In the past few years, we knew we weren’t getting much from the Cubs during the holidays. No big presents, no reasons to cheer. Just a really good excuse for hitting the egg nog — the spiked variety.
Well, the year without a Santa Claus is over. Just this December the Cubs signed free-agent grand prize Jon Lester, inked right-hander Jason Hammel and acquired catcher Miguel Montero. Those deals come on the heels of landing arguably the best manager in the game in Joe Maddon.
If this year is getting everything on your wish list, the past few years have been like receiving the entire population of the island of misfit toys. Here are the lowlights:
December 2013: The Cubs acquire Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Kalish, Wesley Wright, John Baker and Jose Veras. In a real sign that things are looking up, none are with the Cubs anymore.
December 2012: It didn’t look like much at the time, but the Cubs claimed Hector Rondon off waivers from the Indians on Dec. 6. He had a great year as the Cubs’ closer last season. Besides Rondon, they signed Kyuji Fujikawa, Ian Stewart and Nate Schierholtz — three placeholders while young talent developed.
Those deals came after a flurry of transactions in November, such as signing Dioner Navarro and Shawn Camp, releasing Bryan LaHair and letting Stewart walk. Talk about shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. Remember, though, if you believed in Theo & Co. you expected the ship to go down to the bottom before coming back up. Signing Scott Feldman was a life preserver, as the Cubs later traded him for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.
December 2011: In the first moves of the Epstein regime, the Cubs shipped out Tyler Colvin for Stewart in one of those “Man, I wish I had a crystal ball” moments. They also sent Sean Marshall to the Reds for Travis Wood in a solid, if unspectacular deal. Former closer Manny Corpas was also signed and then went into the witness protection program.
In November of that year, Aramis Ramirez became a free agent, marking the departure of one of the final connections to the last Cubs playoff teams.
December 2010: The highlight, by far, was the signing of free agent Kerry Wood, who had reinvented himself as an effective reliever. The reunion felt good, but like most good reunions, once the party ended, we were left with a hangover and plenty of bitterness.
It’s been a tough few years, no doubt about it. And some of the gifts the Cubs have given us lately will prove to be defective and will go unused in the corner. But for now, Theo better watch out for the mistletoe because there are hordes of Cubs fans who would like to plant a big kiss on his mug.
You can reach Patrick at Cubs Fan Therapy.