With the news that surprised no one now official with David Ross the new Cubs manager replacing the legendary Joe Maddon, the next question that must be answered is: where is this offseason headed?
Do Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer believe that the Cubs are a real contender to win the World Series in 2020? Do they believe they can address the many holes that the Cubs roster currently has in one offseason? Do they have internal improvements within the organization that can answer some of their many roster questions?
In talking with many people around the sport who have knowledge of the Cubs thinking and in evaluating the state of the franchise at this point in time, I believe that the Cubs are poised to look at 2020 as an opportunity for a reboot of their entire player evaluation and development system and a chance to restart their organizational processes to hopefully achieve more of the sustained success that the Cubs have enjoyed under Epstein and Hoyer since their bottom-to-top rebuild led to four playoff appearances in five seasons, three trips to the National League Championship Series and of course the coveted World Series title in 2016.
However, since that magical night of Nov. 2, 2016 in Cleveland, the Cubs front office has been in a major slump. From a horrific decision to trade a massive package for the wildly average Jose Quintana to an equally awful decision to reject Justin Verlander who longed to pitch for the Cubs, the mistakes have not been small. Instead, those are two franchise-altering choices that have stalled what should have been a Cubs dynasty in the making.
Epstein talked openly about the Cubs becoming a player development machine when he was hired in the fall of 2011. And at the start of his tenure, he and his team delivered on building a champion. But their building process was much more successful on the trade market than in the amateur draft. Deals for Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks were phenomenal trades that helped lead to the World Series win. But in free agency and in the draft, the Cubs have not been as successful. From Albert Almora at No. 6 overall to an inability to develop any meaningful major-league caliber pitching, the Cubs have failed spectacularly in that area.
So, how do Epstein and Hoyer fix the myriad of holes on the major league roster while also fixing the system flaws that have put them in this predicament? Is it throwing more of the Ricketts family’s money at the problems? Is it chasing the best available names on the free-agent market?
I believe the best way to start to address the problems and to attempt to find long term solutions is to take a step back this winter. Put the organization on a diet. Stop putting Band-Aids on bigger wounds and fix the long-term problems that have led the Cubs to this point. Find out why the Cubs haven’t been a player development machine as Epstein promised several years ago. And then, do everything in your power to make sure that your machine never stalls again.
No matter what moves the Cubs make this offseason, they will still have a lot of talent on Opening Day 2020. They will still be a solid team. But they need to use this off season to set themselves up for the future. The 2020 Chicago Cubs need to be the springboard to another run of sustained success.
Here’s hoping the front office looks in the mirror and agrees that their internal processes have to be better. No front office will be perfect but they cannot repeat the mistakes of the past three years or else 2016 will truly have been the outlier and not the norm.
Are the past three seasons who these Cubs truly are? If they are, Theo and Co. better get it fixed and throwing crazy money at Gerrit Cole or Anthony Rendon is not the answer.