It was a bit more of a subdued crowd than usual at Cubs Convention this weekend, as fans wait to see whether the team will have the flexibility needed to make moves after a disappointing ending to the 2018 season.
The Cubs, who won 95 games but lost a divisional tiebreaker to the Milwaukee Brewers and the National League Wild Card Game against the Colorado Rockies, have made scant few moves over the offseason, and Cubs President Theo Epstein has taken heat from fans that have wanted to see more changes made.
“I promise fans this is the hardest I’ve ever worked in an offseason,” he said. “The results in terms of adding players aren’t there, but I think we’ve done a lot of good work behind the scenes to get better and to put our best foot forward.”
The Cubs have added infielder Daniel Descalso to their roster, and also opted to keep pitcher Cole Hamels by picking up his 2019 option. Outside of those moves however, the Cubs have been content to let their current players improve next season as a way to get better, but Epstein says he understands why some fans may not be on board with that strategy.
“I completely get it from a fan standpoint,” he said. “There are a lot of questions out there, and I actually appreciate that, just to have fans who are passionate about baseball and winning as we are. Even if the tone isn’t always what you want to hear, it’s coming from the right place. It reflects the fact that standards have been raised around here quite a bit.”
Those fan concerns have only been intensified by the fact that other clubs have made moves. The Cincinnati Reds acquired Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and are also reportedly interested in acquiring starting pitcher Sonny Gray from the New York Yankees.
The St. Louis Cardinals have also been busy, signing reliever Andrew Miller and trading for first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“We thought of it as the toughest division in baseball last year, and it’s clearly gotten stronger,” Epstein said. “Most divisions have one team you look forward to playing, and ours is going to be really challenging from top to bottom. Whoever wins this division will have accomplished something.”
Despite the Cubs’ seeming lack of moves, Epstein sought to reassure fans that the team has made progress in getting better, no matter what the transaction log says on MLB.com.
“I understand the way things look like from the outside during the winter,” he said. “You can’t go out and win games in the winter. All we can do is adding players, and we haven’t added as many players as we normally have, but behind the scenes, there’s a lot we’ve done.”