Recent reports of trade talks between the Cubs and Mets regarding star third baseman Kris Bryant are inaccurate, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer tells reporters in a Zoom conference call (Twitter link via Jordan Bastian of MLB.com). Hoyer emphasized that he is not engaged in any active trade conversations and has not had recent trade talks. “By and large, I would expect this is what our team will look like,” Hoyer added (link via Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago).
That’s not to say that there won’t be slight tweaks. Hoyer left open the door for some potential minor league deals even after camp opens, and he more interestingly tipped his hand that the club could soon have another Major League free-agent signing to announce for the bullpen (via Wittenmyer).
Bullpen help would be plenty sensible for the Cubs even if their entire current group were healthy, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Hoyer revealed that right-hander Rowan Wick is behind schedule due to an intercostal strain, while southpaw Kyle Ryan is likely to be placed on the Covid-19 list and will have his start to Spring Training delayed as a result. As a reminder, that’s not an indication that Ryan himself tested positive; players can be placed on the Covid-19 list due to exposure to positive cases as well.
That pair of absences likely leaves the Cubs with a mix of Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin, Dan Winkler, Jason Adam, Duane Underwood Jr., Brad Wieck, Robert Stock, Dillon Maples and Jonathan Holder, among a few others with even less experience, on the 40-man roster. Adam Morgan, Joe Biagini and Rex Brothers give the Cubs some additional veteran options on non-roster deals, but it’s pretty clear that the group could use some additional augmentation.
Hoyer unsurprisingly didn’t tip his hand as to the identity of the apparently forthcoming signing, but the market still has plenty of interesting names from which to choose. Right-hander Jeremy Jeffress posted solid results but ugly secondary marks in a shortened 2020 season with the Cubs, and veterans like David Robertson, Shane Greene, Tyler Clippard, Brandon Workman, Pedro Strop, Jose Alvarez, Tony Watson and Oliver Perez are among the many yet-unsigned free agents.
We don’t have a clear idea of the Cubs’ budget at this point, but after dumping Yu Darvish’s salary and non-tendering Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs are nowhere near the luxury-tax threshold and have their lowest bottom-line payroll since 2015. Ownership recently gave the green light on spending a bit of money after those aggressive cuts earlier in the winter, which has resulted in the additions of Joc Pederson, Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams and Jake Marisnick.