According to Michael Cerami of Bleacher Nation, the Cubs are not and have not engaged in extension negotiations with Willson Contreras. That isn’t very surprising in and of itself knowing how the team likes to wait until the new calendar year to hold those talks…when they have them at all. Only Kyle Hendricks and David Bote have inked new deals with the Cubs in the last several years, and the former of those approached the team proactively.
The bigger point here is that, when coupled with the apparent reluctance to meaningfully pursue big league free agents, Jed Hoyer and Co. may have chosen to wait for bigger moves until the new CBA is in place. While many around the game believe labor peace will be reached by mid-February, the impasse could obviously stretch even longer.
Either way, the result will be a frenzied period of transactions as teams and players alike scramble to get set for the upcoming season. Playing chicken like that when so many other teams are locking up all kinds of players who’d be good fits on the North Side might be a dangerous game.
There’s been a lot of talk about how the Cubs could and should increase the payroll this winter, but the question of whether they actually would has hung over those conversations like it had way too many Old Styles last night. So while several different pitchers and position players — even those looking for monster deals — made sense as targets, the baseball budget may not be a big as what even more pragmatic assessments believed.
Or maybe this truly is a matter of waiting to see exactly what rules they’ll be playing within, though that still doesn’t fully explain the utter lack of development with Contreras. The Cubs don’t have an heir waiting in the wings now that Miguel Amaya will miss all of 2022 due to elbow reconstruction, so you’d think an extension would have become more of a priority.
If it’s still not and the Cubs are weighing a trade to further strip away the old in favor of prospects and backups, waiting will only make things worse. The Marlins just swung a deal with the Pirates to acquire Jacob Stallings in exchange for righty Zach Thompson (3.24 ERA over 75 innings last season), right-handed pitching prospect Kyle Nicolas (No. 16 in system), and outfield prospect Connor Scott (No. 23). Though not a direct comp for a Contreras deal because Stallings still has three years of control, this removes a potential trade partner had the Cubs been exploring that route.
Waiting for the CBA to be resolved could leave them with an abbreviated window to discuss an extension, and failing to get anything done would result in the same kind of trades we saw this past deadline. It’s looking more and more like the Cubs have painted themselves into a corner and are now waiting for the paint to dry so they can walk out without making a mess. Except that the mess has already been made.
Jed Hoyer promised to be really active this time offseason and there’s still time to make good on that, but to this point we’ve seen neither spending nor intelligence from the revamped front office.