(670 The Score) With spring training set to open in just more than a week, activity picked up across MLB recently.
As the Cubs officially added outfielder Joc Pederson, right-hander Trevor Williams and reliever Andrew Chafin last week, the Cardinals had recently completed a blockbuster move to acquire star third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Rockies. It was a move by the Cardinals that Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer saw coming, as Arenado had been on the trade market. Chicago had even checked in on Arenado’s availability one year before.
"We had certainly had some initial conversations with Colorado," Hoyer said. “He is a great player and star. As far as the Cardinals getting him, it is a bitter pill. They certainly got better. This was not a surprise to us in any way. All winter there were rumors it was going to happen, so it was not a surprise. The Cardinals are a very good team. Arenado makes them better. My experience in the game is that chasing and reacting to other teams’ moves is a bad idea. You must make the moves for your team that are the right ones to make.
"This has been an unusual offseason for this division. All offseason the other divisions like the National League East have been very active. But now we have made some moves and the Brewers added (second baseman Kolten) Wong, which helps them. The Cardinals now have Arenado. It was inevitable these teams were eventually going to do things to get better.”
As the Cardinals have made a big addition, the Cubs have watched as a handful of key players exited. They traded ace Yu Darvish to the Padres, non-tendered outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. and let left-handers Jon Lester and Jose Quintana walk in free agency. The Cubs will now be counting on Pederson (one-year, $7-million deal), Williams (one-year, $2.5 million deal) and Chafin (one-year, $2.75-million deal) to fill some of their holes. The Cubs also still hope to add on before spring training starts.
So what allowed them to make the flurry of signings recently after the Cubs had been quiet for most of the offseason?
"It was a number of different circumstances allowing the business side to forecast different things for us,” Hoyer said about now having some revenue to add more players. "I think there were a number of things that allowed us to go from the lower end of spending higher up.”
While Pederson is the highest-profile free agent the Cubs added this offseason, Williams could be a big key as well. The Cubs have two spots to fill in the back end of their rotation, and he’ll be in the mix.
Williams, 28, is coming off a 2020 season in which he had a 6.18 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 11 starts for the Pirates, who designated him for assignment back in November. That marked Williams’ second straight rough season after he posted a 5.38 ERA in 26 starts for Pittsburgh in 2019. He had a strong 2018 campaign in which he posted a 3.11 ERA, and that’s the form the Cubs want to help him rediscover.
"This year we are looking at the starters with seven or eight guys involved,” Hoyer said. "We will continue to look at adding to the rotation. That is an area we want to continue to build. We are happy to bring on Trevor Williams. We have had success with pitchers like him before. We will continue to try and add rotation pieces through the rest of the winter. I would say if there is anything that keeps me up at night, it is the depth of our pitching staff.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.