Hey look, it’s December! As you all know, I moved back home to California a few months ago, and I finally have an actual full-time job to grow with as I become a scientist yet again. Yay me. In the meantime, I have been keeping up with the Cubs and their would-be plan to once again contend in 2019. It’s been easy since they haven’t done that much of note…which, depending on how you look at it, might be good or bad.
Once upon a time, when we thought money wasn’t going to be an issue (otherwise why would they work so hard to stay under the luxury tax threshold?), there was a feeling among most of us that the Cubs would spend like drunken sailors this offseason and worry about the tax implications later. This on the cusp of Wrigley Field being fully renovated and restored, plus potential new revenue streams coming up past 2019 given the prospect of a new Cubs regional sports network or other deal, plus MLB just generally making a boatload of money. (Plus it’s not like they’re paying the minor leaguers anyway, but that’s another story.)
So far, this has not been the case as the mumblings reflect a franchise that is watching their spending and trying to shed salary. This may still be part of the greater plan, as guys like Jesse Chavez who were insanely good in their brief time with the Cubs might not continue showing that level of performance. And maybe not paying the million dollars or so for Tommy La Stella‘s arbitration contract isn’t a sign of being cheap, but more because the Cubs would rather have a backup infielder who can actually play some defense. Plus who knows what they will ultimately do with Addison Russell?
In a sport (any sport, really) where the bottom line takes precedence over things like morality or even winning, we unfortunately have to consider the ugly business side of the sport. We don’t have to like it, though. The plan so far is being altered to fit the narrative of “what if,” and perhaps the new Mets general manager sums it up best:
On SNY, Brodie Van Wagenen just criticized the Mets of the recent past for going into seasons saying, "If Player X and Player Y and Player Z does well, we'll be OK." He says he wants to eliminate those "ifs."
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) December 4, 2018
So we consider these factors and players thusly…if:
- Yu Darvish comes back healthy and productive
- Jon Lester and the rest do not regress
- Kris Bryant‘s shoulder is no longer an issue
- Jason Heyward remembers how to hit
- Javier Baez plays like an MVP again
- The younger guys in the core, including Kyle Schwarber, actually hit like we think they’re supposed to
- Addison Russell plays well and stops being a trash human being
…then the Cubs on paper are again a force to be reckoned with, just as we thought in 2018 before the offense broke. But boy, it sure would be nice if (ha) the Cubs took away some of those “what if” statements by adding a player who is above average even in years that he sucks. I suppose we will see when the Winter Meetings progress. But I sure wouldn’t want to see my favorite squadron stagnate when there are so many more years of goodness left to milk out of this run.