With Spring Training hurtling ever closer, I wanted to take a moment to back at what we’ve seen since the season ended for the Cubs. It’s certainly been an eventful offseason, but not everything played out exactly as I’d predicted. Below are a few of the Cubs-related items that surprised me the most.
Dexter Fowler going this long without a team
While Dex is sure to land somewhere in the next few days, the fact that we’re still talking about him as a free agent in February is kinda shocking to me. I had really figured he’d be one of those guys who came off the board pretty early, and not just because he’s coming off of what was easily the best season of his career.
Switch-hitting, leadoff-batting center fielders don’t necessarily grow on trees, so you’d think signing a guy like that — who won’t turn 30 until near the end of Spring Training — would be low-hanging fruit. Instead, Fowler has been left to ripen, and perhaps even wither, on the vine. How has he not scored something in the neighborhood of 4 years and $60 million?
The only thing more surprising about this situation would be if the Cubs actually ended up re-signing Fowler.
Landing Jason Heyward
I’m still a little giddy over this one, as I had been certain Heyward would go for more money elsewhere. After seeing how far removed the Cubs were from the highest bidders in the David Price auction I just assumed they were going to keep payroll at a more moderate level again.
From a psychological standpoint, this move reminded me very much of picking up Lester the previous winter. Heyward isn’t the best player in the league, but he’s a perfect fit for what this Cubs team needs both on the field and at the plate. He’s also a great clubhouse presence. As I’ve said many times, the money they’re paying him is not just being thrown at one guy, but is an investment in the team as a whole.
We all knew a lot of that going into the offseason, but the fact that the Cubs were actually able to reel in such a big fish with less bait than others were using was a huge coup that I didn’t see coming.
Starlin Castro being traded
Yes, I know the writing was on the wall. Yes, I know this had to happen to facilitate other moves. That doesn’t mean I had to believe it though. I’ve always been a Starlin Castro fan, so even though it had been preceded by a couple years of speculation, the finality of it really struck me.
Jorge Soler not being traded
I was absolutely certain the news of the Heyward signing would be closely followed by word of a corresponding deal involving the Cubs’ incumbent right fielder. In the intervening weeks, there seems to have been plenty of smoke on the horizon despite the fact that a fire has yet to catch. And given the incredibly high cost of pitching, a trade at this point seems really unlikely.
I’ve been among the minority when it comes to advocating for such a trade, though you’ve got to make sure the deal works. I’m just not as sold on Soler’s ability to actually reach the mountainous potential he has displayed in flashes. He should get the chance to prove me wrong in the coming season and I hope I have to eat a little crow.
Realizing how good Chris Coghlan has been
I know some others have written and spoken about it, but sometimes you really have to look at things for yourself before you believe them. So when I decided to look a bit further into Cogs’ production over the last couple seasons, I was a bit surprised by what I found. A very strong argument could be made that he’s the best fourth outfield in baseball at this point.
What’s more, Coghlan has used advanced metrics to improve since coming to Chicago. Hearing him talk about how he’s had to challenge his own misconceptions of the game and what’s important to teams in evaluating players was a really nice little bit of insight.
Is there anything else from the last few months that really struck you as unexpected? I’m sure I’ll come up with six or seven more items as soon as I publish this. Oh well, as long as I don’t have to turn any of my 10 Bold Predictions into shockers, I’ll be fine.