Cubs' Trade Moves On Hold As Winter Meetings End

The Cubs are waiting for the free-agent market to play out a bit more.

Bruce Levine
December 12, 2019 - 1:04 pm

SAN DIEGO (670 The Score) -- While conversations with free agents and on the trade front were plentiful for the Cubs at the Winter Meetings, finding closure on deals will still take some more time.

The Cubs are pursuing a starting center fielder, bullpen depth and more athletic players in general. The pace of the free-agent market has been swift, and the trickle-down effect should be that the trade market becomes more robust soon. That explains the Cubs' current wait, as they're more likely to meaningfully act on the trade market due to their payroll constraints as they browse the free-agent market.

The Cubs were set to leave the Winter Meetings on Thursday without making a notable move. Their only action came in selecting right-hander Trevor Megill in the Rule 5 Draft.

"In general, there has been a focus on the free agency, which is totally logical," general manager Jed Hoyer said. "There are still some top guys in that market. We are not there yet. Christmas has always been a boundary for free agents getting done. So maybe we are getting back to that. That would leave the rest of December and January as more of the trading season."

Third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras have been the center of trade speculation. The Phillies, Braves, Nationals and Rangers are all in need of a third baseman with a big bat, and options are dwindling now that Anthony Rendon agreed to a seven-year, $245-million deal with the Angels. That leaves Josh Donaldson as the only premier third baseman left on the free-agent market. 

After Donaldson signs, that could open up more Bryant trade possibilities for the Cubs.

On the free-agent market, 31-year-old Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama continues to be on the Cubs' radar. They met with him at the Winter Meetings, and he could be a key part of the answer to their hole in center field and their leadoff spot, which was really troublesome in 2019. The Reds, Diamondbacks and Rays also are in the mix for Akiyama, who is looking in the range of a two-year deal worth $10 million, a source said.

The Cubs' challenge is being fiscally responsible moving forward with its current large payroll, as is ownership's mandate, while addressing glaring holes that must be filled for the team to compete at the highest level. And they must accomplish that while also best setting themselves up for the future beyond 2021, which means executives Theo Epstein and Hoyer must be creative and perhaps bold.

A combination of trade and free-agent signings continue to be the Cubs' plan to fortify their team for 2020 and beyond. It might just take a few more weeks or into the new year to happen.

"We have to make good decisions and ignore the noise," Epstein said. "We have to execute a good strategy based on where we are and who we are going forward -- our roster, our payroll, our budgets and our future. We must plot the best course of action. If you always are concerning yourself with the next morning's headlines or tweets, you are probably not going to do anything great. You can't be afraid of doing anything bold. You must look toward the future and try to win at the same time."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.