Free agency and trade offers: Is there more change in the air for Cubs?

Now comes the hard part.

As difficult as it might have been to cut ties with Joe Maddon, who guided the Cubs to a 471-339 record with four postseason appearances and one World Series championship during his five years as manager, club president Theo Epstein now has to deal with some challenging roster decisions.

"This is clearly a moment of transition," Epstein said after the Cubs faded down the stretch and finished this year with an 84-78 record, which left them in third place in the NL Central.

In past offseasons with Maddon in the dugout, the Cubs were always looking to add and willing to spend.

This winter shapes up as being much different.

"It's not about how much you spend, it's how much you win," Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said last week on WSCR 670-AM. "The correlation between spending and winning is not nearly as strong as we'd like it to be."

While that could very well be code for the Cubs preparing to slash payroll and launch a rebuild, that is an unlikely path for one of the highest spending teams in baseball the past four seasons.

The Red Sox were No. 1 in payroll this year and they missed the playoffs. That cost general manager Dave Dombrowski his job, and owner John Henry said Boston is going to "reset."

Look for the Cubs to do the same, and that's where the difficulty lies.

"We're not blowing anything up, per se," Epstein said. "That's not the goal, but we're likely to see real change, real adjustments at various levels, most levels, of our baseball operation in some form or another."

Looking at the roster that ended the season with 10 losses in the final 12 games, many are unlikely to return in 2020.

Nick Castellanos, Ben Zobrist and Cole Hamels were among eight players who declared for free agency late last week, and the Cubs have a number of players that might be nontendered, headed by Addison Russell.

Also looking to beef up a barren farm system, the Cubs will undoubtedly listen to trade offers for star players like Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber.

Ross has no managing or coaching experience at any level of baseball, but he's going to be counted upon to squeeze as many wins as possible out of the roster he winds up with heading out of spring training in March.

"I know what winning looks like," said Ross, who has World Series rings from the Cubs (2016) and Red Sox (2013). "I've always been a guy who asks questions to my teammates and managers, trying to soak in those answers, those experiences, preparing for this opportunity that I'm about to take on.

"There are many ways to get experience. I don't think everybody takes the same road, but I know I'm ready for this."

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