With an uncertain financial picture heading into the 2020-21 offseason, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cubs haven’t been able to make any firm plans for the direction they might take with their roster.
“There’s so many variables still in play that we’re preparing for lots of different scenarios, but we have no idea which scenario is going to come to pass,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said Thursday.
That said, center fielder Ian Happ — in the midst of an MVP-caliber season — is just one of many roster matters and potential contract extension questions the Cubs will have to answer at a time when it’s very hard to.
“From a makeup standpoint, he’s the kind of person that you want to bet on,” said Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer Thursday on 670 The Score’s “Mully & Haugh.”
Happ has been the Cubs best hitter this season, leading the team in offensive categories across the board — hits home runs, RBIs, slugging and OPS. He’s stabilized a leadoff spot that has been a problem for the team since Dexter Fowler left as a free agent nearly four years ago.
Happ’s breakout season comes after spending half of 2019 in Triple-A, working on his swing. He’s carried over his successful end to 2019, in which he won NL Player of the Week honors the last week of September.
“He looks like a totally different hitter,” Hoyer said. “He’s getting to pitches that he never got to before. I give him credit for realizing that in order to advance as a player, he needed to make some adjustments, and he did that.”
MLB, like industries worldwide, has been hit hard by the pandemic, and the Cubs are no exception. Several weeks ago, they made staff reductions to their scouting and player development staff amid revenue losses from the shortened season being played without fans.
Beyond that, the Cubs and teams across baseball aren’t sure what 2021 will look like financially. There’s no telling if fans will be in attendance next season, or even how many if so, complicating any budgetary forecasting.
“This year has been terrible financially, but there’s still hope for ’21,” Hoyer said.
Happ, 26, is arbitration eligible through 2023, so there’s time for the club to talk extension with him.
“Certainly, we will have those conversations,” Hoyer said. “We’d love to have him in a Cubs uniform for a long time. The way he plays the game and the way he represents the Cubs is terrific.
“This has been so fun for us to watch this year. I hope he keeps it going.”