With the 31st annual Cubs Convention now in the rear view mirror, and all awards accepted, the Chicago Cubs will set their sights on the start of spring training. The 2016 season is becoming one of great anticipation and expectations for Chicago. The Cubs are undoubtedly set up for optimal success not only this year, but for the next several years. What the they have done this winter by executing their “Plan-A offseason” leads to the final look at teams that had important winters which could also have an impact on their June draft plans.
From top to bottom, this current Cubs roster is as balanced and talented as any Cubs team has fielded since the early 1900s. By signing Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey, Chicago has added reliable veteran talent to a lineup bursting with young talent. The three new additions may very well fill holes that left the Cubs eight wins shy of a World Series championship a season ago. Now the question is, are they ultimately done moving pieces? Whether or not another trade has the potential of happening, the Cubs offseason will lead to draft day adjustments for the front office.
After years of picking within the top-10 of the draft, the Cubs find themselves without a pick in the first two rounds of the draft. The early picks have allowed them to get prime, quality talent like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber to build for the future – and that future is now. With Dexter Fowler currently unsigned, the Cubs could still acquire a late first round pick as long as he signs with another team. There are some grumbles that the Cubs might resign Fowler, put with a draft pick attached, they could be wiser to pass.
By signing Heyward and Lackey, the Cubs gave two compensation picks to the St. Louis Cardinals. If they also bring back Fowler, the Cubs first pick would not be until the end of the third round, and over 100 picks from the first name called on draft day. For a team that has been focused on building up a farm system for long-term success, the upcoming draft will be a bit of an adjustment for Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and company.
While it is great for the Cubs and the city that the team is in ultimate win-now mode, the sustained future cannot be ignored. The surplus of talent cannot be allowed to dry up, even just for one year. That isn’t Epstein’s style, and is why the Cubs may very well be out on Fowler.
As the Cubs make deep strides toward a championship, they have not tapped into their deep farm system for trades. Chicago has managed to get a lot better and still keep their top prospects. Knowing their draft situation, and that they are likely now going to be picking later in drafts for the foreseeable future, the Cubs need to be able to protect the young core of players for the team’s long-term goals, and continue to be calculating with their moves.
Trading young players like Jorge Soler now could prove to be costly for the Cubs later on, especially with the added element of the National League potentially considering the designated hitter. If that were to happen, the Cubs are well-positioned to take advantage of it, as long as their talent remains intact. Chicago is suddenly a prime destination that sells itself to the rest of the league. The once lovable losers are now just lovable. The Cubs do not need to force a trade going into this season. They may not even need to force one at the trade deadline. Because their draft strategy is going to change, the Cubs need to continue to invest in the future while they also win now with the roster that is already assembled. The Cubs have been smart in building this roster up, and must continue to be smart going forward as spring training approaches.