You can blame my recent streak of optimism on the rah-rah hype and warm fuzzies from Cubs Convention, but Jeff Passan isn’t one to be similarly swayed by a panel or two and running into a high school buddy over the weekend. The ESPN luminary, who often gives me the impression he’s being paid by the column inch, praised Jed Hoyer’s club by handing them The Sneaky-Big Step Forward Award ($). As Passan noted, the Cubs have spent over $300 million so far to add more new free agents than any other team in baseball.
The Mets have technically signed more players, but three of them had previously been with the organization. Drew Smyly was the only one of Hoyer’s eight signings who was brought back into the fold, and it was evident that all the new faces in Chicago brought a different level of excitement to the club. Again, though, that’s not what Passan is really focused on.
In a breakdown that echoes what we’ve been saying for a little while now, Passan noted that the Cubs have put themselves in a position to compete. It helps that the rest of the NL Central has done very little to improve since the end of the 2022 season outside of the Brewers and Cardinals adding Contreri. And if we extrapolate this all forward, the Cubs have strengthened their foundation ahead of freeing up a bunch more money next winter.
Also of note from Passan’s piece: Nine teams made up 79.4% of the $3.8 billion in guaranteed money handed out so far in free agency. The Yankees are at the top with $573.5 million, well above the combined $507.5 million from the bottom 18 spenders. You might be surprised to know that the Dodgers, Angels, and Braves are among that group.
I’m not suggesting anyone should put a bet on the Cubs to win the World Series or even the division, but it’s okay to admit they’ve done a pretty solid job this winter. It’s also quite acceptable to believe they’ve improved while also saying they could or should have done better. And hey, you can even feel good about what’s transpired over the last few weeks and still question whether Hoyer has the chutzpah to go big on a star should the situation call for it.
The really wild thing about discussing the Cubs’ position and direction is that you don’t have to be binary in your assessment. For the first time in a while, I’m actually pretty excited about what they’ve got going.