Ricketts hears it from critics after Lester, Chatwood are latest Cubs to exit

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts acknowledges boos as he introduces the Marquee Sports Network on opening night of the 2020 Chicago Cubs Convention at Sheraton Grand in Chicago.

    Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts acknowledges boos as he introduces the Marquee Sports Network on opening night of the 2020 Chicago Cubs Convention at Sheraton Grand in Chicago. Daily Herald File

 
 
Updated 1/19/2021 7:17 PM

George McCaskey's run as the most loathed owner in Chicago professional sports lasted less than a week.

That baton has quickly passed from the Bears' beleaguered chairman to Cubs counterpart Tom Ricketts.

 

What started out as a quiet Monday escalated into thundering vitriol mostly aimed at Ricketts after the sun went down.

In the span of about an hour Monday night, beloved starting pitcher Jon Lester signed a one-year contract with the Nationals. USA Today reported the deal is only worth $2 million, with a deferred $3 million signing bonus due in 2023.

Another Cubs free agent, Tyler Chatwood, reportedly agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Last, but certainly not least, news broke Monday night that Jared Porter admitted to sending explicit, unsolicited texts to a female reporter when he was the Cubs' director of professional scouting in 2016.

Hired as the Mets' general manager on Dec. 13 after spending the last four years as the Diamondbacks' assistant GM, Porter was fired by New York on Tuesday morning.

It's seemingly been one shot of bad news after another for the Cubs since last season ended, and Ricketts is taking the brunt of the blame from the base.

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Specifically, Cubs fans are angry about a mass exodus of players.

Before Lester and Chatwood signed elsewhere, ace starter Yu Darvish and backup catcher Victor Caratini were traded to the Padres in an obvious cost-cutting move, and Kyle Schwarber signed with the Nationals after being non-tendered.

The Cubs also are likely to lose six other notable free agents -- starting pitcher Jose Quintana, relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Andrew Chafin, second baseman Jason Kipnis and outfielders Cameron Maybin and Billy Hamilton.

After another major loss -- president of baseball operations Theo Epstein resigned his post on Nov. 17 with one year left on his contract -- Ricketts was asked about the Cubs' plan moving forward when Jed Hoyer was announced as Epstein's replacement.

"I don't think anybody's tearing anything down," Ricketts said.

With spring training still scheduled to start as planned in mid-February, there is time for the Cubs to make needed roster additions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

They did get veteran starter Zach Davies from San Diego in the Darvish trade and avoided salary arbitration with Kris Bryant ($19.5 million), Javy Baez ($11.65 million) and Willson Contreras ($6.65 million) late last week.

But as it stands now, Phillip Ervin is the starting left fielder. He was claimed off waivers from the Mariners on Dec. 22.

In the starting rotation, it's Kyle Hendricks, Davies, Alec Mills and a whole lot of question marks.

In the bullpen, it's closer Craig Kimbrel, Rowan Wick and even more question marks.

Contreras is obviously the No. 1 catcher, but his name has come up in multiple trade rumors. There is currently no backup.

The Cubs won the NL Central in 2020, they've been to the playoffs five times in the last six years, and they were the toast of baseball after raising the World Series trophy in 2016.

That should be a sturdy base to continue building on, especially with the high cost of attending games at Wrigley Field and the launch of Marquee Sports Network last season.

But following Ricketts' marching orders, Hoyer did signal the Cubs are heading in a different direction after going down quietly in each of their last two postseason appearances.

"I think we're going to have a really competitive team (this) year," Hoyer said after the Darvish trade. "But do we make some moves with the future in mind after six years of every single move being directed on the present? Yes. I think that's the prudent thing to do. Once we get back to a place where we feel like we want to step on the gas again, we will financially.

"We will be in that market again just as soon as we have a team that has the bones necessary to do that. We are at this period at the end of the window where I don't think that would make a lot of sense right now."

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