I had contemplated simply filing this report away under either “Well, duh” or “Consider the source,” but ultimately decided to afford it a friendly nod of acknowledgement. Addressing the Cubs’ plans this winter in the wake of the Cardinals’ acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt, The Athletic‘s Jim Bowden told CBS Sports a “professional hitter” is the big target.
“Theo Epstein knows this is a critical year for him. So even though he is downplaying spending any money, my understanding is behind the scenes he is working diligently and he has said he is going to get another professional hitter for that lineup,” Bowden reported. “There is pressure for him to get that, I think he’s going to do it, especially next week in Vegas.”
While it’s possible to sex this up and act as though it’s some sort of indication that the Cubs are indeed going to spend, Bowden isn’t telling us anything new. His Athletic colleague Ken Rosenthal offered very similar insight the other day, saying the Cubs would do “quite a bit” this winter. But Rosenthal wasn’t sure about the magnitude of those moves and said they’d have been made regardless of the Goldschmidt acquisition.
What’s more, Epstein has previously admitted that he and the rest of the front office would be spending all their energy trying to fix an offense that “broke” last season. A lot of that is finding a way to revive the sense of urgency they feel went AWOL among current players, but it’s pretty clear some personnel changes are part of the solution. So that takes care of the “working diligently” part.
As for the “professional hitter,” well, the Cubs are going to have to pay anyone they bring in, thus making him professional by very definition. Sarcasm aside, they’re looking for someone who can work a plate appearance and get on base, whether he’s leading off for batting with two outs and runners on. But does that mean the Cubs will operate counter to everything they’ve said so far?
“No one hitter, especially in the seas where we’re fishing, is going to transform the offense,” Epstein recently told the media.
That would seem to rule out Bryce Harper, at least on the surface, and maybe even someone like A.J. Pollock. CI‘s Tom Loxas reported recently that the former Rockies outfielder and his projected $60 million over four years might command more than what the Cubs are willing to spend. Which brings us back to being diligent and employing the kind of creativity Epstein has spoken about frequently.
And when you get down to it, is “diligent” really the way you’d describe a pursuit of Harper? Maybe if it comes to writing zeroes on the check or figuring out exactly how to structure a contract. This just isn’t really a situation in which the Cubs would need to convince the superstar to come play on the North Side with his good buddy, Kris Bryant. Being willing to pay him seems the extent of the actual effort the Cubs would need to show.
I’ll leave it to you to make of this latest report whatever you like, but I don’t see much here to indicated anything different from what we’ve already heard.