Can Cubs Succeed With ‘Smart Spending’ Plan As Cash Storm Falls On MLB?

Can Cubs Succeed With ‘Smart Spending’ Plan As Cash Storm Falls On MLB?

Baseball’s free agency is coming to an end, but one issue open to debate is whether the Cubs followed through on their promise to spend aggressively to improve the team.

There seemed to be some impatient moments among the fans, especially when Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts came off the board.

Finally, the Cubs landed shortstop Dansby Swanson for $177 million over seven years, along with pitcher Jameson Taillon for four years and former MVP Cody Bellinger for one.

The New York Mets racked up more than $800 million in new free agent deals, assuming the signings of Carlos Correa, and are on pace to post MLB’s highest payroll by a wide margin next season.

So the Cubs weren’t big spenders by comparison, but president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer told fans all they needed to know during his postseason meeting with reporters.

The key words that day were “smart spending”. Remember, this is a team that has handed out eight-year contracts twice, to Alfonso Soriano and Jason Heyward, and regretted both long before their contracts were up. So spending 10 or 11 years for one of the free agent shortstops didn’t seem likely.


I brought this up to Hoyer that day: Texas gave Corey Seager $325 million over 10 years last winter. If this is the current pace of short breaks, what hope do “smart spenders” have?

Hoyer’s press conference took place on October 10. On that date, Hoyer may have felt there was a chance that smart spending could prevail. After all, the Phillies hadn’t gotten much out of their 13-year, $330 million deal for Bryce Harper, barely making the playoffs after being swept by the Cubs last week. The same could be said for the Padres and Manny Machado.

Then the playoffs rolled around, the Phillies and Padres faced off in the NLCS, and the city of Philadelphia was on fire after taking a 2-1 lead in the World Series. Mets owner Steve Cohen surely noticed. Crazy spending was back in fashion.

Hoyer kept looking at the opposite view. Houston and Atlanta won the last two World Series without any major free agent additions to the roster. The Astros lost Correa, George Springer and Gerrit Cole in free agency and still won. Washington won a World Series the year after Harper left.

Atlanta won 2021 with almost entirely homegrown talent, plus three trade-deadline pickups on the field. While still enjoying that title, the Braves let Freddie Freeman and Swanson leave as free agents.

It looks like Hoyer and the Cubs are trying to play it in between. Ten-year (or 11- or 12-year) deals for 29-year-old players? No thankyou. Want to sign a few free agents to shorter deals? we can do it

Hoyer defended the offseason plan and the number of checks written during Swanson’s presentation this week.

“I think the last two seasons have been impressive,” he said. “We added (Marcus) Stroman and (Seiya) Suzuki last year, we added Bellinger and Taillon and Swanson this year. Obviously, we took a step back financially after the COVID year, but we’re bouncing back.

“It’s hard to bounce back at the same time without possibly making some mistakes. But I think we’ve targeted those players, brought them in and been aggressive in free agency two years in a row.”

Most everyone in the MLB would probably agree that it’s better to build from within. But that’s the challenge. The Cubs have done a good job rebuilding the farm system, but for this plan to work, they’ll need to create a superstar or two out of these promising prospects.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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