High-Ranking Rival Exec Believes Cubs Will Be ‘Super Busy’ Rest of Winter

The Cubs spent the first portion of the offseason doing nothing but signing minor-league deals with pitchers and catchers, then came a flurry of activity in the days leading up to Cubs Convention. With all due apologies to Brian Serven, who became their first external 40-man roster addition when he was claimed on January 5 — and subsequently DFA’d — Jed Hoyer’s first “real” move was signing lefty Shōta Imanaga. Then came a trade with the Dodgers that brought Michael Busch and Yency Almonte to Chicago.

Rather than displaying any sort of aggressiveness, however, these moves highlighted and underscored Hoyer’s value-based approach. Imanaga signed for far less than expected and the former Dodgers fill two roster spots at less than $3 million combined. Hoyer openly embraced the idea of operating like a small-market team in terms of getting good deals rather than simply making deals, though he left open the possibility of signing players like Dansby Swanson.

One could argue that Swanson was simply the cheapest among his shortstop peers in last year’s class, but his performance was anything but discounted.

Looking at the rest of the offseason, which is perilously slim at this point with report dates less than a month away, Hoyer may be able to land a solid player or two without being profligate with ownership’s money. It’s been evident for some time that there’s mutual interest between the Cubs and Cody Bellinger, whose market appears to have shrunk considerably over the last few weeks, but it’s equally clear that the two sides are far apart on the terms of a deal.

We could be talking $50 million or perhaps even as much as $75 million, especially if Scott Boras is looking for a figure that would make his client the highest-paid Cub in history. Other members of Team Boras are likewise seeking employment and have been connected to the Cubs with varying degrees of hype. Whether it’s Matt Chapman, Rhys Hoskins, Jordan Montgomery, or Blake Snell, there are a number of different fits.

But the thing about adding Imanaga and Busch is that Hoyer has not only addressed a pair of roster holes, he’s also improved his leverage in free agency. The needs aren’t as glaring and he therefore can’t be bullied into stretching beyond what his player-value algorithm dictates. And though Boras is known for drawing negotiations out as long as possible, even into spring training, it’s looking like the respective markets for his players haven’t developed as he’d planned.

Those who prefer a more optimistic view might even want to believe Bellinger so prefers the Cubs that he’s holding out as long as he can to see if they’ll come back with something he’s willing to accept. I could probably be convinced that there’s a measure of truth to that idea, but it’s really more a matter of no teams getting close to his magic number.

So does this stalemate eventually break or will the Cubs be content to put Pete Crow-Armstrong in center with Busch and Christopher Morel at the corners and Matt Shaw waiting in the wings? According to at least one rival evaluator, it’ll be the former.

“Since I taped with Tim (Kurkjian) this morning…” Buster Olney said on the Baseball Tonight podcast. “I talked with a high-ranking executive with another team who tells me, ‘The Cubs, watch the Cubs. They’re gonna be super busy the rest of the winter.'”

Of course, that might mean Hoyer has a few things cooking in terms of trades. His reinvigorated farm system is brimming with talent, and several of their top-ranked prospects are going to be pushing their way to the majors this season and next. PCA and Cade Horton are the closest to being untouchable, leaving several others who could be moved in the right deal.

Owen Caissie and Kevin Alcántara are somewhat limited by the Cubs’ current outfield situation, James Triantos will have nowhere to go if Shaw sticks, and several others in the top 30 may have better opportunities elsewhere. I don’t believe Hoyer will break from his position when it comes to spending big money on long-term deals, though I could see one more free-agent addition to go along with a significant trade.

Does that qualify as being “super busy” to you? I think we need to consider the source in this case, and I’m saying that to contextualize rather than denigrate. While most of us only see the end result of a deal, those behind the scenes understand how much work goes into bringing trades to fruition. Think of it like a duck that appears so serene on the surface while its feet are churning furiously below.

So in that light, yeah, I think members of the front office will indeed remain very busy over the next few weeks. As for whether that will actually result in big improvements to the roster, well, I’m slightly less confident.

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