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Seven weeks before the July 31 trade deadline, the first-place Chicago Cubs are positioning themselves to be buyers when that time arrives.
In his first season as Cubs president of baseball operations, tough decisions loom for Jed Hoyer, who is viewing the trade deadline at a macro level. Since the Cubs went from rebuilding to contending, Hoyer said it’s undeniable that the organization has been aggressive, trying to win now and becoming an in-season buyer.
Hoyer envisions continuing that trade-deadline approach.
“I don’t know why this year will be any different,” Hoyer said before Friday’s series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals. “There’s still a lot of time between now and then, needs could change over that time. But certainly when I think about the position we’re in, obviously I want to be on the buy side. I mean, that’s the place you want to be. That means you’re winning. That means this place is lively all summer.
“I look at our track record and we’ve always done that.”
The Cubs need to successfully navigate their June schedule, which is a gauntlet packed with road games and opponents with winning records. The impending free agency of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Báez adds a complicated wrinkle to Hoyer and the front office’s decisions in the coming weeks.
But it’s hard to fathom the Cubs trading away any of their star players next month if the Cubs continue playing well. It’s also not an ideal scenario for the team to see a a member of their star trio sign elsewhere in the offseason without gaining assets that could help the franchise transition into the next era of Cubs baseball.
Rizzo, Báez and Bryant have all expressed belief within the past week that the Cubs could retain all of them on new deals. However, Hoyer echoed his offseason comments, noting it would be unrealistic to say there are no financial considerations in keeping them all in a Cubs uniform beyond 2021.
“The three iconic Chicago players, obviously, there’s going to be a lot of competition for their services in the market, so of course in theory you’d love to have those players back and sometimes they’re hard decisions that a team has to make,” Hoyer said. “I’m not going to shut the door on anything, but I do feel like there has to be some awareness of what it would take financially and what that would mean over the next five years and what that would mean to the rest of the team.”
Hoyer’s more immediate focus is improving the roster should the Cubs maintain their place as one of the best teams in the National League. Right now, the rotation is the most obvious area to upgrade. Starting pitching tends to be a valuable commodity at the trade deadline, and pitching injuries and needs across the league could further create scarcity. The trade deadline preference is typically to acquire players under team control beyond the season rather than rentals, but Hoyer said sometimes that isn’t the case.
“I don’t see the calculus changing based on what’s going to happen in free agency,” Hoyer said. “I think the calculus will be, if we’re in that position what can we do to make the 2021 team better, fill holes on the ‘21 team.”