CARLSBAD, California – The Cubs leave Southern California without adding to their bullpen, withdrawing wild trade or signing Bryce Harper.
Not that the items are expected to be checked from the team's offseason list this week, of course.
As Theo Epstein explained on Wednesday, the GM Meeting is to "build a foundation, get information and try to see which teams might be the most interesting to talk about based on their personnel and what they want to achieve."
Epstein and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said they spent their time at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa talking to other clubs about potential trade match, chatting with agents from people on the open market and brainstorming ideas.
Here are 8 takeaways from the GM Meeting:
1. Children do not appear to be big shopper
A little more than a week ago, it is believed the Cubs will be a major player in the free agent market this winter but many have changed in the past eight days. Last Friday, the Cubs traded Drew Smyly in a move to reduce salaries before taking the $ 20 million option Cole Hamels.
Then Epstein explained the Cubs' financial situation on Day 1 of the GM meeting, showing that it was impossible for the Cubs to be in Harper or Manny Machado or other big free agents.
That's fair and understandable. No team has made more dollars to list their 2019 than the current Cubs and they now have Hamels, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and Jason Heyward all make more than $ 20 million each this year.
No matter what the Cubs do from here, they are on track to have the highest salary in franchise history and pass the luxury tax threshold.
It's hard to see them beat some teams with crazy amounts of free money like the Philadelphia Phillies or the New York Yankees.
One glimmer of hope – some perspectives from agent Harper himself, Scott Boras:
"You don't want other teams to know that you are interested in a generation of players.
That makes sense. Why show your hand at this point in the offseason and raise the market?
2. This is Bryce's show now
Harper was much more of a topic than Machado during this week, thanks largely to an hour-long Boras session with media talking about dynamic young players ("Harper's Bazaar has definitely begun") and reports that Harper refused a 10-year deal, $ 300 million with citizens in the last week of the regular season.
It's still too early, of course, but it's clear that Harper is pushing the market more now than Machado, whose value is dipped in the lack of crowds (and subsequent comments) in October.
Machado will have time in the sun … it's not this weekend at SoCal.
3. Be prepared for the return of Addison Russell
Nothing was set in stone, of course, but assuming Russell continued to undergo therapy and rehab and reform, he could very well return with the Cubs. Theo and the organization felt responsible for being part of the solution and Russell's camp had not prepared an alternative.
When the discipline was handed down to Russell (a 40-match suspension) by MLB for domestic violence, it seems that all the Cubs will surely move from the young infielder.
That doesn't seem to be a certainty anymore and in fact the opposite looks right – Russell might get a chance to reform with his current club.
4. Practice the puzzle
What happened to the coaching staff?
We know the Cubs won't extend Joe Maddon this winter, but beyond that … crickets.
We will finally find out, but that has been a strange case from the Cubs offseason coaching staff, indeed.
5. Trade will come
Hoyer said the Cubs were "open for business" and both he and Epstein admitted several times they might be more appropriate to trade than free agent players this winter.
It's clear the Cubs are looking to make their lineup back if possible, but given their best assets as well as the player's position, how is the hunter-to-batter trade formed?
"There are many different ways to do it," Epstein said. "You can exchange service time hours, you can trade back for more years of control, you can trade for established men, you can trade for someone you think is ready to go out. There is no way to do it. You can trade two comparable players in various forms if you think it benefits you. "
The Cubs tempted the offseason to be busy last year with potential trading and nothing was formed. Things that might eventually take the same course this year and that can turn out to be a very calm offseason, but remember – the Cubs are at a very different point this year than they were before. This urgency is far stronger now after the season ended after only one playoff match and when it was clear the potential for closing the championship window began to emerge.
Therefore, legit cases for alternatives:
6. Maybe there will be no significant changes
Hoyer said, the Cubs felt like the answer to their 2018 internal misery – that is to make men healthy and perform at their standard level again.
Heading into 2019, you can almost consider Yu Darvish and free player agent Brandon Morrow to remember how little they pitched last year (including 0 combined rounds in the second half).
You might be able to see Kris Bryant through the same lens with a shoulder injury that hampered the previous MVP from mid-May. Healthy Bryant last year will really change the style of the lineup.
Boras said he had never seen a player have a degree of influence J.D. Martinez at the Red Sox in 2018 after signing last winter, especially how he formed the rest of the lineup. One bat of that quality can really make a big difference between high production levels and how they can take pressure from the rest of the line.
If Willson Contreras can regain his form from 2016-17 (or even the first half of 2018) plus potential advanced steps from people like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. and the excellent Cubs ranks might have far more productive 2019 even if Epstein's front office stood patting this winter.
7. Watch out for the Phillies … and Cardinals
They are ready to spend some money and Harper has been closely associated with the City of Brotherly Love.
With how much money Phightin & Phils have to spend and remember they are competitors for most of 2018 before fading in the end, which raises potential concerns for the Cubs if that's where Harper ends.
But far greater concerns – and frankly, more frightening from the point of view of Cubs fans – are the potential for the Cardinals to land Harper or Machado or Josh Donaldson or Patrick Corbin or one of the top free agents.
The Cardinals almost dealt with a crazy contract Giancarlo Stanton last year and eventually had to settle for Marcell Ozuna. They finally lost the playoffs for the third season in a row and they must have felt the urgency to overtake the Cubs and Brewers in the division.
This could be an intense offseason at St. Louis.
8. Rotation may be set
With Hamels back, the Cubs now have almost $ 100 million committed to their 2019 rotation and that includes Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery – two people who, at the moment, seem to be outside looking at the opening staff opening day.
That doesn't stop the Cubs from popping up in rumors for the initial pitchers available, but don't let that fool you. They may still add some depth to ensure they can withstand injuries that might occur in rotation, but that's all at this point.
"The area we are looking for is our position group and bullpen," Epstein said. "We see a little depth here and there where we can, but now, I think our rotation is power."