By: Chris Larson
Ever since the 2015 regular season, when the window originally opened up for this run for the Chicago Cubs, the organization has developed a mission of being bold. Being bold everyday that the team takes the field in the way the lineup is constructed, bold in the overall mentality of the clubhouse culture that has been established, and bold in terms of player acquisitions.
Today's signing of free agent reliever, Craig Kimbrel, further enhances that boldness and proves that the Chicago Cubs continue to remain committed to their organizational philosophy of doing everything they can to be a perennial contender and attempting to keep this window open for as long as possible. Of course, that boldness peaked tremendously in 2016 when the team went onto win the World Series and remains one of the key philosophies as Chicago looks to make it back to the promised land.
One of the key trades that helped to back up the mission of being bold for the Cubs front office occurred during the middle part of the 2016 regular season, when Theo Epstein & Company made a very bold move by acquiring reliever, Aroldis Chapman, from the New York Yankees. Epstein & Company ended up giving up a package of four players for Chapman, but it can be argued that the acquisition of Chapman was one of the primary reasons why the Cubs ultimately ended up being World Series Champions.
Another key trade happened in July 2017 when the team acquired starting pitcher, Jose Quintana, from the crosstown Chicago White Sox. At the time, the Cubs were looking to add substantial depth to their starting rotation, once again trying to be bold, and took the industry by storm when the trade was officially announced especially since it was between two teams that play in the same market. Quintana was easily the best arm available at the time and with the bold attitude of the Cubs front office, they found a way to strike a deal.
However, the boldness certainly hasn't stopped there, as the Cubs front office has been very bold in their overall approach to free agency as well. Dating back to the 2015 regular season, the Cubs front office has committed $520 million dollars in free agency, a figure that accounts for past and future salaries to the contracts of: Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Jason Heyward, Tyler Chatwood, Brad Brach, and Steve Cishek.
Add on top of that today's reported deal with Craig Kimbrel, which is being reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN, as being a three-year deal with a guaranteed $45 million dollars that includes a fourth-year option valued at $16 million dollars. Taking the guaranteed $45 million dollars into account and figuring it into the above value, from the previous paragraph of $520 million dollars, the Cubs will have guaranteed a total of $565 million dollars in free agency. If that's not an example of a team, owenership group, and front office being bold, then there's nothing else around the game that should be considered bold.
Granted, some of the money committed to free agents has certainly worked and contributed on a significant level to the success of the big league club, while other contracts haven't necessarily worked out in the Cubs favor to date. It's easy to say that the Jon Lester deal has paid off so far and that the Yu Darvish deal should eventually pay off moving forward, but there is reason to exercise caution when it comes to Darvish as he continues to climb up in age and as the mileage racks up on his arm. However, the Chicago Cubs knew that risk when they signed him and it's all part of the recipe to being bold and taking a chance.
Furthermore, the Tyler Chatwood deal, appeared as though it might be one of those contracts that ends up being a wasted investment last season, but Chatwood has found a way to rebound so far this year. So far this season, over the span of 31 and 1/3 innings of work, Chatwood has posted a 3.45 ERA with 25 strikeouts. During the last seven games alone, Chatwood has a 2.81 ERA over 16 innings of work, which is a promising sign that he could continue that pace for the remainder of this season and is on pace to be better than last year's results. Last season, Tyler Chatwood finished the season with a 5.30 ERA over 103.2 innings pitched and had an Opponent On-Base Percentage of (.403) over that span.
As for the Jason Heyward deal, it's seemingly worked out in most regards for the Cubs. Not only was it a bold move at the time to commit to an 8-year, $184 million dollar deal with Hayward, it was a signing that many around the industry questioned. However, since the 2016 regular season - the first of Heyward's tenure with the Cubs, Jason Heyward has a cumulative batting line of: .251/.325/.373 with a (.279) BABIP and a (.306) Weighted On-Base Average. Not the best production of any hitter in the league, but enough offense to lengthen the Cubs lineup and Heyward is still only 29-years old meaning that there could be more development to come.
With the reported deal of Craig Kimbrel, the Chicago Cubs have once again proved that they knew they had a pressing need to add to the back end of their bullpen and knew they had to go with the best option on the free agent market. Today, the best option was Kimbrel and it didn't cost the team a draft pick, they didn't have to give up any prospects, and they are getting one of the best relievers, over the past number of seasons, in an effort to not only improve the bullpen for this season, but for the next two, potentially three, seasons which brings the discussion to the one other thought.
As the deals mentioned in this article have shown, Theo Epstein & Company are never afraid to make a deal when they see fit or when there is a pressing need in an effort to make the team more competitive at the big league level. That was illustrated by the trade deadline deals mentioned above, with the Cubs aggressiveness in free agency, and will once again likely be the case at this year's trade deadline. Although the Cubs continue to say that they have very little wiggle room to work with in order to stay under the $207 million dollar luxury tax threshold, they will find a way to do something at the July 31st Trade Deadline and enhance the Cubs chances of not only winning the National League Central, but playing deep into October.
It's happened every single July to this point and there's no reason why it won't happen again this coming year. It's all a part of the Cubs entire front office being bold, acting bold, and making it a mission to always be bold with every single acquisition that is made in an effort to put the best Cubs team possible, on the field, every single day. The only question is: how bold will the move be and what exactly does Theo Epstein & Company have up their sleeve? Between now and July 31st, that question will be answered.
For now, the Chicago Cubs front office, team, and fan base can all celebrate knowing that they have that lockdown closer at the backend of the bullpen and have only strengthened their big league team more. Exactly how the deal will end up turning out, remains to be seen, but it screams boldness and that's something that the Cubs front office has embraced ever since this window originally opened.