Jed Hoyer did a little early Christmas shopping when he landed Craig Counsell, but the front office hasn’t bothered to fill so much as a single stocking since. As such, pitching coach Tommy Hottovy still has a full wish list just six weeks from Cubs pitchers and catchers officially reporting to the team’s Sloan Park facilities. Maybe Hoyer is just waiting for all the fire and smoke to go away so he can slide down the ol’ chimbley with a sack full of free agents.
The pitching staff has some pretty glaring areas of need, especially after things fell apart for the bullpen down the stretch. And even though Marcus Stroman‘s performance left a lot to be desired in the second half, his departure means the rotation isn’t as strong. Early reports that the Cubs were among several teams looking for multiple starters obviously haven’t come to fruition, but there are still a few solid arms out there.
“Solidifying the bullpen, for me, is always key,” Hottovy told 670 The Score’s Mully & Haugh on Wednesday. “Always, you can’t have enough starting pitching. Being able to add another starting pitcher gives you flexibility to do things with some of those kind of swing guys who you want to start but also have weapons out of the bullpen. So that could solve some of those issues as well.
“So on the pitching side for me, I feel like a starter and two bullpen pieces are probably kind of where my wish list would be.”
Can’t say it much louder or more clearly than that, can you?
The organization has handed out a few minor-league deals to relievers, which is a common practice in Chicago and elsewhere when it comes to finding cheap depth. In order for Counsell to make the most of his relief corps, however, Hoyer is going to need to ink a guaranteed deal or two here soon. He acknowledged as much earlier in the offseason, indicating that the Cubs were interested in adding some bigger pieces to the typical scattershot value approach.
“You have to be creative in the bullpen,” Hoyer said during the GM Meetings. “You have to find guys who have good stuff, find guys on bounce-back years, find guys coming off injuries. You take all those demographics and then a couple guys that might provide ‘certainty’ so to speak and you blend that all together. I do think taking a lot of shots on goal can help.”
While spring training creates a more realistic deadline when it comes to building a roster, Cubs Convention is just over a week away and fans aren’t going to be happy if theirs is still the only team without a big league addition. The Cubs have spent no money in free agency and haven’t traded for anyone, which is hard to reconcile even if you agree that they shouldn’t have committed over $1 billion to new players like the Dodgers did.
Hoyer can’t simply kowtow to the social media outcry and I’m not suggesting a front office should ever make moves just to placate fans, but everyone is just sitting here waiting. That includes the remaining free agents, many of whom employ a representative who is more than willing to let the market come to him. Not the best news for fans, or Hottovy.
But something tells me the next few days will bring a deal or two that will get people back in a more festive mood ahead of CubsCon. I don’t think we’re talking about crossing off everything on the wish list, maybe just one or two items.