MESA, Ariz. – Travis Wood – last seen shirtless raising the World Series trophy above his head at the Grant Park rally – didn't agree to a deal until the day Kansas City's pitchers and catchers reported and the Royals still haven't officially announced that two-year, $12 million contract yet.
The Cubs didn't make that kind of last-minute addition because they want to save up for the trade deadline – think this year's Aroldis Chapman – and the player who could help lead to another championship parade down Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue.
The Cubs stayed in contact with Wood's agent, Darek Braunecker, throughout the winter, but didn't push hard enough for the lefty swingman, who had been the longest-tenured player on the team, a popular clubhouse guy and a link to the 101-loss season in 2012.
The Cubs also didn't pounce on Jerry Blevins or Boone Logan, two left-handed relievers who lingered on the free-agent market until early February. Even after an October where closers became stars and the bullpens provided nightly drama, Blevins returned to the New York Mets on a one-year, $6.5 million guarantee while Logan accepted a similar offer from the Cleveland Indians.
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"There were some relievers who became available on shorter deals late that we were interested in early on (with) those types of deals," team president Theo Epstein said Tuesday. "But they weren't really ready to commit yet to the shorter deal. And then by the time it rolled around late in the offseason, we kind of spent our money.
"We really want to be cognizant of leaving some flexibility for in-season moves, leaving a little cushion beneath the CBT (competitive balance tax) threshold for us to be able to operate."
So don't expect any surprise appearances at the Sloan Park complex, the way Dexter Fowler showed up in Mesa last year and shocked the baseball world. The Cubs already have a clear idea of the group that will leave Arizona in late March.
Epstein is also looking beyond this season – when Wade Davis, Koji Uehara and Pedro Strop will become free agents – to what he called "the next generation of our bullpen." That means allowing Carl Edwards Jr. to grow into a more prominent role and seeing what they have in Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith.
"Whether it was Travis or some of the other relievers late, we had some self-imposed limitations," Epstein said. "We just wanted to leave some cushion for in-season moves. We saw last offseason how important that can be.
"I'm sure we'll be active again midseason at the trade deadline if needs arise. But we also want to be mindful of not getting too full in the bullpen. We'd like to give an opportunity to younger guys at some point."