PHILADELPHIA — For two days this week in Los Angeles, Kyle Schwarber met with friends.
Tuesday’s All-Star Game brought together Schwarber and former Chicago Cubs teammates Willson Contreras and Ian Happ, but by August 2, Contreras and Happ could find themselves in the same spot as Phillies slugger Philadelphia, as a former Cubs.
Contreras remains virtually without a contract extension before free agency is just a few months away, while trading Happ, a free agent after the 2023 season, would capitalize on his maximized trade value.
“I just remember when I was with the Cubs and people would come up and say, you know, it’s not better on the other side,” Schwarber told the Tribune. “For me, don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing guidance. I love all the people who were there, but there are still a lot of really good baseball organizations that do things right and care about the players like the Cubs do.
“It’s not the end of the world if they don’t get an extension. There are still good things on the other side.”
The Cubs scored five runs in the 10th inning Saturday for a 6-2 win, their second straight against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
As the trade deadline approaches, manager David Ross learned from last year’s sellout how to keep the team locked down after significant roster changes. He learned the importance of staying true to day-to-day preparation and identifying who might be a piece for the next season or who might have major development ahead of them.
Ross doesn’t want to know too much about the ongoing trade talks from the front office. He prefers to focus on trying to win games and not let potential business knowledge affect his personality or his relationships with the players. So President Jed Hoyer and the front office “pretty much keep me on the sidelines.”
“We can have conversations from time to time, but judging from last year, the conversation about any particular player can change four or five times,” Ross said. “I don’t give it much importance. I know how rumors fly.
Ross always tries to be optimistic. He knows where the Cubs are in the standings, but he sees reason to be positive about the future. Nico Hoerner tends to become a star. Christopher Morel appears to be a dynamic and versatile player. Right-hander Keegan Thompson and southpaw Justin Steele look like the real deal. And with right fielder Seiya Suzuki returning from the disabled list, he’s showing why so many teams went after him this offseason.
The Cubs will have the financial resources to make a splash in free agency this offseason. It would speed up any timeline for them to compete, something that should be a priority, especially with the young talent coming through their minor league system.
While the path the Cubs have ultimately taken might turn out to be the right move, it’s still amazing how quickly the organization tore down a roster that made the postseason five times in six years.
“I mean, I’d be lying if I said no, I’m not surprised,” said Schwarber, who entered Saturday leading the NL with 30 home runs. “I will never know the business side of the game, the financial aspects or anything like that. I’m just a player and it’s a big market team. It’s the Chicago Cubs and they won a World Series not too long ago, so I guess that’s shocking.”
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Under Theo Epstein and now Hoyer’s regime, the Cubs have signed only one player they drafted for a contract extension: infielder David Bote.
“I didn’t expect anything from them in terms of … I’m the type of person who would never think I would get an extension or anything like that,” Schwarber said. “I just wanted to wait to see if it would ever come. But to see a guy like (Anthony Rizzo) who has been there for so many years and was a staple there with all the off-the-field stuff that he did for the city of Chicago, it’s a huge loss for the city.”
Schwarber went on to praise what Kris Bryant and Javier Baez did in a Cubs uniform.
“If I’m the Schwarber fan we’re talking about, yeah, I’m surprised they didn’t keep anyone there,” Schwarber said. “But baseball player Schwarber also understands that there are things that are not in our control, and all we can do is go out and play … the best we can and try to win and no matter what happens, it will happen. ”
The Cubs have a path worth exploring. The Washington Nationals are considering trade offers for 23-year-old superstar outfielder Juan Soto after he turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract extension. The Cubs may be in play for generational talent and give their rebuild a big boost. Regardless, getting a dynamic player in the offseason is a must.
“When you’re building a team, there’s a process to that and an overall vision,” Ross said. “It’s not my money, but I don’t think there are $500 million contracts ready to be wasted by every owner or general manager.
“Acquiring talent, young talent, that is something that has definitely been on our radar for a long time. I leave all those things to the front office, but the more good players we can get, I’m totally on board.”