Better late than never, right? After a rather inactive off-season so far – at least in terms of new recruits – in north Chicago, it looks like the Cubs will be opening their checkbooks a bit more in the near future as spring training approaches.

This new development came directly from the organization when Jed Hoyer addressed the media on Monday. He opened the conference with a reference to the death of Pedro Gomez, a longtime baseball journalist, and said how incredible he was (may he rest in peace). But another news item made headlines, the Cubs’ budget.

Jed Hoyer stated that they have received an update on “a number of factors” that have updated their budget forecast. He said they will likely add more players in the coming week.

– John Greenberg (@jon_greenberg) February 8, 2021

The Cubs have found more flexibility in their spending, which means more new players will be part of the team in the near future. This feeling immediately raises many questions. Where would they add players? Second base, perhaps? Additional introductions? These two options certainly make sense.

In an effort to answer some of these burning questions, we look at a handful of players the Cubs might contract to add to the roster when spring training begins in the coming weeks. Let’s get to the heart of the matter.

Jeremy Jeffress.

This point may seem obvious. Jeffress caused a stir with the Cubs in the 2020 season, which was cut short by the lockout, after signing a one-year contract. Jeffress was named an All-Star in 2018, but a difficult 2019 season made him available for little money last season.

Photo: NBC Sports Chicago

In 2020, Jeffress posted a record of 4-1 with an ERA of 1.54 and eight stops while hitting 17 batters in 23.1 innings. While Craig Kimbrel showed his skills in the starting rotation, Jeffress took charge as the “man” in the back of the paddock. In addition to the other big guns the Cubs still possess, the return of Jeffress would only make the Cubs’ backup body deeper and stronger, especially in the back.

Jeffress’s return to the North Side, however, would result in a contract amount higher than the $850,000 he signed through 2020. But if the Cubs find a way to get Jeffress to sign for less than $4 million, a meeting in 2021 will follow.

Jonathan Villar

The Cubs have been put at every position except pitcher. But one position where the Cubs could use extra depth is second base. The rival Brewer’s Division recently arrested Colten Wong, leaving only one name on the list of free agents at second base: Jonathan Villar.

Photo: G Fiume/Getty Images

Villar brings skills that the Cubs don’t have much on their list. He can strike out in any year, even if 2020 is a tough year, and he can steal bases, something few guys on the Cubs’ list would consider. With Miami and Toronto in 2020, Villar hit .232/.301/.292 with two home runs and 15 RBIs. Looking at his production as a team, he hit a .259/.315/.345 slash in 30 games with the Marlins, but struggled in 22 games with the Blue Jays, dropping his season numbers.

Looking ahead to Villar’s 2019 campaign, there is reason to be excited that he could potentially find himself on the north side. For starters, Villar is only 30 years old and has a slash line of .274/.339/.453 with the Baltimore Orioles in 2019. He also hit 24 home runs this year, made 73 runs, scored 111 runs, stole 40 bags and played all 162 games. If the Cubs can get this version of Villar, it’s a 100% contract. Such an addition would also give Nico Herner time to develop his Triple-A skills.

Jake Odorizzi.

It is no secret that the Cubs always need a fifth starter to complete their opening day rotation. Currently, Kyle Hendricks, Zach Davis, Alec Mills and Adbert Azolei make up the fourth starting rotation, while Trevor Williams is vying for the fifth spot. But will Williams be able to finish in fifth place? Jake Odorizzi is certainly an interesting option if the Cubs don’t believe in him, or if they want to add depth.

Photo: Evan Habib/US Sports Monday

Odorizzi is still relatively young, 31 years old. He survived the 2020 season by starting only four games due to a couple of injuries. However, Odorizzi’s 2019 release was pretty good. He won 15 games for the Minnesota Twins in 30 starts, with 178 strikes out in 159 innings and an ERA of 3.51. Odorizzi’s finishes are the perfect complement for the Cubs. But there’s a catch.

Odorizzi is rumored to be looking for a three-year contract worth a total of $45 million. That may keep the Cubs away from Odorizzi, as it doesn’t look like they want to add much in the way of salary. However, there are a few other options on the market for a starter launcher.

James Paxton

Left-handed? Yes, a lefty, which the Cubs don’t have now that Jon Lester and Jose Quintana are no longer available. James Paxton would be a good addition to the roster of the Cubs who, as mentioned, need a fifth starter.

Photo: Brad Penner/USA Sports Today

If Paxton signs, he could become number two or three on the Cubs list. Like Odorizzi, Paxton struggled in 2020, making just five starts and posting a record of 1-1, 6.64 ERA and 26 K in 20.1 runs. Like many players in the league, Paxton’s 2019 season was much better than his shortened 2020 campaign. He also won 15 games in 29 starts and paved the way for a 3.82 ERA, 55 runs scored and 186 strikeouts in just 150.2 innings. Paxton is said to be an experienced rookie with a proven track record and at 32 years old still has a lot left in the tank.

But Paxton comes with his own question marks. How much does he want and is he healthy? The eight-year veteran has never pitched more than 160.1 innings in a season and has had recurring injury problems. It could be good for the Cubs if he accepts less money and a one-year contract, but there are no guarantees. Unless he wants to sign for less money, the Cubs should drop the 32-year-old left-hander.

There’s another name Cubs fans would like to see in Wrigley in 2021.

Jake Arrieta

Oh, yes, Jake the Snake. The former Cy Young winner and Chicago World Series champion is a free agent again. When he pitched for teams in recent weeks, the Cubs were one of the most prominent teams in the pitching session. The one thing Arrieta brought back to the Cubs was money. Now that more money can be spent, is a meeting on the north side possible?

Photo: Stephen Dunnetty/Graphics

Arrieta’s stay in Philadelphia was not particularly fruitful. It was decent in 2018, but declined every season after that. He first signed a lucrative three-year contract with Philadelphia, but never lived up to it. Now that he’s probably looking for a new contract, maybe a meeting in the city where he had the most success could help him? The Cubs’ state-of-the-art Pitcher’s Lab has already helped many pitchers get their equipment back, and Arrieta could take full advantage of that when he returns to the Cubs.

There is no report indicating the exact amount Jake Arrieta is looking for, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to fit into the Cubs’ budget. If Arrieta is willing to sign for less than $10 million for the 2021 season, it’s entirely possible that a Cubs/Arrieta meeting could happen, which could warm the hearts of Cubs fans after seeing Jon Lester leave because Tom Ricketts said no.

Eventually the Cubs will spend more money and be added to the list. They may get another fielder, maybe a second baseman like Villar, and pitching is definitely a possibility, so who will sign? Let us know what you think @LuceOnTap or @CubbiesOnTap on Twitter.

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