Will this be the offseason the Cubs make substantial changes to their core?
According to a report from ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Cubs are sending a message to other teams that they’re determined to make that happen. From Olney’s column:
“In conversations with other teams, the Cubs are signaling there will be significant turnover on the roster, with a willingness to move almost any veteran — as well as just about anyone from the core group of position players who won the 2016 World Series, including shortstop Javier Baez.”
At his end-of-season press conference, team president Theo Epstein signaled changes might happen this winter, so this isn’t surprising. The Cubs offense struggled in 2020 and four core players — Kris Bryant, Báez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber — are set to hit free agency next winter. (The Cubs recently picked up Rizzo's 2021 club option).
“Simply hoping for a better outcome moving forward doesn’t seem like a thoughtful approach,” Epstein said in October. “Embracing some change, even significant change, is warranted.”
While it wouldn’t be a shock if the Cubs engaged in trade talks for Báez, it would likely signal that they don’t believe they can reach an agreement on a long-term extension. The sides spent much of last winter and this past spring discussing parameters of a deal.
Granted, the Cubs also said last winter they were willing to move players from their core. They talked to teams throughout the offseason and were unable to pull off a move. But their 2019-20 winter Plan B — moving players at the trade deadline — was wiped out by baseball’s COVID-19 shutdown and ensuing abbreviated season.
The biggest difference this year is there’s an added sense of urgency following a season of revenue losses due to the pandemic. The Cubs have laid off more than 100 employees across the organization in recent months. Plus, it's difficult to forecast 2021 revenues due to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.