Left-hander Justin Steele’s consistency over the past two months ideally can be main the Chicago Cubs on a push to the postseason.
Instead, the Cubs sit 17 video games out of the division lead after a 4-3 win in 10 innings Friday night time towards the Milwaukee Brewers and are searching for optimistic momentum to hold into an vital offseason for the franchise.
Steele, who departed within the sixth inning with decrease again tightness, allowed one run in 5⅓ innings and has a 1.49 ERA in his final 10 begins.
Steele’s breakout season alongside rotationmate Keegan Thompson offers the Cubs a pair of youthful starters they envision fortifying the pitching workers by homegrown arms. Meanwhile, shortstop Nico Hoerner’s all-around efficiency, contact-oriented offensive profile and budding management current a lineup-stabilizing power to enhance elite protection at a number of positions.
“Nico has definitely solidified himself as an every-day big-league player, so that helps out a ton whenever you can define those things — and it’s not even about us defining (it), the player defines it,” supervisor David Ross mentioned Friday. “Because he went out and (has proved) he’s a really good player and somebody we’ve always believed in. Now it’s just putting numbers to the beliefs.”
Given the Cubs’ monetary flexibility — solely three gamers have assured cash past 2023 — the group is well-positioned to make a splash within the offseason.
And a part of that calculus ought to embrace extending gamers by their arbitration years and into free company for these projected to be a part of the long-term nucleus. Hoerner, Steele and Thompson match that mould.
“Certainly when you think about where we’re spending money or building a team, we absolutely have people in-house we want to extend beyond their arbitration years,” staff President Jed Hoyer mentioned Thursday. “I think that’s without question.”
The Cubs often have been capable of finding pre-free-agency center floor with their blossoming younger gamers. In 2013, they gave Anthony Rizzo a seven-year, $41 million extension lower than three years into his profession. In March 2019, two years earlier than he reached free company, Kyle Hendricks signed a four-year, $55.5 million extension. Otherwise notable gamers have departed through trades — Kris Bryant, Javier Báez and Rizzo — been non-tendered (Kyle Schwarber) or are on the verge of enjoying elsewhere and not using a new deal (impending free agent Willson Contreras and would-be 2023 free agent Ian Happ).
“My job to go out there and play, and we’ll see what Jed and the organization want to do,” Happ instructed the Tribune on Friday. “It’s interesting to see how some of the other clubs have done (arbitration-year extensions), and that hasn’t been something that’s happened here in past, but we’ll see if it becomes more of a common thing.”
The contracts the Cubs might discover are unlikely to succeed in the extent of offers agreed to by Seattle Mariners 21-year-old outfielder Julio Rodríguez on Friday — value at the least $210 million assured — and Tampa Bay Rays 21-year-old star Wander Franco’s 11-year, $182 million contract he signed in November.
But different current contracts that cowl anyplace from pre-arbitration, arbitration or free-agent years, notably these performed by the Atlanta Braves, can present a blueprint for the Cubs to lock of their youthful standout gamers.
The Braves prolonged outfielder Michael Harris II (eight years, $72 million) and third baseman Austin Riley (10 years, $212 million) in August after their earlier strategy with Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Matt Olson. The Rays on Friday agreed to a two-year extension with right-hander Tyler Glasnow, shopping for out his first yr of free company in 2024.
Some groups are prioritizing and valuing value certainty. Happ, the Cubs’ participant union consultant, has taken observe of the current development and believes the brand new collective bargaining settlement is contributing to those offers. Among the options included within the CBA: a pre-arbitration cash pool for gamers and gaining a yr of service time, thus reaching free company sooner, by successful a Rookie of the Year award.
“Especially now that you’re at the beginning of a five-year period where things are set, I think that it’s easier for teams to go out and create cost certainty than it was in the last couple of years, especially during the pandemic, and then leading up to a negotiation where you’re trying to figure out exactly what the landscape is going to look like,” Happ instructed the Tribune on Friday. “Now that there is a little bit more certainty, generally what the rules are going to be for five years, that’s why you’re seeing guys and teams go out and try to create more certainty for themselves over the next five.”
So ought to the Cubs do the whole lot of their energy to increase some mixture of Hoerner, Steele and Thompson, if not all of them? Their numbers and development mixed with their potential backs up the worth of multiyear offers. As a big-market staff, the Cubs can soak up the potential hit if one contract doesn’t pan out to its most potential.
“Those are three guys that have really stepped up and made it clear they are going to be a big part of the future for years to come,” Hoyer mentioned. “We want to make sure they experience the whole season, understand the grind of it, but also make sure they’re healthy going into ’23.”