Now that we’ve stepped outside of the tunnel vision associated with the a deadline, and can look beyond the Cubs’ decisions, it’s time to start thinking about how the free agent landscape just shifted. The following players weren’t tendered a contract yesterday, among other players, and are now free agents that could be of some interest to the Cubs:
- John Lannan – The lefty has been an expected non-tender for some time, after spending the bulk of 2012 at AAA. I’ve written on Lannan extensively before, so I won’t reinvent the wheel. The short version for those disinclined to read that link: he’s a low-risk option whose stuff might play well at Wrigley. With the additions of Scott Feldman and Scott Baker, Lannan might be one of the better free agent pitchers the Cubs could easily convince to sign with a team that “already has” five starters. Not an exciting or sexy pick-up, and not one I’d prefer to a Brandon McCarthy – but it’s a move I could get behind.
- Jair Jurrjens – The non-tender that everyone wants to discuss, even if it’s been expected for weeks. Folks see Jurrjens’ “dominant” 2009 and 2011 seasons, as well as his age (26), and believe there’s a whole lot of upside there. His story, however, is far more complicated. His peripheral numbers (including a relatively weak 2:1 K:BB ratio in his best years) have always suggested he was far worse than his ERA said he was, and it – together with a rapid and stark decline in his velocity – came to a head in 2012, when he was brutally bad. Plenty of teams will be willing to take a minor league flyer on Jurrjens, and the Cubs might be among them. But a guaranteed deal and roster spot? No thanks, unless he demonstrates that he was dealing with some latent physical issue last year that has now been cleared up. Even then, more than a one-year, $2 million deal is just way too much.
- Mark Reynolds – Another guy who has been discussed here before, back when his 2013 option was declined by the O’s: “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.” Unless those defensive problems at third base are correctable (if they are, why haven’t they been corrected by now?), I still don’t see Reynolds as a fit. (The addition of Rob Deer as an assistant hitting coach makes reviewing Reynolds’ stats kind of humorous – they have a lot in common as players.)
- Ryan Sweeney – A 27-year-old outfielder to whom the Cubs were briefly connected over the Summer, Sweeney can play all over the outfield, bats left-handed, and could still have a little bit of upside. Despite his down 2012 season in Boston, Sweeney, at a minimum, looks like an interesting 4th outfielder option. I suspect many teams will be interested in Sweeney for a bench job, and the Cubs could be among those teams, depending on what else they do in the outfield (and how they view Dave Sappelt and Tony Campana).
- Mike Pelfrey – Another pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery, hoping to be ready for the bulk of the 2013 season. Pelfrey was a consistently adequate back-of-the-rotation starter before his injury, so he might be worth a flyer.
- Brian Wilson – The former closer is coming off of Tommy John surgery and would seem a nice bounce-back target, but, from the sound of things, he’s looking to go to a contender immediately. And, to that, I say: thank heavens. I could not take a season – not even a half season – of Wilson’s painful schtick. He is the worst kind of unfunny: the kind that believes, and repeatedly acts like, it is wildly hilarious. Pass. Pass, pass, pass, pass. If you need baseball reasons, I’ll go with: even when healthy, he’s inconsistent, and he’s likely to command late-inning dollars, despite the Tommy John recovery (from his second TJS).
- Geovany Soto – Mentioned almost exclusively because of his former Cub-ness. After signing Dioner Navarro, the Cubs have no spot for a veteran catcher like Soto, who’ll try to catch on as a back-up somewhere. Best of luck, Geo.
- Tom Gorzelanny – Another former Cub, but this is one the Cubs might look at. Gorzelanny had a nice two-year run in Washington after being dumped by the Cubs before 2011. He started on and off in 2011, before suffering from some elbow issues, and eventually becoming a full-time reliever. He success in both roles and was particularly good in the pen in 2012 (2.88 ERA, 1.319 WHIP). He was non-tendered because of a roster crunch (and the raise from $3 million he was about to receive), not because of total ineffectiveness. His peripherals aren’t great, nor are his advanced stats. But he’s a lefty, capable of pitching out of the pen or in a swing role, if necessary. There’s obviously a Chicago connection, and I’d like to see the Cubs check in on him.
- Jeff Karstens – A modestly effective starter with the Pirates over the years, Karstens could make for a nice “depth” rotational piece, unless a team like the Rockies is willing to guarantee him a rotation spot.
- Jack Hannahan – A decent bench bat or platoon-mate at third base? He’s been around the 100 OPS+ mark in his two years in Cleveland, so he won’t kill you at the dish. But, still, he definitely looks more like a bench option than a starter at third.
- Peter Moylan – An intermittently effective reliever who, because of arm troubles, has thrown just 13.1 innings in the last two seasons. He’s 34, and has some wear and tear, but could be an interesting bullpen flyer.
- Scott Atchison – The righty reliever came to Boston when Theo was still there, and has been insanely effective the last two years in a middle relief role (some of that is luck – he’s given up just two homers in his last 81.2(!) innings). He turns 37 next year, but as Shawn Camp has demonstrated, an aging middle reliever can still turn a few heads, and he can do it on the cheap.
- Andres Torres – 5th outfielder? He can play decent defense, and his bat isn’t abysmal. He turns 35 next year, though.