How the Cubs are pitching free agent targets to come to Chicago
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Each year, as the Cubs kick off their offseason, the team works on a video package to present to free agent targets. It’s a montage of exciting moments at Wrigley Field and of the team, meant to entice them into picking the Cubs.
Last offseason, the Cubs relied on highlights and excerpts from the past — moments around the 2016 championship-winning core — to showcase the Cubs and Wrigley Field.
The 2023 season totally changed that.
“You see the excitement in the ballpark, but it’s not excitement from the 2016 World Series. It’s excitement from Chris Morel hitting a walk off home run against the White Sox,” general manager Carter Hawkins said. “So, I think just the proximity of the excitement definitely helps and creates that foundation for us.”
This past season, the Cubs team won and won in manners that could show potential future Cubs what exactly they’re signing up for. Last season, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer mentioned they didn’t try and promise free agents a team that was going to win a certain number of games. Rather, they sold them on Wrigley Field and used highlights from raucous crowds around 2016 to showcase what it’s like.
This season, they can sell free agents on a team on the rise — an organization with one of the top farm systems and a roster nucleus that was as close to the playoffs as you can get. They’re showing free agents a boisterous Wrigley Field from mere months ago, showcasing what it can be.
These highlights aren’t distant memories or lofty thinking — they’re the present and the future of what they believe the organization can be.
“I think that part resonates too,” Hawkins said.
Hoyer has already succeeded with that pitch once this offseason. No one linked or even considered Craig Counsell to the Cubs as the top managerial candidate on the market.
Counsell, in turn, didn’t have any background done on the Cubs. So, Hoyer had to act quickly to compel Counsell to consider and accept the Cubs — and his pitch clearly worked. It’s a pitch centered around winning — whether or not that comes with a prized big-name target this offseason.
“I think I sold him on where the organization is going,” Hoyer said. “This wasn’t a referendum on ‘24 necessarily, but where we are as a franchise, or organization, this moment in time. I don’t feel any sort of need to make some big splash to justify that. Certainly, I have no doubt over the next few years we’ll be aggressive. If that’s this year, great. If that’s in the future years, again, I don’t feel like we have to do it because of that.”
Players are getting a similar approach. Beyond the financials, the players want to know that they’ll have the opportunity to compete and win. Hoyer, Hawkins and the Cubs clearly believe they’re in that position. Last season was the appetizer.
They hope 2024 and beyond are the main courses. They’ll just need a few more chefs — er, free agents — to round out the meal.
The ingredients are there — the farm system, signs of winning from 2023 and a core roster in place that’s locked up for the foreseeable future. The question that remains is whether or not free agents will see it and decide they want to be a part of it. Either this offseason or beyond.
“I don’t wanna look at this like one singular moment, where if we don’t capitalize on this one moment,” Hoyer said. “I think there’s a little bit of a window where in some ways maybe we’re in a position over the next couple of years [that] these guys come up, they perform, we know which guys we can count on long-term and that may actually free us up a little bit at that point. I don’t wanna look at it as this moment … they’re might be more of a window.”