When the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, they had six players in the starting lineup who were younger than 25.
In a game long ruled by veterans, it was a remarkable infusion of youth. It also helped prop a winning window open for a lengthy stretch.
The Cubs did make it back to the playoffs the next two seasons, running their streak of October baseball to four years.
There was no postseason in 2019 and making matters even worse, the once youthful core is now looking to cash in.
“I think we were open about the fact that we’re open to talking about all of our guys,” president Theo Epstein said right before this weekend’s Cubs Convention opened. “We’re trying to compete now and also we’re more mindful than we’ve been in the last few years of trying to ensure a healthy future and a smooth transition away from this group, which is inevitable at some point.
“But we’ve never said any one player was definitely going to be moved or that we were seeking to move any one player. We’re just open that everything is on the table this offseason.”
After exceeding the salary cap last year and paying a $7.6 million luxury tax, the Cubs don’t want to be penalized again this season.
They likely have to move a significant contract to get under the threshold, while hopefully getting some quality young talent back in any trade.
Kris Bryant remains the most likely Cubs player to go, but there is another big star to keep an eye on.
While he continues to express a strong desire to sign an extension with the Cubs, shortstop Javy Baez settled for a $10 million contract for this season while avoiding salary arbitration.
He is eligible for free agency after the 2021 season.
“If it [an extension] happens, I’ll be grateful to be a Cub for my entire career,” Baez said. “Hopefully, it happens. If not, I’m obviously happy with everything that happened here.”
In 665 career games with the Cubs, Baez is batting .270/.310/.484 with 110 home runs and 354 RBI. He’s also one of the best defensive players in the game.
Baez’s career really took off in 2018, when he led the National League with 111 RBI while hitting 34 homers and finishing second to Christian Yelich in MVP voting.
A hairline fracture in his left thumb put Baez on the sidelines for almost the entire month of September last season, so the 27-year-old infielder just wants to get back to playing baseball.
“I’ve got my mind more to bring the team to the playoffs again,” Baez said. “This is a team that should be in the playoffs every year, with the team that we have and with the talent that we have.”
Epstein said it only takes one phone call to get a deal done. If that happens, Baez hopes it comes before the season starts.
“If not, there’s no pressure,” he said. “I’ve just got to play again. It’s up to them. When the right deal comes, we’ll be ready for it. We’ll see. My agency is doing a great job.”