we certainly didn't win the World Series.

"Just about all the hard work still remains in front of us. I think it's important that we stay humble and hungry as an organization. I don't worry about our players in that regard at all.

"... Normally, with an offseason like this, you worry about the players being complacent or suffering because of the pressure that's on them. But I don't. I know our guys and how hungry they are and how much they want this. We're just excited to go play and we recognize that we haven't accomplished anything yet."

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Baseball players don't forget grudges. Javy Baez and Reds pitcher Amir Garrett gave an example of that on Saturday.

Garrett struck out Baez in the seventh inning of the first game of the Cubs-Reds doubleheader. Garrett showed some excitement with the strikeout and then said something to Baez. They both started jawing at each other and suddenly the benches cleared.

At first glance, it looked like Garrett was a bit too excited to get a strikeout with no one on base. Turns out Baez had his own bit of swag for Garrett last year (Friday was the one-year anniversary) in the form of a grand slam at Wrigley Field.

This time Garrett got Baez and wanted to even things up a bit.

Things didn't get too feisty despite the benches clearing, but Anthony Rizzo did rush to Baez's side at some speed. This could be a matchup to keep an eye out for in the future.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

5-18_arrieta_reds_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

Siera Santos, Kelly Crull, and David DeJesus go into the audio archives to break down the biggest games for the Cubs in Cincinnati.

David DeJesus gives us his top 3 ballgames with such gems as The Schwarber Game, The Kris Bryant Game, Starlin Castro’s debut, and Jake Arrieta’s second no hitter.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: