The Cubs are going shopping for players this winter. And any new players will be under a manager Cubs brass believes in.
Before the doubleheader Friday with the Cardinals, team president Jed Hoyer said he loves working with manager David Ross. In his second season, Ross’ job changed from trying to squeeze out one final run with a championship core to piloting a team looking to the future after a franchise-altering trade deadline.
Hoyer likes what he has seen. More than likes, actually, even as the team’s goals have significantly changed.
“It obviously has been a trying year for a lot of reasons, and he’s done a really wonderful job these last two months of keeping these guys playing hard,” Hoyer said. “That’s a testament to him and the respect they have for him.”
That praise leads to another obvious question about Ross: his contract.
When he replaced Joe Maddon after the 2019 season, Ross signed a three-year deal that’s up after next year. Hoyer said questions about an extension would be addressed further after the season, but it seems as if Hoyer would want to get something done with Ross and avoid speculation about a potential lame-duck or free-agent skipper.
“I love working with him,” Hoyer said. “He is already an excellent manager, and he has a chance to be really special in this job.”
Of course, Hoyer can give Ross a helping hand this offseason by re-stocking a team that’s almost unrecognizable from the one that began the 2021 season.
Though things are clouded by pending labor talks, the Cubs have money to spend and a desire to fill more seats at Wrigley Field after the pandemic and dismantling of the on-field core.
Despite some promising showings after the trade deadline from unheralded players who have taken advantage of their opportunities, the Cubs have numerous needs if they want to be closer to contention in 2022 after sending away franchise pillars Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez, plus All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel.
Hoyer didn’t give away his whole plan, but it’s obvious the Cubs won’t be sitting out the market this winter.
“We plan to be really active in free agency,” Hoyer said. “We plan to spend money -intelligently. I think that’s probably the easiest way I can say it.”
That news probably will be welcomed by Cubs fans, who have watched a team play out the string of a non-competitive season for the first time since 2014. To make things sting a little more, the Cubs welcomed a surging Cardinals team to town, one that looked dead in the middle of the season but has sped to the second wild-card spot and a postseason berth.
In 2014, however, the Cubs were bursting with top-shelf young talent that just needed shrewd free-agent signings to take the next step. This group needs more help. Hoyer said the Cubs are scouting the free-agent market heavily for pieces.
“There’s offseasons when free agency is something that you do a little bit of,” Hoyer said. “This year, we’re probably going to be a little bit more active than usual to fill out our roster because we have a lot more open spots. That’s the best way to say it. Obviously, we’re going to be active in free agency, but we want to do it in a thoughtful, intelligent way.”
At least the Cubs believe they have the right manager to steward those players.