MESA, Ariz. – The pause lasted eight or nine seconds and boy, were they an awkward eight or nine seconds. During a wide-ranging conversation with the media on Saturday morning, Kris Bryant was asked whether he thought the Cubs spent the offseason trying to win. Well, Kris?
“Ummmm,” Bryant replied, trailing off as he stared into the microphone. “Well, we didn’t do much.”
He’s not wrong; the Cubs didn’t do much. In fact, the Cubs literally didn’t do anything until Jan. 28, when they signed Steven Souza to a one-year deal. Since then, they’ve brought on Jeremy Jeffress and Jason Kipnis, both on minor league contracts. The Cubs finished third in the NL Central last year, and their answer was to bring in two position players with far more injury concern than offensive upside and a 32-year old reliever who’s coming off of a rough season in which he dealt with injuries.
“I saw some quotes the other day about what Theo said about this year and where we’re at in the tax, and he saw this coming, and stuff like that,” Bryant said. “I don’t know. I like the group we definitely have, I think we have a ton of talent and a lot of really good players that I guess underperformed last year, as a team. Looking forward to this year, I think, of course it would have been nice to add people, but I don’t know who we would have added to make it better.”
Why the penny pinching? You’d have to ask Tom Ricketts and Theo Epstein themselves since the company line is to not discuss financial limitations due to the perceived strategic disadvantages that would create. Being a repeat offender of the CBA’s luxury tax is the most obvious reason and though there’s reportedly no mandate from ownership to get under the tax, there’s definitely a mandate from ownership to get under the tax. And now they’ll be reminded of that 19 times a year when playing the Nicholas Castellanos and the Cincinnati Reds.
“I certainly would have loved to see Nick. I mean, he’s a good player,” Bryant said. “Yeah, it certainly would have been good to see some of those guys back, but that’s how it works sometimes, you know? But like I said, I really tried to stay out of baseball stuff this offseason as much as I could …”
Bryant wouldn’t bite when asked to speculate on the inactivity – he knows who signs his checks, for now – but like he said: baseball’s a very, very profitable game, and the Cubs are a very, very profitable organization. Despite the estimated $450 million in yearly revenue the Cubs are bringing in, the baseball operations wing of the Cubs’ organization has seemed content to sit on their hands over the last two seasons. Look around the league and it’s hard to find a team this close to championship contention doing the same.
“The Dodgers are doing all they can to win – they really want to win,” Bryant said. “That’s kind of admirable, they’re really going for it. They traded away a really good outfielder that really helped their team last year for, what, maybe one year of Mookie Betts? Which they saw as a chance to get them a World Series. Good for them – I wish more teams would kind of follow that in terms of really trying to win and go all in, you know?
"I can’t speak on behalf of the teams, so I’ll just give you my opinion on what I see. That’s kind of what I see from the Dodgers – they’re really trying.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.