Extensions talk sounds good, but seems clear Cubs were anxious to move on

The Cubs could have passed into their new era quietly.

But the past week has featured differing accounts of the unpopular breakups.

Team president Jed Hoyer went on the radio earlier this week and suggested the Cubs did everything they could to reach agreement on contract extensions for Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javy Baez.

"Every one of these guys would say they wanted to stay in Chicago, 'We want to be a Cub,'" Hoyer told David Kaplan and Jonathan Hood on ESPN 1000-AM. "But then when we sit down and do negotiations, that wasn't how they acted."

Bryant visited Milwaukee this weekend with the Giants and told reporters the sit-down negotiation was fictional.

"I wasn't approached at any point (after) the spring after the (2016) World Series," Bryant told NBC Sports Chicago. "That was the one time."

Rizzo made the same claim before he walked out the door at Wrigley Field, saying there were no last-minute negotiations.

Figuring out the truth is likely impossible without subpoena power, considering all the potential conversations between Hoyer and agents, agents and the players, ownership and anybody. There was once a report Bryant turned down a massive extension offer and he denied it was true several times.

Ultimately, though, the answer appears obvious. Actions speak louder than words and there's been no evidence the Cubs had much desire to bring back Bryant, Baez and Rizzo. This is a team that laid off a big chunk of the front office staff last year and traded their best pitcher to San Diego in a salary dump.

And maybe it's for the best. During the past four years, the Cubs have repeated the same pattern: Late fade and can't hit in the playoffs in '18 and '20, late fade and miss playoffs in '19 and '21.

Why would the Cubs or any team want to pay big to keep that going? Management made the tough decision to rebuild and saved several million in the process. By letting the World Series heroes go now, maybe the Cubs will have more to spend in free agency this winter. They were at least able to replenish a low-ranked farm system with about 10 new prospects.

The extent of the Cubs financial problems are unknown. Just checking the landscape, the Cubs thought they were creating multiple paths for revenue between the Wrigley remodel, neighborhood takeover, Marquee network and luxury hotel.

What surely ended up happening is those projected paths for revenue turned into multiple traps for losses during the pandemic. Maybe the Cubs will be back to acting like a big-market team next year, which is a virtual necessity to avoid heavy losses next season.

Some of the younger free agents of 2022 are Trevor Story, Cory Seager, Carlos Correa, Carlos Rodon. Former Cub Nick Castellanos has a player option. Maybe there's a chance Bryant, Baez or Rizzo could return, but it feels like a longshot.

It will be tough for Cubs fans to focus on the future when most of the team's top prospects are teenagers. Outfielder Brennen Davis could arrive sometime in 2022.

The closest thing to hope for the future right now is left-hander Justin Steele making his first major league start on Tuesday against Milwaukee.

Why did Hoyer say what he said? He expressed regret a few days later while the Cubs were in Colorado, but maybe it was an awkward attempt to deflect heat from his boss.

Whatever, it seems like all sides exited on friendly terms.

"In his mind he's going to be right and maybe in ours he'll be wrong," Bryant said in Milwaukee. "And it's OK to disagree, and then you move on from there. ... I'll always think back to my time there and feel happy about and have great memories about it."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer talks on the phone during a team practice at Wrigley Field in Chicago last season. AP File Photo/2020
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