The Chicago Cubs have gone their separate ways after their annual fan convention over the weekend, and while the club did answer some questions about the direction they’re heading in, there are still some that still need to be addressed.
The Cubs, who have made four straight playoff appearances but were bounced from the postseason after one game last year, will try to compete again in an increasingly tough division, but the team has made it a point this offseason to emphasize what the club can do from within, rather than what pieces they can acquire to change their fortunes.
With that strategy in mind, here are five questions that the team still needs to address before they get their spring training schedule started.
Is The Team Really Out on Any Big-Ticket Moves?
The Cubs have made it abundantly clear that they are not in the market for a big name superstar like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but until the players have signed with another team, speculation will remain rampant about the team’s chances of landing a big-name free agent.
The Cubs have had a few late-offseason free agent surprises during the Theo Epstein era, including outfielder Dexter Fowler and starting pitcher Yu Darvish, but neither was the caliber of player that Machado or Harper is. That being said, it will be fascinating to see if the Cubs end up breaking open the piggy bank if the saga continues to drag on.
How Will The Outfield Shake Out?
The Cubs’ outfield is a bit of a question mark for next season, as the team will try to balance playing time for Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, Ian Happ, and Jason Heyward. Add in Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist to that mix, and it becomes an increasingly muddled picture as Joe Maddon tries to keep everyone happy and playing often enough.
Of course, that outfield glut could get even worse if the Cubs end up signing a player like Harper, but in that situation it seems likely that a player or two would get traded to make room on the roster.
Is The Bullpen a Finished Product?
The Cubs dealt with a slew of bullpen injuries last season, with Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop both missing time at the end of the year, and they also had to deal with fatigue on the part of pitchers like Steve Cishek and Carl Edwards Jr.
The big question now for the Cubs is whether they’re going to try to add any bullpen arms from the free agent market to help avoid a repeat of that situation, or if they’ll rely on pitchers like Adbert Alzolay and Dillon Maples, among others, to address the issues of fatigue and ineffectiveness.
Will Javier Baez Have a Specific Position?
During a recent interview, Baez expressed hope that he can compete for a Gold Glove Award during the 2019 season, and that would mean spending more time at a single position, rather than bouncing all over the field.
Baez seems like the type of player who will play wherever Maddon asks him to, but with Addison Russell suspended for the first 40 games of the season and with Zobrist getting up there in age, it would seem reasonable to think that Baez could settle into a position for the long-term, rather than being a Jack-of-all-trades.
Will The Team Seek a Back-Up Catcher?
The Cubs have several catchers on their roster, including Victor Caratini and Taylor Davis, but will the team seek a veteran back-up to help avoid fatigue issues with Willson Contreras?
Several intriguing options are still on the market, including Martin Maldonado, Matt Wieters, and Devin Mesoraco. None should figure to make big dollar salaries in the coming year, but the Cubs could also stand pat with what they have.