The Chicago Cubs have picked a new manager, so now it’s time to focus on the offseason and give him a winning roster.
After searching for several weeks and interviewing several high-profile candidates like Joe Girardi, the Chicago Cubs have settled on World Series hero and fan favorite David Ross to be their new skipper. It’s a great pick for the Cubs, as Ross was an extremely popular teammate of many players still on the roster and can invigorate a clubhouse that became listless the final few years of Maddon’s tenure. Ross will follow in the footsteps of rookie managers like Alex Cora, Aaron Boone and Dave Martinez — player-friendly leaders who are willing to work closely with the front office to implement the analytics and strategy handed to them.
Now that the Cubs have tabbed Ross to take over for Maddon, Theo Epstein and his front office can reset their focus on overhauling the roster and getting back into the postseason. The three years that followed Chicago’s monumental World Series have been challenging, as the team has looked stagnant at times and had to make a late push in 2017 and 2018 to win the NL Central. The Cubs missed the playoffs entirely in 2019 and dropped off to 84-78.
It isn’t going to be easy for Epstein to remake his roster, as the Cubs spent $218 million in 2019 and are already on the books for $159 million for only 14 players in 2020 before arbitration raises kick in for their younger stars. The Cubs have locked themselves into several big free-agent contracts for Yu Darvish and Jason Heyward that look terrible in hindsight. Blockbuster trades at the deadline for Aroldis Chapman and Jose Quintana have also stripped the farm system of elite talent.
Nevertheless, Epstein will find a way to get creative and make sure that the Cubs will not fall out of playoff contention next year. As was the case last year when they sat out the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, there won’t be any huge moves coming from Wrigley Field. Still, these five offseason moves would all go a long way to keeping the Cubs in the conversation for the NL Central title again in 2020.
5. Re-sign Nicholas Castellanos
In only 51 games, right fielder Nicholas Castellanos made life very difficult for Theo Epstein this winter. The trade acquisition hit .321/.356/.646 with 21 doubles and 16 home runs in his time with the Cubs, providing a fire and spark that seemed to be lacking from a complacent lineup. Castellanos seemed to relish his opportunity to play for a winner and was on fire after the trade.
The 27-year-old has made it clear he wants to remain with the Cubs, but is that the right decision for the team?
Epstein was singing the right fielder’s praises after the season.
“Love the way he plays the game and would love to have him back. It’s obviously a more complicated issue than just we do love to have the guy back. He’s worked long and hard to get to free agency. He had an unbelievable year — especially his time with the Cubs — and he deserves the right to take that into the free-agent market. He knows that we’d love to have him back, but he also knows that it’s not as simple as that.”
The Cubs made a huge splash a few years ago when they signed Jason Heyward to be their right fielder. They won’t have to make quite as big a splash to keep Castellanos, but re-signing him would force Heyward to center field permanently. Even if Heyward is better in right than center, making the move to send Albert Almora to the bench in favor of keeping Castellanos makes sense. He is coming into his own as a hitter and is still well shy of 30. Most importantly, he wants to be in Chicago and will prevent his teammates from falling back into complacency.