By Julie DiCaro–
(CBS) Another Cubs Convention is in the books and, as usual, there was no shortage of embarrassing questions from fans, hats that shouldn’t be worn by anyone ever and grown men parading around in full Cubs uniforms. But amid all the chaos, autograph seeking and panel discussions, there are always some nuggets of genuine information to be had.
Here’s what we learned at Cubs Convention this year:
The Cubs may not be done dealing: No matter how many times Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer said “we really like this roster” over the weekend (and they said it several times), both also conceded they’re willing to listen to trade offers if a deal makes sense for the club. All indications are that the Cubs never really stopped talking to the Rays, who are high on both Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, according to sources. One place the Cubs may continue to look to upgrade is the pitching staff, and Rays pitchers Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi and Jake McGee would be potential good fits in Chicago.
The Cubs, however, are loathe to part with either Soler or Baez, at least one of whom is likely key to getting a deal done. Of course, the Cubs are in the enviable position of not having to do anything more to the roster. Front office members stated several times over the weekend that they’re perfectly fine heading into the season with the lineup as is.
The Cubs haven’t given up on Kyle Schwarber as a catcher: Or at least if they have, no one told catching coach Mike Borzello, who emphatically said of Schwarber, “He’s a catcher — and I’m not letting that go until Theo or (manager Joe Maddon) tells me he’s not a catcher anymore.” Borzello went on to praise both Schwarber’s intelligence and athleticism, saying he believes the youngster has the ability to catch at the major league level. But while the Cubs may use Schwarber to spell veteran Miguel Montero now and then, you should still look for Schwarber to get the bulk of his playing time in left field.
Next offseason could be a lot less exciting than this one: Epstein said during the baseball operations panel that this offseason was an outlier, pointing out that the Cubs went so big this offseason in large part because they aren’t as thrilled with the free agents who will be on the table after the 2016 season.
“It’s almost as if we had to do two offseasons worth of shopping in one season,” Esptein told the packed ballroom.
He went on to say that the Cubs may rely more on trades to fill gaps on the roster next offseason.
The front office doesn’t appear worried about coming to an agreement with Jake Arrieta: After reaching agreements with six arbitration-eligible players last week, the sole player on the roster who hasn’t settled on a 2016 salary figure is Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. While fans may view barreling toward an arbitration hearing as an ominous sign, Epstein said the process isn’t as fraught with conflict as fans think. After noting he’d never had a player in his organization proceed all the way to a hearing, Epstein said, “(Arbitration) is just a means to an end.”
And while the Cubs and Arrieta were $5.5 million apart when arbitration numbers were filed Friday, Epstein assured fans over the weekend that the team is well aware of Arrieta’s value and that the front office continues to have a good relationship with both Arrieta and his agent, Scott Boras. Hearings take place in February, so there’s still a few weeks before then to reach an agreement.
This team is all in: From the moment the usually reserved Baez came flying onto the stage with both hands in the air during Opening Ceremonies, it was clear the days of rebuilding are behind the Cubs. The confidence and sense of purpose in every player and member of the coaching staff was palpable the entire weekend. Beginning in 2016, there’s no more seasoning for the younger players, no more being “ahead of schedule.” From Maddon down to 40th man Matt Szczur, every single member of the Cubs organization believes this team can win the World Series this year, a feeling both elating and terrifying for the fan base.
If there was one storyline that was evident in abundance at Cubs Con, it was that the 2016 Cubs have cast off the lovable losers tag for good. And they have no intention of looking back.
Julie DiCaro is an update anchor and columnist for 670 The Score. She previously worked for 15 years as a lawyer in criminal and family court. Follow Julie on Twitter @JulieDiCaro or on Facebook. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.