Nearly one-third of the Cubs’ games this year were decided by just one run, and they somehow managed to finish just a game under .500 in those contests. But even though their 26-27 record in those tight games looks pretty good in light of being 14 games under on the whole, Jed Hoyer doesn’t view it as a sign of success.
Nor should he, since a very large portion of those one-run contests came as the result of a stagnant offense that wasn’t able to push runs across when it really needed to. There was a time when the Cubs looked utterly inept at scoring the Manfred Man from second, which led to a 7-12 record in extra innings. An unexpectedly strong effort from the bullpen in the early going and then the patchwork rotation late is all that kept the Cubs from looking much worse.
That’s why, as the president of baseball operations told 670 The Score’s Laurence Holmes and Leila Rahimi on Wednesday, he’s looking to find ways to score more runs.
“We definitely need to continue to add offensively. We didn’t have enough power this year,” Hoyer said. “When I look at the breakdown of our season, I mentioned this in the press conference, we just didn’t blow anyone out. We played so many close games, and that’s taxing on your bullpen and it also brings luck into the equation a lot. When you play a lot of close games, you’re actively bringing randomness into the game.
“The best teams blow people out, and you go back and look at the 2016 team, we blew everyone out. You look at teams like the Braves and the Dodgers, what they do in games decided by five or more runs, and their record is incredible. That to me is the mark of a really good team.”
Exactly how he’ll go about trying to add that offense is unknown at this point, but there’s ample reason to believe the Cubs will be swimming in the deep end of the free agent pool. Yes, even with Hoyer and everyone else in the organization talking about spending intelligently. While it’s possible to interpret that as seeking value first, it would be very intelligent to throw a good deal of money at an obvious weakness.
It would also be intelligent to see if they can lure a big-time hitter with a shorter deal that pays more in annual value than the market might otherwise dictate. There are any number of ways the Cubs can go about improving their run-scoring capabilities this offseason, the most obvious of which to this point has been with one of the top available shortstops.
They also need a serious upgrade in center field, though presumably only until Pete Crow-Armstrong is ready. One intriguing possibility there is Mike Yastrzemski, who would likely have to be acquired via trade with the Giants. The Cubs have plenty of pitching depth and should be adding even more, so they might be a solid match with San Francisco on a deal.
I wonder if Adrian Sampson for Yastremski could make sense. Maybe the Cubs need to add another piece, but it's two older guys of similar value and age, and the Giants will need to rebuild their rotation some this winter. https://t.co/WblWrcue4k
— Brad (@ballskwok) October 13, 2022
The 32-year-old Yastrzemski is projected to earn $5.7 million via arbitration for 2023 and he’s under club control for two more years after that, so he’s more than just a stopgap. Ian Happ only has one year left at this point, so Yastrzemski could possibly shift to left in the future or serve as a fourth outfielder if Happ gets an extension.
Yastrzemski’s production doesn’t leap off the page, but he’s produced at least 2.0 fWAR in each of his four seasons so far. That includes a rookie campaign in which he played just 107 games, plus the shortened 2020 season. He has good power from the left side, something the Cubs desperately need, and his glove is solid as well.
I’m not saying this is the move that puts the Cubs over the top, but it’s the kind of move they need to be making in order to fill out the roster appropriately. As cool as it is to wish for the more obvious upgrades, it’s these ancillary tweaks that will really put this team back in contention. That’s where the front office fell short after 2016 and I think it’s where Hoyer will look to course-correct moving forward.