During this week’s period of exclusive negotiating rights for teams with players entering free agency, those teams and players also make decisions regarding options for the 2013 season. Over the last two days, a number of those options decisions have been made, and have resulted in some additional free agents who may or may not interest (or impact the market for) the Cubs.

Among those names …

  • Kevin Youkilis – The White Sox declined his $13 million option for next year, which was generally expected. The 33-year-old third baseman hit just .235/.336/.409 on the year, which he split between the Red and White Sox. He was better in white, putting up a 106 OPS+. He’s getting older, but he could easily bounce-back next year, thanks in large part to a positive regression in his BABIP – it was just .268 last year, far lower than his career .322 mark. The Cubs obviously have a cavernous hole at third base, and Youkilis is the top third baseman on the free agent market. The Cubs will kick the tires, without a doubt. But there are some hurdles: (1) as the top free agent at third base, a number of teams will be kicking those tires – competition drives up the price, and the number of years committed; (2) Youkilis will be 34 next year, and isn’t going to want to spend too many more years on a non-contender; (3) Youkilis would know that the Cubs would be viewing him as a bridge to the future, so his replacement could always be lurking over his shoulder (depending on, for example, how quickly Javier Baez develops, or whether Josh Vitters, Junior Lake, or Christian Villanueva steps up next year). That all said, Youk did mention how he noticed that Chicago is clearly a Cubs town, even when the White Sox are winning, and the Cubs are losing. Maybe he’d like to be a part of that? And, obviously, there’s the Boston connection – Youkilis was a prized player in Boston under the Theo Epstein regime – which almost goes without saying.
  • Mark Reynolds – Another third baseman, Reynolds could hit the free agent market after the Orioles declined his $11 million option. I say “could” hit the free agent market because he’s not yet a free agent. Despite the option decline, Reynolds is still under team control, and is in his third arbitration year. He’s projected to get around $9 million in arbitration, so he’s a pretty clear non-tender candidate for the O’s. If he’s non-tendered on November 30, he’ll become a free agent. Perennially a 105ish OPS+ guy who leads the league in strikeouts, Reynolds has a ton of power and takes a ton of walks. The biggest question mark with the 29-year-old, at least as far as the Cubs go, is whether he can play credible third base. He was moved to first base by the O’s for most of 2012, and his UZR at third base has always been well below average (including hilariously bad UZR/150 marks of -30.3 in 2011 and -48.3 in 2012). Defensive metrics aren’t everything, but it seems pretty clear that third base is probably not in his future. And that means he’s not in the Cubs’ future.
  • Joakim Soria – The Royals declined their $8 million option on the dominant reliever who missed 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was only so-so in 2011, though you wonder how much of that was related to an elbow issue later resolved by the surgery. He may well end up returning to Kansas City, and his value as a free agent is hard to peg, given the surgery. Unless he’s going to be viewed as a “flyer” type by teams, the Cubs aren’t going to be bidding heavy on any relievers, particularly one coming off surgery. That doesn’t mean his free agency isn’t relevant, though – as the Cubs shop Carlos Marmol, Soria’s (and guys like him) presence on the market will impact those shopping efforts. Further, Soria might indeed be viewed as a “flyer” type (by which I mean a guy who gets, for example, a one-year, low dollar (with incentives) deal with an option for another year), with no teams willing to commit serious dollars or years. If so, he would definitely be the kind of pitcher the Cubs would target, for obvious reasons.
  • Scott Feldman – The Rangers turned Feldman loose after a mediocre year as a mostly-starter. He looked like he was on his way to a successful career in the middle-to-back of a rotation when he had to have microfracture surgery in his knee before the 2011 season. His 2012 season saw him put up a 5.09 ERA over 123.2 innings … HOWEVA, he had a 3.81 FIP, a .318 BABIP (20 points higher than his career average), and a 3.00 K/BB ratio. That’s a very attractive looking middle-tier, bounce-back candidate starter right there. He turns 30 in February.
  • Dallas Braden – It’s all been downhill for the A’s lefty since he threw that perfect game back in 2010, and all because of a bum shoulder. In theory he’ll be able to pitch in 2013, but nothing is for certain on a guy who hasn’t really pitched since 2010. He had established himself as an exciting young pitcher back then, and if he’s looking for a place to show that he can come back, the Cubs might be a nice soft place to fall. (Braden wasn’t technically an option decline –  he was arbitration-eligible, but the A’s outrighted him and he elected free agency.)
  • http://www.backingthepack.com Rynomite

    So if Dallas hasn’t pitched since 2010, how did he throw a perfecto in 2011? 😉

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Let me buff that up slightly …

    • DocPeterWimsey

      The perfect game was so good that it altered the space time continuum?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Well, it was Mother’s Day.

  • GDB

    Feels like there are a huge number of potentially interesting starters to choose from this off-season. Add Feldman and Braden to that list. Could be some bargain contracts signed on the players that go un-signed close to spring training.

  • BD

    Since so many mid-tier/bounce back SPs seem to be coming available, which should create lower prices for many of them- which do you think the Cubs would be more worried about: the price of this type of contract, or the likelihood that the pitcher would be good enough to trade next year? (Meaning, would they pay more for a guy they think has a better chance of performing well enough to trade?)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Definitely willing to pay more for the more-likely-to-be-flippable pieces. Money is the one thing they have in spades.

  • chitownguido23

    I just heard Youk has a house on the west coast. Im assuming hell sign somewhere out there…

  • TonyP

    Soria please

  • Rizzo 44

    We need a CF, RF, 3B, 2-3 SP, and RP. Trade Marmol, DeJesus, LaHair, Garza, & Wood at the MLB level. We have the money to sign BJ Upton, Liriano, Sanchez, Bourn, Villanueva, McCarthy, Madson, Keppinger, Burnett, Haren. Trade for Headley give up Baez and Jackson. The Cubs could then Flip these guys if the season doesn’t go well by the trade deadline. So I think Theo needs to bring it this offseason. Just my opinion. Bourn in CF,BJ Upton in RF, Rizzo 1B, Soriano in LF, Headley 3B, Castro SS, Castilio C, and Barney 2B.

    • Shawn H

      If the season doesn’t go well, its probably because all those guys you signed didn’t perform well. Thus making it difficult to flip them for quality prospects at the deadline.

    • Chris

      They aren’t going to trade Baez, especially not for Headley. I don’t know why people want Headley so bad in the first place. Wright or Longoria are the only players worth trying to acquire using top prospects. Any other 3B available, I’d rather wait on Baez and see what happens. I suppose you could put Miguel Cabrera on that list, but it’s still hard for me to accept he’s playing 3rd again. I think they’ll kick the tires on the players you mention, but I doubt Sanchez, Bourn, or Upton are within reach. I’d rather keep Wood than sign some of the pitchers you mention, but they are all certainly viable options to fill out the rotation. If Madson and Burnett aren’t looking for big money, they’re worth acquiring for the bullpen, but there are so many bullpen arms on the roster right now that I wouldn’t spend too much money adding on, at this point. My guess is they’ll try to wait out the market and pick up values later in free agency, with the exception being 3B. I think they’re going to try and get creative to fill that hole. Of the trade candidates you mention, I think only Marmol and LaHair have a great chance of getting moved before the season starts.

      • terencemann

        It’s going to take two top prospects (Of the Almora/Baez/Soler group) to get a young major league star player.

        People really need to look at the Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez deals before posting these ideas.

        Gonzalez fetched 2 BA top 100 prospects from 2012 and one from 2011. Latos fetched 2 BA top 100 prospects from 2012.

      • mul21

        You’re flat out wrong about Headley. He’s definitely worth acquiring, but is perhaps not worth the prospects it would take to get him. An entering his prime very good 3B is what he is, and those are both very valuable and hard to find.

        • Dr. Percival Cox

          Headley is risky, though. His numbers last year were a HUGE jump from his career norms at age 28. It certainly isn’t impossible that that can happen, but it does suggest, uh, outside influences.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          The problem is that all the evidence says that Headley is not for sale. The rumor mill held that teams were asking about Headley both last off-season and before the trade deadline. Supposedly the Padres maintained that they were going to build around Headley, and although you expect the FO to say that sort of thing, they also are acting like they mean it.

          Moreover, DocCox is correct: Headley’s huge spike in power numbers probably will not be repeated in 2013. (Still, his 2011 numbers adjusted for Petco probably would improve 25 lineups in MLB, and they certainly would be a big improvement on what the Cubs have or can easily acquire; those numbers just would disappoint people expecting another 2012.)

  • mudge

    Interested in Braden, what’s his medical prognosis?

  • fortyonenorth

    I can’t believe the Cubs would consider bringing Dempster back. That’s gotta be a joke, right?

    • fortyonenorth

      Wow. Brett, you’re like the wind.

      Sorry for the cross-post.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I’m like a shadow.

        (Ok, or the wind.)

  • http://www.backingthepack.com Rynomite

    Rolen on a one year deal as a mentor/stopgap until Vitters/Villanueva is ready?

    Crazy talk?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      He’s leaning toward retirement, I think.

  • Kubphan82

    Braden over Devine? Either way they would be minor league deals with incentives… Cubs should be on both of their short lists because it would be “the best opportunity” to the bigs. The Cubs should kick the tires because they shouldn’t immediately take up 40-man spots, right?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It’s not a matter of one over the other – Braden is simply more interesting to discuss in this context because he’s a starter.

  • http://It'searly Mike F

    I saw that when he became a free agent with Texas Brett. Feldman is a guy who has come up before. To me, makes perfect sense under any scenario for the cubs. I know he’s had some arm issues and did struggle some when he lost a little velocity leaving his cutter up late in the season, but he’s a big guy who if he’s healthy has a big or plus arm. I think he’s one guy who is worth a gamble….

  • terencemann

    I have serious concerns about Youklis’ ability to be a productive player at this point. He got off to a good start with the White Sox but his second half line was .214/.332/.395. He could be going into serious decline.

  • calicubsfan007

    I still think that Chavez is the best option for us for 3b this year. He wants to prove that he can start. Might be a win win for both sides. Feldman does seem like the type of guy the Cubs would target. But I seriously have to wonder how much the Cubs will do this offseason. I have a feeling that their movements will be far less than what is expected. I hope that I am wrong on that.

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