The Cubs featured prominently in Jeff Passan’s recent article about 10 teams to watch as free agency picks up, and it’s not just because of who they could sign. I mean, yeah, the part about Shohei Ohtani being the perfect transaction is what stands out the most. And while I agree with Passan that such a coup would be a “full-send cannonball,” it wouldn’t mean the Cubs are all-in on the 2024 season.
Just like you don’t sign Craig Counsell to the richest managerial contract ever just to win right away, you don’t bring Ohtani in to lead your team for one year as a DH. Since the two-way star can’t even pitch next season, the real target years for serious contention would be 2025 and beyond. Now, that doesn’t mean Jed Hoyer should stand pat when it comes to making other big upgrades.
Though it may sound like I’m contradicting myself, this winter offers some great opportunities for short-term impact via trade. Juan Soto and Tyler Glasnow are the two most prominent — and expensive — options on that front, and both make sense unless you are a prospect-hugger. Of course, both of them are also going to be highly coveted by other teams.
Passan actually lists Soto as the perfect transaction for the Yankees and Glasnow as the best fit for the Reds, the latter of which is something that has been discussed. In addition to those two potential targets, there are four former members of the Cubs organization listed among the remaining six teams’ perfect moves.
The Brewers should sign Jeimer Candelario, the Giants should go after Cody Bellinger, the Orioles should acquire Dylan Cease from the White Sox, and the Rays should trade Isaac Paredes to the Mariners. I’m convinced that two-thirds of the league wore some iteration of a Cubs uniform at one point or another, or at least it feels that way sometimes.
Interestingly enough, both Candelario and Paredes were involved in the 2017 trade that brought Justin Wilson and Alex Avila over from Detroit. Wilson’s Cubs tenure was disappointing, largely due to his high walk rate, and is perhaps best known for the time he told Anthony Rizzo to shut up during a mound visit. But hey, the eventual reunion with the Candy Man sort of put paid to the whole thing in a roundabout way.
Despite the abject lack of actual information about Ohtani’s courtship, there’s a sense that his decision-making process will be more abbreviated than that of most free-agent superstars. That’s almost a necessary function of his camp’s desire for secrecy, though they may let it play out just long enough to see how well any interested organizations are able to keep leaks at bay.
In the meantime, we all just have to sit back and wait to see what happens.