CARLSBAD, Calif. — Free agent pitcher Justin Verlander was scheduled to throw for teams Monday in a showcase to prove the health of his reconstructed elbow, the same day top front office executives started gathering at an upscale resort in Carlsbad, California, for the general managers meetings.
Let the offseason begin.
For however long it might last before labor conflict likely compels a shutdown and transaction freeze in three weeks with the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Until then, Cubs president Jed Hoyer, newly hired general manager Carter Hawkins and the rest of the Cubs front office figure to at least kick some tires, maybe lay some groundwork and definitely window shop for what might come after a freeze.
“We’ll certainly be active,” Hoyer vowed when talking about filling his myriad roster holes through free agency this winter.
They seized an opportunity over the weekend to claim one established, long-toothed veteran, lefty Wade Miley (12-7, 3.37 in 2021), off waivers from the Reds for a one-year, $10 million commitment.
But it’ll take a lot more than that for Hoyer to make good on his other vow: to be competitive in 2022.
With that in mind, NBC Sports Chicago spoke over the past 12 weeks with many of the top free agents about what they think of the Cubs as they approach their free agencies.
They include three players — Carlos Correa, Trevor Story and Nick Castellanos — who were among the 14 players who received qualifying offers from their 2021 teams, which attaches draft-pick compensation to anyone signing them as free agents.
That list, for what it’s worth, also includes Verlander, the future Hall of Famer, who might have otherwise been viewed by some as a value risk going into his age-39 season.
Starting pitchers Carlos Rodón and Marcus Stroman are free of those restrictions and had interesting things to say about how they view the Cubs as potential landing spots.
And we caught up with three recently departed Cubs World Series heroes — Kris Bryant, Javy Báez and Kyle Schwarber— about their thoughts on where things were left with the Cubs, as well as this publicly stated notion that the Cubs aren’t closing any doors on returns of their former stars. None are tied to qualifying offers.
How does any top free agent fit what the Cubs might be trying to do this winter?
Talking about himself, Castellanos might have summed up the answer for all of them:
“That’s a question for the Ricketts family.”
For now, here’s what the free agents say about the Rickettses’ team:
- “The Cubs are always going to be a huge destination target" — Marcus Stroman
Cubs rebuild doesn’t scare Mets free agent Marcus Stroman
- “Here and New York and Boston; I feel like those three stadiums, you just feel a different atmosphere" — Trevor Story
Short Story: How Rockies star might speed up Cubs rebuild
- “I think it is attractive to a free agent. … Once they sign that first guy, it’s going to attract a lot of other guys” — Carlos Rodón
Carlos Rodón: The answer to the Cubs’ rebuild question
- “The one thing that from the outside looking in that will always remain the same is what the Cubs organization is, what Wrigley Field is, how much Cubs fans genuinely love their team. That’s what the organization is” — Nick Castellanos
Cubs, Castellanos a fit? 'That's a question for Ricketts'
- “I was like, ‘Wow, I would love to play here every single day in the big leagues’ “ — Carlos Correa
How Carlos Correa sees possible fit with Cubs this winter
- “I would never shut the door on anything” — Kyle Schwarber
Playoff-minded Schwarber: Non-tender ‘better’ for my career
- “I’m just going to believe in what [Hoyer] says, that the door isn’t closes. … But if it is, I had great memories there” — Kris Bryant
Bryant on breakup with Cubs: ‘We can [still] be friends’
- “Chicago’s always going to be home for me" — Javy Báez