The Cubs made two big signings and added a ton of veterans on short-term deals as they attempt to move past their 2016 championship core.
Major League Signings
- Seiya Suzuki, RF: five years, $85MM plus $14.625MM posting fee
- Marcus Stroman, SP: three years, $71MM
- Yan Gomes, C: two years, $13MM
- Jonathan Villar, IF: one year, $6MM
- Drew Smyly, SP: one year, $5.25MM
- Mychal Givens, RP: one year, $5MM
- Andrelton Simmons, SS: one year, $4MM
- David Robertson, RP: one year, $3.5MM
- Chris Martin, RP: one year, $2.5MM
- Daniel Norris, RP: one year, $1.75MM
- Clint Frazier, LF/RF: one year, $1.5MM
- Michael Hermosillo, OF: one year, $707K
- Total spend: $213,832,000
Trades and Claims
- Claimed SP Wade Miley off waivers from Reds
- Acquired OF Harold Ramirez from Guardians; later traded to Rays
- Acquired cash considerations from Diamondbacks for IF Sergio Alcantara
Notable Minor League Signings
- Jesse Chavez, Steven Brault, Robel Garcia, Robert Gsellman, Adrian Sampson, Ildemaro Vargas, Jonathan Holder, Eric Yardley, John Hicks
- Zach Davies, Matt Duffy, Sergio Alcantara, Eric Sogard, Robinson Chirinos, Rex Brothers
The Cubs’ first order of business during the 2021-22 offseason was hiring a general manager, after leaving the position under president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer open for nearly a year. Hawkins had spent 14 years in Cleveland, regarding which Hoyer noted, “certainly their ability to develop pitching has been remarkable.” Finding pitching late in the draft or cheaply in the marketplace and getting good Major League results had not been a strong suit of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime.
In addition to improving the pipeline, the Cubs needed pitching to get through the 2022 season, which Hoyer called his “top priority” in early October. Hoyer spoke about being “active” in free agency, a word echoed by owner Tom Ricketts in a letter to fans. Hoyer and Ricketts made sure to couch their comments with words like “intelligent” and “thoughtful,” which I took to mean the Cubs would be out on the top dozen or so free agents given a desire to avoid long-term commitments.
After following the Hawkins hire with the additions of Ehsan Bokhari as assistant GM and Greg Brown as hitting coach, the Cubs kicked off their active offseason by claiming veteran lefty Wade Miley off waivers from the cost-cutting Reds. Given the Cubs’ extremely thin starting rotation at the time behind Kyle Hendricks, snagging Miley off a 3.37 ERA/163 inning campaign without giving up any players was an easy win – even if he doesn’t meet the desire for someone with strikeout ability. It was the equivalent of an early free agent signing, at a commitment probably a bit lower than what the market would have required. An injury development has dampened enthusiasm for the Miley claim, as the 35-year-old southpaw is experiencing elbow inflammation that will keep him out until at least late April.
As the lockout approached in late November, the Cubs reportedly made an offer to free agent lefty Steven Matz. According to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic, “The Cubs were heavily involved with Matz, but were unwilling to go to four years,” as the Cardinals ultimately did. Instead, the Cubs were able to lure Marcus Stroman with a three-year, $71MM offer that was very different from MLBTR’s projected five years and $110MM. Apparently the pre-lockout market wasn’t offering Stroman four or five years at an AAV he liked, and the Cubs pounced.
The Stroman signing marked the Cubs’ biggest free agent expenditure since they signed Yu Darvish nearly four years earlier. Like Miley, Stroman still didn’t match Hoyer’s goal of adding strikeout pitchers to the rotation, as Stroman’s success has been built on groundballs and good control. It was another case of the Cubs adapting to what the market gave them while avoiding long-term commitments, and Stroman should give the team much-needed above-average innings. They didn’t have to commit to his age 34 and 35 seasons, as the Blue Jays did with Kevin Gausman, or forfeit their second-highest draft pick as they would have with Robbie Ray.
The Cubs also added a pair of position players prior to the lockout, signing catcher Yan Gomes and corner outfielder Clint Frazier. Gomes, perhaps the best catcher in a weak free agent market at the position, will serve as Willson Contreras insurance in multiple ways. For as long as the two are together, Gomes will lighten the load on Contreras, who caught two-thirds of the Cubs’ innings behind the plate in 2021 despite missing more than three weeks with a knee sprain. Gomes also ensures the Cubs will have a capable backstop in the event they trade Contreras between now and the August 2nd deadline.
The Cubs seem to have little desire in extending Contreras, one of the last remaining links to the 2016 championship club. Thus far, they haven’t even been able to agree on his 2022 salary, and they’re headed toward a midseason hearing over the $1.25MM gap. Contreras’ free agency will begin with his age-31 season, and he figures to seek at least a four-year deal. The Cubs have one well-regarded catching prospect in Miguel Amaya. He underwent Tommy John surgery in November after playing only 23 games in 2021, so Gomes is necessary to bridge the gap.
Frazier is a lottery ticket that makes tons of sense for the Cubs. The 27-year-old former fifth overall pick cost just $1.5MM, and if he has any measure of success the Cubs can control him through 2024 as an arbitration eligible player. Frazier hit well in the brief 2020 season, but he’s also dealt with the effects of multiple concussions. The Cubs’ outfield should offer ample opportunity for Frazier to re-establish himself.
The Cubs’ first post-lockout move was a contract extension for manager David Ross. After that, it was back to the free agent market. While fans had visions of Carlos Correa, to whom the Cubs were at least loosely connected, they instead signed Andrelton Simmons to a modest one-year deal. The 32-year-old defensive wizard will start the season on the IL due to a sore shoulder, putting Nico Hoerner into the starting role.
As for Correa? His three-year, $105.3MM deal with the Twins, which includes opt-outs after each season, reportedly came together with the Twins in the span of 14 hours, initiated by agent Scott Boras. Boras certainly spoke to other clubs during that frenzied late-March period. Aside from the draft pick forfeiture, Correa’s contract generally fit with the Cubs’ new m.o., but it’s unknown whether they were in the mix late. As of now, shortstop is an unsettled position for the Cubs for the next several years.
I had mentioned in November that free agent right fielder Seiya Suzuki, one of the best players in Japan and only 27 years old, made sense for the Cubs. Hoyer agreed, winning the bidding with an aggressive five-year, $85MM contract plus a $14.625MM posting fee. According to MLBTR’s Steve Adams, “The most bullish opinions we’ve gotten peg Suzuki as an everyday Major League right fielder — a solid defensive player with a strong arm and enough power to hit in the middle of a big league lineup.” This is the type of player the Cubs were sorely lacking, and if Suzuki’s power translates, fans will start to replace those Rizzo, Baez, and Bryant jerseys with Suzuki ones.
Beyond the big splashes in Stroman and Suzuki, the Cubs lived up to their word about being active in free agency. I can’t remember another time a team brought in a dozen free agents on Major League contracts, and the number grows to 14 once you add Miley and Jesse Chavez, whose contract has already been selected. It’s a crazy number of players to add to the Major League roster in one offseason, and it speaks to the lack of MLB-ready talent the Cubs had after trading away every decent veteran last summer.
The Cubs’ approach to building a bullpen is as good as any, given the volatility of relievers and how often the larger free agent contracts go bust. With basically no established bullpen to speak of, especially after Codi Heuer went down for Tommy John surgery, Hoyer added five free agents on one-year deals for a total of $14MM: Mychal Givens, David Robertson, Chris Martin, Daniel Norris, and Jesse Chavez. It’s difficult to say which of these five new relievers will succeed in Chicago, but the Cubs were likely emboldened by getting excellent work out of Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin after signing them for a total of $3.55MM last winter. The pair signed two-year deals for $14MM and $13MM with the Angels and Tigers, respectively, this offseason.
We thought Jonathan Villar might require a two-year deal, so the Cubs did well to grab him for one year and $6MM. He’ll likely see time mainly at third and second base, but could also serve as the Cubs’ third-string shortstop. Villar is a switch-hitter without much of a platoon split, and he’ll spell Patrick Wisdom, Nick Madrigal, and Hoerner.
Drew Smyly has had interesting free agent experiences in his career. The 32-year-old southpaw has just one 2-WAR season on his resume, back in 2014. He signed a two-year, $10MM deal with the Cubs with an eye on his 2019 season, as he spent 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Cubs instead shipped him to Texas to save money before realizing that plan. Smyly struggled in ’19 but still found $4MM the following offseason as one of the Giants’ pitching projects. That went well enough that the Braves gave Smyly $11MM on the strength of 26 1/3 innings in 2020.
After middling results for Atlanta, Smyly received another $5.25MM from the Cubs and will open the season in a rotation that’s missing both Miley and Adbert Alzolay due to injuries. The Cubs also added some rotation depth with Steven Brault, who continues to battle injuries. The Cubs’ season-opening rotation is shaky behind Hendricks and Stroman, with Smyly, Justin Steele, and Alec Mills penciled in. As aggressive as Hoyer was in free agency, the Cubs are still running a competitive balance tax payroll more than $60MM below the $230MM threshold, and it seems like they could have piled up more rotation depth.
The 2022 Cubs figure to be, if nothing else, a watchable club with the additions of Suzuki and Stroman and the likely summer promotion of top prospect Brennen Davis. FanGraphs projects them for about 75 wins. Given a 12-team playoff field, the Cubs should at least be able to hang around the periphery in a division where the Pirates are rebuilding and only the Brewers stand out.
It seems like a solid off-season. I love Stroman, Gomes, Hendricks and Suzuki as building blocks and the ability to reevaluate at the deadline.
Unless they are doing really well, I see the Cubs trading pretty much all of the guys they signed this offseason at some point in the next year or so, besides Suzuki. They did a solid job of gathering good future trade chips this offseason on reasonable contracts. I still think it will be a while before they are legitimate contenders again, but they are heading in the right direction now.
Funny how Jason Heyward, the Cubs most expensive position player, wasn’t even mentioned in this article. That’s how bad he’s been. So does the Suzuki acquisition officially make Heyward the most expensive 4th outfielder of all time? $23 million a year is a ton to pay a guy who is going to ride the bench. I don’t see them releasing him yet considering he is still under contract for multiple years. That has to be the worst contract in the very long history of Chicago sports.
Heyward likely getting released after this year. He’s more like 5th outfielder defensive replacement
Heyward will start in CF, but it is expected that top prospect Brennen Davis will take over CF at some point and DFA Heyward if he is struggling again.
@Dunk My take is that Brennan Davis will end up in RF, especially if he bulks up a bit to help his power numbers. The Cubs are banking on Pete Crow-Armstrong as our future CF.
I love Davis but his strike out percentage is really concerning. I do love the fact that he himself made a batting adjustment to become more direct to the ball… and that was between his double A and triple A call up.
PCA is totally the CF of the future of the Cubs no debate there, his glove is elite level potential, but Davis will hold down that spot until he gets pushed to the corners in a couple of years when PCA is ready which is likely 2024.
I’m not so sure about that if Davis is producing at CF like a corner outfielder you can more than live with a fall off defensively. Baring in mind Suzuki isn’t moving off RF and Caissie looks like a legit big league corner outfielder.
Also, call me crazy, but I like Alcantara more than Crow-Armstrong.
He’s more like an independent League outfielder at this point.
No, Alcantara is not better than PCA.
Alcantara over PCA? I can’t see that. PCA has great bar control and insane range.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Crow-Armstrong, I just think Alcantara has more offensive upside and future value. He’s a guy that isn’t going to play elite defense in center but has a lot more power in the bat than PCA.
I’m interested to see how the Cubs do this season with all the contact hitters they have in their potential line up, Madrigal and Hoerner are elite contact hitters, Schwindel is a solid contact guy, Rivas is another. Frazier, Suzuki and Happ in the outfield is intriguing well but I fail to the “middle of the line up” doing enough damage.
As someone else said, if the Cubs signed Correa and actually pushed closer to the luxury tax threshold, we would be talking about how they had a shot at the division but I don’t see it with this group.
I’ll say this though, when PCA, Caissie, Triantos and Hernandez all are hitting the majors around the same time, with Suzuki, Mardigal, Nico and hopefully Davis, we will be talking about the Cubs Championship core again.
the Cubs farm is very deep and I am expecting their farm to make the biggest jump in rankings and will have the most additions to the top 100 by next season. There is a ton of get excited about and it has PITCHING TOO!!
So the expectation is to needle the thread at the MLB level this year and likely next.. So it is not really a full rebuild or Retool, but a team that is just trying to put a good product on the field that COULD compete for a wild card spot while they patiently wait for the farm to develop their prospects.
Totally agree! Cubs are positioning themselves for 2024 and beyond, making the same types of moves they did in 2014. Build a strong core of cost-controlled players and then, and ONLY then, spend big on free agents to plug in the gaps.. Heyward and Hendricks will be off the books 2023, so yeah, I like the direction they’re heading too.
I’ll say this, I like what the Cubs did, they added some really solid complementary pieces but being 60 million under the luxury tax with the need of one big bat and one big arm made me grade the Cubs as a C.
These “flip-able” assets the Cubs brought in do not do much for me because they are not going to bring back the impact talent that they need. Pairing Stroman and Gomes maybe next you an elite prospect but Villar? Smyly? Villar? Simmons? I mean how many Bryce Balls do you need in your farm system?
Me personally, I would have bit the bullet on Correa, best case you compete, next best case you flip at the deadline for a haul, worst case he gets hurt and you try again next season. What Correa would bring back in trade would be vastly superior than who ever the Cubs draft with pick 60 of whatever it would be.
prospects are a crap shoot. i get not being particularly excited about these guys and what they might bring back but any of the prospects they net could take a leap
Bud Selig Fan
Agree with your take. Worst $213MM roster I’ve ever seen. Smidgen below .500 ish team at best.
dude must be worn out, loving 4 guys at once
The biggest issue for the Cubs and other teams in rebuilding mode is that good starting pitching is harder to come by than ever. The Cubs are notoriously bad at developing starting pitching.
Can you name the last good starting pitcher the Cubs developed from draft to MLB? Samardhiza? Otherwise I’d guess it would be Carlos Zambrano.
Even if you look at the Theo Epstein during his time with the Cubs and Red Sox – the top 3 starting pitchers he developed:
I’d name top 5, but there aren’t 5 starting pitchers that he drafted that ever had any even slight success in MLB.
20 years and that was the best pitching Theo developed?
Hopefully Jed brought in some people that know that pitching is important too.
I’m really excited about Steele, hasn’t looked great this spring but he and Keegan Thompson I think can be solid rotation pieces.
I wouldn’t sleep on Cubs pitching the way we have in the past, Killian, Leeper, Wicks look legit and they have a bunch of fire ballers in the prospect ranks that can turn into some high leverage bullpen arms like Uechert, Peliencia and Jensen. Cubs still have Alzolay who at the very least should be a dominate reliever.
Not sure if you read the article, but Hoyer did specifically bring in people that know pitching. It’s an interesting 180 in culture between Jed and Theo.
Jed has done better in trades. Arretta, Hendricks and now Kilian. Kilian is in AAA and the top arm in the system. Expect him to impact the plans.
Marquez will be at Tenn. He also can impact this and next year.
The Cubs are in pretty decent shape going into 2023.
The Baseball Fan (Doesn’t like the White Sox)
Franklin, Jansen, and Wicks are all not that far off either.
It’s a little hard to tell whether they are trying to compete or not. I thought trading away so many pieces last year signaled the start of a rebuild, especially given ownership’s crying poor of late. Then they turn around and get a couple really nice pickups in Suzuki and Stroman. I’m predicting they finish 3rd in the division, right around .500, but out of the playoffs.
3rd maybe right but doubtful to be above .500. Looks like a 75-78 win team.
Perhaps, but I’m bullish on both Madrigal and Suzuki. I also see a weakened division with the Reds selling off and the Pirates being the Pirates.
Suzuki is young enough to still be a cornerstone when the Cubs are contenders again in a couple years, and he’s an exciting player who fans will still want to see even if the Cubs are losing. All of their other signings this offseason were basically to gather future trade chips. They could choose to hold onto Stroman for a while to anchor the rotation and then try to cash in on him at some point when his value is high enough (or whenever they get a good enough offer for him). The Cubs seem to be eyeing the future now, and I think their offseason was overall pretty consistent with that goal.
Gotta have someone/s to sell tickets. Stroman and Suzuki at least generate some buzz.
Careful they said the same about fukodome in 2008
No they didn’t. He was 30 when they got him from Japan. He was never intended to be a center piece for a team.
They built a team if everything goes right could get a playoff spot. If it doesn’t work they have a roster of players they can move at the deadline. They didn’t go crazy and mortgage the future.
They haven’t cried “poor” at all. They spoke specifically about being active in free agency, which they were, and spending wisely, which they did. Correa woulda been a mistake.
Gave them a B since they got Suzuki and Stroman. Getting Correa would have given them A.
The Stroman signing wasn’t a contention move, it’s the same crap they did with Edwin Jackson in 2013. They need someone to eat innings and not be a complete disaster. Jackson proved to just be an expensive disaster.
Stroman is far superior to Jackson.
And to think two years ago, a buddy of mine told me Clint Frazier would have a better longterm career than Vlad Guerrero Jr lulz
Still could happen, haha! Unlikely, but they’re still young and many years and chapters left to write before closing the book. Clint’s early concussions (and now huge comeback?) could be offset by later Vlad injuries if the tides turn on both their careers. We can never really know, which is why making brazen comments based on feelings in the moment are so fun.
The notable losses are not notable at all. You have to take into account the losses from the trade deadline last year to get the full picture.
A big market team that prints money like the Cubs should be spending much more. They should be trying to win it all, not just trying to stay on the fringes of contention. Ricketts gave the fans their championship, so from now on he will be reaping the benefits and not truly going all out to win. That sucks.
Nah. Spending just to spend is what gets you in trouble. They added a few pieces. They will “spend” when the timing is right. I’d be pleased with this off-season if I was a Cubs fan.
Adding dumb contracts saddle teams. The 1-3 year approach is smart especially where they are right now. They have some interesting players that deserve a look this year.
For a few years, Hoyer insisted that Schwarber was untouchable. Then released. Frazier was untouchable for the Yankees. Then released. In both instances, a good offer was passed on via trade, but refused. Hoyer was’nt the genius he was given credit for being. Also, he was on ESPN radio stating that they don’t have to develop pitching. They can just sign or trade for what they need.
solid offseason, if this was 2019.
Cubs wont go far with just 2 starting pitchers and not named kurt schilling and randy johnson.
Need more starting pitching.
As far as starting pitching is concerned, I think the Cubs want to be able to evaluate Steele, Thompson, Lieter and possibly Killian this year in the rotation. We have seen flashes from Steele and Thompson already.
The Cubs look like the perfect trade partner in a Hosmer deal with the Padres. If it nets Chicago rotation depth, prospects and San Diego pitches in some money why not? Really, this looks like an obvious fit.
Cap & Crunch
The Cubs would be a good fit since they have no 1B.
You notice what was not included in the Padres discussions with the Mets in regards to Hosmer? Prospects.
Hosmer, Paddack, and Pagan + $30 million.
For Ian Happ?
Cap & Crunch
let’s call it 16 mill (4 each year) and deal Pads fan
Cubs gets Weathers instead of Paddack
If they pay his remaining salary and outright him. Whose Pagan?
Frank Schwindel would like a word. I’d take him over Hosmer this year and going forward. If padres are adding 30’million then Hosmer will likely end up getting cut.
That package isn’t enough to dump Hosmer for an org filler. Much less Ian Happ.
I wouldn’t even listen regarding Hosmer unless Abrams was mentioned. And SD is not trading Abrams, so forget it.
Cap & Crunch
The Cubs have had one of the best off-seasons of any team this year. I’ve been really impressed as I was questioning the direction not too long ago from upstairs
They are hitting checkpoints at this stage.
They have become decent enough to play out half the year in that watered down Div with having an outside shot at being buyers at the deadline which gives the fanbase some hope
I think they’ll be mimicking how Z has played it out in SF the last couple years under a slow methodical approach. Seems counterintuitive to what most Cubs fans here have wanted tho (Buy Buy Buy) …. show some patience tho, a Cubs team built right can roll that Div for a long time with their financial capabilities
Ladies and Gentelmen, your 2022 NL Central Champions.
Bud Selig Fan
Ha, the Cubbies will be lucky to score 40 runs off MKE pitching all year, and keep the Cardinals from scoring 125 runs off their pitching. Do like the job Hoyer is doing so far. Learned what not to do under Theo quite well it seems.
Cubs 70-75 wins
I have the Cubs at 73 wins, although looking at the line up today I think I may be a bit too generous at my assessment.
Ross gets paid to make line up decisions but I don’t understand why, when you are facing Burns, you do not have Rivas at first giving us a defensive advantage along with a guy who has solid contact skills and can hit velocity. Schwindy should DH and rock Ortega over Heyward in CF.
It’s hard to admit at this point that the Pirates are still ‘rebuilding’ I think after this long, they’re just building. It’s past time to bring in the hackers like the Astros/Cardinals.