As Cubs head to winter meetings, is the time right to trade veteran talent?
That's been the slogan for the past two seasons, and it's still emblazoned on the top of the Cubs' website.
Is this the week some big-name players start moving out?
As Theo Epstein and Co. head to the winter meetings in San Diego, the time looks right for some roster changes.
ESPN's Jeff Passan reported the Cubs are, among multiple adjectives, "manic" and "motivated" to trade some of their veteran talent.
Why would a team that made the playoffs four straight years and won the World Series in 2016 before slipping to third place in the NL Central last season be compelled to shed players like Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber or possibly even Anthony Rizzo?
Staying under the $208 million luxury tax threshold is an obvious goal for the Cubs, but Epstein said it's not all about money.
"When you fall short of your goals and fail to perform at the biggest moments as dramatically as we did, it provides a real opportunity of you're willing to be honest with yourself and are willing to take a hard look inside," the Cubs' president said after last season ended and popular manager Joe Maddon was not retained. "We're not blowing anything up per se. But we're likely to see real change, real adjustments at various levels. With our player group, there's going to be some change, some real change with our player group. That's inevitable."
So far, the Cubs have said so long to free-agent starter Cole Hamels, who signed a one-year contract with the Braves last week. They also nontendered contentious infielder Addison Russell.
Like Hamels, Nick Castellanos, Ben Zobrist and Steve Cishek are key free agents that are unlikely to return, but the Cubs' projected 2020 payroll is still pushing close to $200 million.
Trading a Bryant or Rizzo would not only bring in some needed young blood to the system, it would save the Cubs millions next season and beyond.
Epstein is shopping for another starting pitcher, more bullpen help and possible upgrades at second base and center field.
There will undoubtedly be roster additions, possibly as early as the winter meetings, but the potential subtractions are going to determine the Cubs' true direction moving forward.
No matter what the roster looks like when spring training gets underway in mid-February, Epstein is expecting new manager David Ross to pull it all together and maximize potential.
"Our routines tended to be more individualized (last season)," Epstein said. "There wasn't a lot of work as a team. I think it's going to be important for this group to work as a team. I think accountability is important. We were pretty mistake-prone last season."