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Baseball lifer Jack McKeon thought Chicago Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde was qualified to become a major-league manager five seasons ago.

Hyde still awaits that chance as his latest candidacy links him to the Baltimore Orioles.

That lengthy period may pale in comparison to how long antsy Cubs fans have anticipated a series of moves to retool a team that was abruptly knocked out in the National League wild-card game.

But the reality is the offseason won't reach the halfway point until next week -- when the annual winter meetings start and activity traditionally reaches a zenith.

The Cubs agreed to terms with prized left-hander Jon Lester four years ago. The following year, they traded infielder Starlin Castro to make room for free agent Ben Zobrist, and three days later agreed to terms with outfielder Jason Heyward.

They acquired closer Wade Davis from the Royals one month after winning the 2016 World Series title, and shored up their bullpen by signing Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek -- their best free-agent signing -- at the start and finish of last year's meetings.

This history doesn't guarantee moves will be made by next week -- especially with luxury tax concerns -- but the extra month of internal evaluations and discussions with other teams can only enhance their pursuit.

One scout familiar with the Cubs pointed to the need for stability at the leadoff spot since Dexter Fowler's departure two years ago, although he wondered how they would address it.

"They're born, or you acquire them," he said, echoing a sentiment held by former Chicago White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker.

Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto had the type of season many forecasted for Willson Contreras -- .277 batting average with 21 home runs and 74 RBI. But Realmuto can become a free agent in 2021, raising the question of whether the Cubs would accelerate their push toward another World Series title at the expense of Contreras, who is one season away from arbitration.

Furthermore, a source familiar with Realmuto and Contreras said the perceived defensive gap isn't as wide as the sabermetrics indicate, with Contreras working more seamlessly with Lester.

Offensive production remains a priority in the wake of the second-half struggles, and marquee free agent Bryce Harper remains available -- albeit at a hefty cost accompanied by plenty of competition from teams without luxury tax consequences (Philadelphia Phillies, White Sox) and those apparently willing to go the extra yard (Washington Nationals, New York Yankees).

Many Cubs fans turned despondent last week when free agent Jesse Chavez signed a two-year contract with the Texas Rangers.

Impact left-handers Zach Britton, whom the Cubs courted near the 2017 trade deadline, and Andrew Miller would strengthen the bullpen immensely, but they could get a longer contract elsewhere.

The Cubs have other needs, such as a backup middle infielder and perhaps a veteran position player that can serve as a mentor a la David Ross (2015-16) and Jon Jay (2017).

To this point, the Cubs' moves have been dictated by deadlines and have resulted in retaining left-hander Cole Hamels, trading pinch-hitting specialist Tommy La Stella and tendering a contract to Addison Russell.

The coaching staff may be announced shortly after Hyde -- currently the Cubs' bench coach -- learns his fate with the Orioles.

But two months since their season-ending loss represents enough time for the Cubs to crystalize their annual winter shopping list with plenty of inventory still available.

Sports on 12/05/2018

Print Headline: Time for Cubs to make roster moves


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