I woke up to the news that the Cubs have signed free agent outfielder, Jason Heyward to an 8-year, $184 million deal. What struck me most about the news wasn’t how great of a deal the Cubs got for one of the best young players in the MLB, it was how inevitable it all seemed in retrospect. It’s not even all that shocking that Heyward reportedly took less money to come to the Northside. This is an organization that can now draw top shelf free agents at a bargain.
That sounded weird when I said it out loud. Let’s try that again:
The Chicago Cubs can now draw top shelf free agents at a bargain.
We truly live in interesting times.
When Theo Epstein came to the Cubs in 2011 the goal was to rebuild the team with draft picks, and create a sustainable core with which it could build around. When you look at the guys who were leading the Cubbies to their improbable playoff run last year: Kris Bryant (age 23), Kyle Schwarber (age 22), Javier Baez (age 23), Addison Russell (age 21); you see a team that is built for a decade long run. It takes so much talent to be able to build up an organization like this. Everyone from Theo to GM Jed Hoyer, to the scouting and development departments all have to be on the same page when it comes to this kind of rebuilding plan.
The ultimate coo for Epstein may have been singing Joe Maddon last year. There is no better manager for this team. His calming influence over the clubhouse and understanding of advanced metrics makes him the kind of manager that modern sports fans salivate over. When super utility man Ben Zobrist signed his four year, $56 million deal this Wednesday it was Maddon who got on the horn to convince Zobrist to take the Cubs deal over better offers from perennial NL powers Washington and San Francisco.
There are no scarier three words to a sports fan of a long troubled franchise than, “trust the process.” All you have to do is look at the shit show that is currently taking place in Philadelphia with the 76ers as evidence that rebuilds can be long, bloody affairs. But what happened in Chicago was a true rebuild, that was meticulously thought out by talented architects who were given the time and control to properly build up franchise that could contend over a long period of time.
There are no guarantees in baseball. Having a super talented team does not guarantee a championship. You can have a murders row for a lineup and the best pitcher in baseball and still not make it to the World Series – sorry Cubs fans, I had to needle a little. You can’t necessarily build a team to win now like you can in the NBA, and to a lesser extent, the NFL. What you can do, and what Theo and Co. have done so brilliantly in these five years, is give your team as many spins at the playoff wheel as possible.
So here we go. It’s winter 2015 and the Chicago Cubs are Vegas favorites to win the World Series next year at 9/1 odds. All of a sudden Cubs fans are the envy of the baseball world. If you are a Cubs fan out there just sit back and enjoy the next couple of years, because your franchise earned this.