CHICAGO -- There is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place and baseball is waking from its dormant offseason period. That means there will be a flurry of moves as teams pick up the pace in the weeks leading to Opening Day.
Coming off a 91-loss season, the Cubs will resume their search for roster reinforcements that balance competing now with planning for the future. Chicago's leadership has emphasized that it does not want to embark on a long rebuild, making the team's next moves important in seeing what the vision is for the North Siders' 2022 campaign.
Here is an FAQ-style look at where the Cubs' offseason stands as things begin rolling again around the Majors:
What deals have the Cubs already done?
• Signed right-hander Marcus Stroman to a three-year, $71 million contract on Dec. 1, just minutes before the lockout began. Stroman's pact includes an opt-out clause following the 2023 season. As one of the market's top free-agent arms, Stroman immediately improves the rotation.
• Signed catcher Yan Gomes to a two-year deal worth $13 million guaranteed on Dec. 1. The contract includes a $6 million team option for '24, or a $1 million buyout. Gomes can help ease All-Star Willson Contreras' workload in '22 and locks in catching depth for at least one additional year.
• Signed outfielder Clint Frazier to a one-year, $1.5 million deal on Dec. 1. With a need for versus-lefty outfield help, Frazier joins the Cubs as a cost-effective option with high upside if he stays healthy and reaches his full potential.
• Re-signed outfielder Michael Hermosillo to a one-year, $600,000 contract on Dec. 1. Hermosillo impressed the Cubs in his brief MLB action down the stretch, but a left forearm injury ended his season prematurely.
• Acquired outfielder Harold Ramírez from the Guardians for cash considerations on Nov. 22. Like Hermosillo, Ramírez gives the Cubs outfield depth and a right-handed bat to help balance the available options.
• Claimed lefty Wade Miley off waivers from the Reds on Nov. 5. The Cubs struck early with this surprising move, taking on all of Miley's $10 million salary in the process. It was an early chance for Chicago to add a veteran arm to a rotation with multiple vacancies.
What are the biggest remaining needs?
• Bullpen: There is no established closer and the Cubs currently have a mix of players who will be working to earn manager David Ross' trust as late-inning weapons. Ross values having veteran experience in the 'pen and Chicago has done well in unearthing cost-effective relievers who make an impact in recent seasons. Expect the Cubs to target some experienced arms to balance the pile of young options in place.
• Outfield: As things stand, Ross will have a host of players to mix and match in the outfield. Ian Happ could be full-time in left field, or move between there and center. Frazier can also be moved around. Rafael Ortega made an impact last year as a versus-righty center fielder, and Jason Heyward remains in place in right. Maybe Ross can maximize the production of what is in place, but more depth certainly would not hurt.
• Rotation depth: The starting group looks improved with Kyle Hendricks, Stroman and Miley at the top, but more depth will be needed. Alec Mills will compete for a job, with younger options like Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson also jockeying for position either in the rotation or bullpen. There is potential there, but the Cubs should want another layer or two of experience.
Will they focus on free agency or the trade market?
Last year made it clear that the Cubs are using the trade market to inject their farm system with more young talent. The team is not really in a position to trade top prospect talent or short-term gains at the big league level.
That being the case, expect the Cubs to continue to search the open market to fill the smaller 2022 needs. And if there is an opportunistic situation that makes a long-term investment make sense, that is the kind of deal Chicago could jump on. The three-year Stroman deal fit that mold.
The Cubs will also remain open-minded about trades to further build up the farm. Contreras, for example, is only signed through '22. Barring an extension, that makes him an attractive trade target for clubs willing to part with prospects.
Could there be a reunion with any core players traded last year?
Rather than lose them in free agency this offseason, the Cubs took the dramatic step of dealing away Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, among others, before the Trade Deadline last season. Báez, who finished '21 with the Mets, is now off the market after signing a six-year, $140 million contract with the Tigers.
As the Cubs balance their long-term future with the immediate picture, it is hard to envision a reunion with either Bryant or Rizzo unless the commitment is on the shorter side. In terms of roster fit, Bryant would make the most sense, given Chicago's need for offense and depth all over the field.
Do the Cubs still have arbitration-eligible players?
Happ is eligible for arbitration for the second time after earning $4.1 million in 2021. Contreras is eligible for the final time after being paid $6.65 million last year. Ramírez is projected to be eligible for arbitration for the first time as a Super Two player.
What is the Cubs' payroll situation?
The Cubs have $81.61 million in guaranteed salary on the books for 2022 between eight contracts. The projected cost of the arbitration cases would move the needle up to just under $100 million. Even when factoring in pre-arb players and other costs, the Cubs still have plenty of room to "stay nimble," as president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has phrased their goal for the payroll as it relates to transactions.
How many spots are open on the 40-man roster?
Currently, the Cubs have 39 players on their 40-man roster.
Have the Cubs added any non-roster invitees?
Yes. So far, there have been eight players added to date with invitations to attend Spring Training with the MLB club. The list includes pitchers Stephen Gonsalves, Jonathan Holder, Mark Leither Jr., Locke St. John, Eric Yardley; infielder Dixon Machado and Ildemaro Vargas; and catcher P.J. Higgins.