How Cubs are making their pitch to free agents this winter
SAN DIEGO — The Cubs continue to meet with some of the top free agents on the market this winter, including during the Winter Meetings in southern California.
The team has reportedly added a big piece to the roster in Cody Bellinger but they are still setting their sights on potentially adding veteran pitchers or even one of the top available shortstops.
The Cubs aren’t the only team meeting with these players and while money talks, it’s not everything. So how are Jed Hoyer, Carter Hawkins and David Ross making their “pitch” to free agents?
Well, Wrigley Field is not a bad place to start.
“I would say we don’t need a pitch, but it is a heck of a pitch,” Hawkins said Tuesday evening. “I mean, Chicago is an unreal city. And we all know that, especially in the summer. An unreal fan base. The support that we have, the players feel that and they talk about that and they know that coming in.
“The coaching staff that we have, the support staff we have, the resources we have — it sells itself because we’re trying to sell it each and every day. And I think the city and the fan base have done a great job making it a really attractive place for guys.”
Ross doesn’t go into these meetings with a specific pitch, instead opting to answer questions players throw his way about his experiences, thoughts, what’s important to him as a manager, etc.
“I’m not in the room to sell anything,” Ross said. “I don’t think we’re in a space that we have to sell the Chicago Cubs. I think it’s a special place.
“The convincing or the expectation that things are going in the right direction — I think a lot of guys that are knowledgeable in baseball see [that].”
The Cubs just wrapped an 88-loss season in which they finished in 3rd place in the NL Central. This came on the heels of a 91-loss 2021 campaign that also featured a historic sell-off at the trade deadline.
But the Cubs also went 39-31 after the All-Star Break and picked up some serious momentum heading into the offseason.
The organization is rife with young talent — both at the big-league level and coming up through the minor league system. Nico Hoerner and Seiya Suzuki have already established themselves as very solid players who could make the jump into stardom in the near future while prospects like Matt Mervis and Pete Crow-Armstrong could be knocking at the door soon.
Then there’s the young pitching, with arms like Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad joining more established players like Justin Steele, Adbert Alzolay and Keegan Thompson in the big leagues down the stretch.
Mix in reliable veterans like Marcus Stroman, Ian Happ and Kyle Hendricks and the Cubs have a solid foundation for 2023. But they know they need to continue to add players to get back to contention.
“There’s a couple different ways to get better next year, right?” Hawkins said. “There’s new additions going into next year, there’s guys that we already have that are getting better. There’s guys that we already have in the farm system that are coming up and you paint that picture. You talk about the things that we’re doing.
“I think players saw the second half last year and the competitive team that we put on the field every day during that second half. And we can talk through that vision a little bit and talk through how that player fits into it. So it’s really actually a pretty easy conversation with guys.”
Ross is an extremely competitive manager who went to the playoffs 7 times in his 15-year playing career and picked up a pair of World Series rings. He talks often about championship caliber baseball and understanding what winning looks like.
In meetings with free agents, he lets that passion and experience come out.
“I get really excited to talk about what it’s like to win in Chicago, what our organization’s all about, the expectations that the fans have and how they support us,” Ross said. “The facilities we have, the coaching staff, the support staff, our front office, our ownership. I start talking about those things — I have really great memories and experiences with all of that, all of Chicago, the city itself, the people. All the way down to the babysitting. It’s all encompassing.
“When they ask me questions, it’s really easy to talk positively about our group. And it’s just genuine. I hope that’s what these players see and recognize is that it’s just genuine realness from me that I really believe that and I’ve experienced it because I know what it’s like and I can speak from my true experiences as a player.”
As for where the Cubs are going in the future, Ross’s message is clear.
“I think we’ve got a really good chance to win with our organization moving forward,” he said. “I’m very confident that we’re moving in the right direction. … There’s a bright future ahead.”