Cubs Among 8 Teams with No FA Spending, Still $2B in Deals to Come

There are two ways we can choose to view the titular knowledge, but let’s start with the purely objective fact that the Cubs have not spent a dime in free agency to this point. Outside of signing lefty reliever Edwin Escobar and catcher Jorge Alfaro to minor league deals, they haven’t added to the organization from the outside at all. The Cubs aren’t the only team that’s been measured so far, however, as seven others have also spent nothing.

Of course, the Yankees swung the biggest trade of the winter by acquiring Juan Soto from the Padres. San Diego received a wealth of prospects in that deal, thus offsetting their own goose egg. We can go up the ladder and see that seven more teams have spent less than $10 million and five others are under $20 million, so it’s not as though the Cubs are out of the ordinary.

Heck, a one-year deal with Rhys Hoskins — who’s also been connected to the non-spending Mariners — would immediately put the Cubs near the top third of the league. As noted by Jeff Passan, salary predictions from ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel dictate there are about $2 billion worth of unrealized deals still out there. And even though most of that is tied up in just seven players — Cody Bellinger, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Jordan Montgomery, Blake Snell, Matt Chapman, Josh Hader, and Shōta Imanaga — the figures above will shift dramatically.

Speaking of Hoskins, it’s starting to feel like Scott Boras is trying to get the Cubs to do something, anything, regarding at least one of his clients. Jon Morosi’s comment that they might miss out on the former Phillies slugger if they keep waiting sounds like something an agency source planted with a purpose.

The glass-half-full view is that the Cubs are simply doing their due diligence as Jed Hoyer continues to pay attention to all the lines he’s got in the water. Rather than getting anxious and changing his tack, he’s sticking to the plan and waiting for the right time. That patience is admirable even if it’s frustrating and perhaps unadvisable, especially for a big-market club.

This brings us to the half-empty view of worrying that the Cubs will sit on their hands until the best free agents have signed elsewhere, leaving them with table scraps. While it does still feel like they will make a big trade or two, something that’s been discussed since the start of the offseason, being overly cautious could end up costing them more than just money. The thing about being a big-market club isn’t just that you can spend more on top players, it’s that you have more margin for error if and when those players don’t pan out as well.

Look at the world champion Rangers, whose massive budget allowed them to overcome the loss of ace Jacob deGrom. Intelligent spending shouldn’t be defined strictly by sticking to what a complicated player-value algorithm says. There are times when it’s smarter to reach a bit to land a player or players who best fit the roster, something the Cubs haven’t displayed a willingness to do in the past.

There’s still plenty of time for them to vault themselves right up to the top of the league in terms of free-agent spending, so no one needs to be freaking out just yet. That said, more and more fans have resigned themselves to believing it when they see it.

Where do you sit as we hurtle closer to the new year: Will the Cubs start writing checks like a premier organization or will they try to operate more like the Pirates? Maybe it’ll be somewhere in the middle and they’ll keep trying to exploit all the little competitive advantages they can find. I want to believe Hoyer has something up his sleeve that will generate a big buzz, if for no other reason than I’ll choose hope over despair every time, but it’s getting awfully tough to grin and bear it.

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