WASHINGTON -- An 11-game losing streak sealed the Chicago Cubs' fate in the standings not only for 2021, but also for the future of the franchise well beyond this season.
In a span of 24 hours, president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer tore down the team he helped build -- one that won a World Series in 2016. First baseman Anthony Rizzo was traded to the New York Yankees, shortstop Javy Baez to the New York Mets and third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant to the San Francisco Giants.
All three popular Cubs will be free agents after this season.
"We could either hold these players for two months and have them compete for a fourth-place team or do everything we could do in our power to reset our farm system and reset our organization," Hoyer said on a post-trade deadline Zoom call. "We accelerated that over the last 10 days or so."
Hoyer also traded All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox. Though it looks like a full-on rebuild, Hoyer actually believes he avoided one, calling the Cubs' significant roster shake-up at the trade deadline difficult but necessary.
"Was it emotionally difficult?" Hoyer asked. "Yes. Do I think it was absolutely the right thing for the organization? I do."
He cited clubs such as the Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and Giants, who went all the way to the end of their team control with players and then took years to be competitive again.
"They ran to the end of the cliff and fell off and they had to rebuild," Hoyer said. "We were willing to go to that point if this was a winning team this year, but we weren't, so with that we were able to speed that process up dramatically."
The Cubs sped it up even before the season began when they traded Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish and failed to make meaningful additions to the team. Their inability to sign their own players to contract extensions also contributed to the breakup. From the 2016 roster, only pitcher Kyle Hendricks signed a long-term deal.
"I have to say that we made offers to everyone that I believe will stand up exceptionally well," Hoyer said. "We weren't able to reach deals. Does that frustrate me? It does, but I have to be honest, I know we put our best foot forward. I'm proud of the offers we made."
Rizzo turned down an extension this past spring, while Baez was a pandemic casualty as talks stalled when baseball shut down in March.
There's disagreement between the Cubs and Bryant's camp on exactly what -- or if --- he was offered a big contract several years ago. Bryant claims he never saw a deal worth over $200 million or else he would have signed it.
The team also struggled to an extent since winning the World Series. There were three more playoff appearances between 2017 and 2020 but the team was flawed, lacking contact as well as young, up-and-coming pitching. Despite being in pennant races every year, the Cubs underachieved, looking and performing poorly at the plate in particular.
The result of it all was Hoyer maxing out the situation facing him on Friday and trading for seven players over the past two days, all of whom are at the beginnings of their careers.
"There's two types of currency in this game," Hoyer said. "There's prospect/talent currency and there's financial currency. The last two or three years, we were short on both.
"We have prospect currency and financial currency going forward."
But now they are short on star players as a depleted Cubs team took the field on Friday night against a depleted Washington Nationals squad. Both organizations are resetting with the hope to compete again in short order. For Hoyer, it meant saying goodbye to players he's watched grow up. Players who helped break a 108-year championship drought.
"I don't want anyone to feel like there is a lack of emotion," Hoyer said about trading away a number of beloved players. "Did we decide as a group to not have them the last two months here? We did. But I love those guys and I hope people understand that. What we created was really special."