ORLANDO, Fla. — Are the Chicago Cubs at a crossroads?

Not exactly. Not immediately after earning it to the postseason a few consecutive several years with a young core that must even now be finding superior. But they’ve also mentioned that they want to make the postseason about seven periods above the following 10 several years, which usually means potentially not earning it to October a couple of periods. Could 2018 be one particular of those people seasons? It’s probable only for the reason that of the difficulties at hand.

The entrance office environment knows this and admits to possessing certain work to do this offseason. They’ve acknowledged that work was coming for various several years.

“I consider enthusiasts must be incredibly optimistic about this seven-yr operate that we’re hopefully on, and by no usually means do we glance at it as a operate of a few several years of contention and any form of tumble-off,” Cubs president of baseball functions Theo Epstein reported as the standard supervisors meetings started Monday at the lavish Waldorf Astoria in Orlando. “But inside of any operate of duration, there are likely to be several years that pose a lot more difficulties than other several years. We have acknowledged for a prolonged time that 2018 was likely to pose exclusive difficulties for the reason that it was the yr Jake [Arrieta] was suitable for absolutely free agency. It was also the similar yr a great deal of our best gamers would enter the arbitration process.”

It’s the yr John Lackey grew to become a absolutely free agent, producing a 2nd gap in the starting up rotation. That’s the Cubs’ No. one concentration this winter. Not significantly at the rear of is a bullpen that desires some work, potentially including a new closer.

All groups, just about every yr, have holes to fill. The Cubs have incredibly essential types to fill in order to contend once again. They are not filling out roster places Nos. 24 and twenty five — a lot more like Nos. 4 and 5. That’s if you consider starting up pitching the most essential aspect of a baseball team. On major of it, the Cubs have their eyes on the absolutely free-agent course of following offseason, which consists of sluggers Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, between other folks.

The Cubs have been obvious about one particular matter in various interviews since the period ended: They will be careful with their pounds when preserving long term seasons in head.

“I consider there is a hazard in only being entirely centered on developing the best team for Opening Day,” standard manager Jed Hoyer reported on ESPN a thousand past 7 days. “I consider you have to glance at it above various several years and glance at what gamers are offered now [and] what gamers are offered likely forward.”

With that backdrop, the Cubs’ offseason starts. We’ll start off with their most essential will need. Filling out the starting up workers will go a prolonged way toward earning the Cubs significant contenders in 2018.

Beginning pitching

The Cubs created their huge trade for a starting up pitcher, finding Jose Quintana from the White Sox, past period. It’s only not probably that they’ll come across a match once again, although it is extremely probably that they’ll be on the telephones seeking all winter.

Even although they may not break the lender, the Cubs will be gamers for absolutely free-agent pitchers, including one particular of their very own, Arrieta. There has been no momentum for an Arrieta reunion so significantly, but he’s probably to circle again to the Cubs immediately after acquiring offers somewhere else. Assuming he will get max pounds from yet another team, Arrieta is probably long gone. He has demonstrated no willingness to give the Cubs a hometown discounted.

Meanwhile, the entrance office environment is casting a broad net, with Rays righty Alex Cobb in their sights. In accordance to a resource familiar with the situation, they arrived at out to Cobb early in the absolutely free-agent process, as he checks a great deal of containers. He’s a pair of several years taken out from an arm injuries, has excellent things, would be earning the go from the American League to the pitcher-hitting National League and will get an A+ in phrases of fitting into the Cubs’ clubhouse. Really do not dismiss that past notion. The Cubs are extremely mindful of whom they let into their club — in particular on a multiyear, huge-cash deal.

If they indication a pitcher this kind of as Cobb, they can fill out the past rotation location with anybody from a reclamation challenge this kind of as previous Pink Sox hurler Clay Buchholz to a returning pitcher from Japan this kind of as Miles Mikolas to probably Lackey if he without a doubt is not retiring. As mentioned beforehand, there is a broad net.

The bullpen

As opposed to past offseason, when the Cubs had no intention of re-signing Aroldis Chapman, closer Wade Davis even now could be in the mix for a return engagement.

“Not only did he have an exceptional yr, he was a fantastic leader in the bullpen,” Epstein reported.

Last yr there was a operate on closers. That may not be the circumstance this winter, as lots of — but not all — of the possible contending groups have their ninth-inning men. Potentially not like with Arrieta, it is probable that the low-important Davis is inclined to compromise to stay in Chicago. Potentially a a few-yr, $50 million-$55 million deal could get it completed.

“He knows that we really do not normally give prolonged, multiyear offers to relievers, but it is absolutely truly worth talking,” Epstein reported.

When admitting that the posture is essential, Epstein didn’t look extremely anxious with getting a closer, internally or externally. The Cubs really feel that one particular will arise if it just isn’t an obvious option.

Center reduction also is an concern immediately after the Cubs imploded in the playoffs. There are some first rate lefties on the sector, including previous closer Tony Watson, as effectively as Mike Insignificant, who had a huge yr for Kansas Town (two.sixty two Period, 10.three K/nine). Insignificant could be on the Cubs’ radar as this year’s model of Brett Cecil, who gained a huge deal (for seven several years and $thirty.5 million) from the Cardinals past winter.

The team also is likely into 2018 wondering that Justin Wilson will return to sort immediately after battling down the stretch past period.

“We go in expecting him to pitch at a truly higher level,” Epstein reported. “I thoroughly be expecting him to go again to being a truly powerful reduction pitcher.”

Trades

The Cubs are on record declaring they may have to trade from their huge league club to get pitching. It’s not probably to transpire for a major arm, like it did past period, when the Cubs traded with Kansas Town for one particular yr of control of Davis in trade for various several years of control with Jorge Soler.

“You really do not want to make it a habit to give up five, 6 several years of control for one particular yr again,” Epstein reported.

Incidentally, various standard supervisors admitted the obvious on Monday: Kyle Schwarber’s trade value isn’t extremely higher. Moreover, the Cubs like him as well substantially to give him away for some center reliever. There are early indications that Schwarber is on a mission this offseason to return to elite sort at the plate. The Cubs are probably to let him see that by means of.

Ian Happ possibly isn’t adequate to get a major arm, which usually means that Addison Russell or Javier Baez would have to be on the go to get one particular. That just isn’t probably to transpire. Dealing possibly would convert a Cubs energy into a weak point.

Curiously, 6 executives have been polled on which of the two gamers has greater trade value. 3 reported Russell for the reason that he was a lot more recognized, but two reported Baez “by a hair” for the reason that of his higher ceiling. A single appreciated them both so substantially that he reported, “Tell Theo or Jed to simply call. I’ll just take possibly.”

The offense

Here’s the place the Cubs may spend the least amount of money of time and electricity this winter. They presently created their huge go on offense this offseason, changing hitting mentor John Mallee with Chili Davis. You may not consider that’s substantially of a headline, but it is obvious that Mallee would even now be with the Cubs if Davis hadn’t been offered. That’s how substantially the Cubs consider of the previous 19-yr participant.

“His certain method is truly powerful at raising excellent, situational [hitting], excellent two-strike method,” Epstein reported. “A great deal of these men presently have power. We will need to go on to emphasize the areas the place we can get superior.”

The Cubs could kick the tires on a absolutely free agent this kind of as Lorenzo Cain, but be expecting them to continue to keep believing in their very own on offense and allocating sources somewhere else.

The window for contention

Even with no understanding who will pitch Game titles 4 and 5 following period, the Cubs have a excellent team. It grew to become obvious as they have been picking out hitters higher in the draft that if they have been to contend for various several years, it would be with various different seems to be on the mound. This is one particular of those people turnover several years, but at least the Cubs have a few good arms in Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Quintana. Filling out the rest of the workers will go a prolonged way toward preserving the window to earn open up as broad and as prolonged as probable.

“Right now the exercising is, how do we improve the following 4 several years and make certain you have as lots of bites at the apple?” Epstein reported.



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