Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

show me the money‘Tis the season …

Free agency is here, and, although we won’t see much movement until after the qualifying offer acceptance deadline passes next week, folks are hard at work organizing, collating, sorting and ranking the top free agents this offseason. Of course, “top” is a relative term, because some of these lists go pretty deep.

MLB Trade Rumors ranks the top 50 free agents here, together with predictions on where those players might wind up. The Cubs are predicted to sign just reliever Joaquin Benoit and outfielder Chris Young. Benoit, 36, figures to be one of those relievers who gets a two-or-three-year, $10-to-$15 million deals, and makes sense as a guy the Cubs would consider. He’s been quite good for years now, and the only fly in the ointment is that he’s coming off a year of closing, which could artificially inflate his demands. Young, 30, makes a whole lot of sense for the Cubs, given their need for a right-handed hitting outfielder who can play all over the outfield, and can platoon with Nate Schierholtz or Ryan Sweeney. He’s coming off of back-to-back down years, but he rakes against lefties for his career (.262/.363/.474) and figures to be cheap. Young just made it onto the list at number 50. Benoit was number 26. The Cubs are mentioned as a possibility for all of the big names, however, together with a number of guys you’d expect (Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Johnson, etc.).

CBS Sports’ experts take on the game of predicting the top 10 free agents, and each offers thoughts on all selections (making it a pretty robust read). The Cubs get just a few votes – Scott Miller and Matt Snyder have them landing Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dayn Perry has them getting Masahiro Tanaka – but aren’t the consensus favorite on any of the top guys. Robinson Cano received all Yankees votes, Brian McCann received all Rangers votes, and Mike Napoli received all Red Sox. Shin-Soo Choo was mostly Astros, and Tanaka was mostly Yankees. All sounds reasonable to me, except those Ellsbury votes …

HarballTalk ups the ante by ranking 150 free agents, and I’m immediately struck by how low Ricky Nolasco is falling on these lists (he’s 20 on both this one and MLTBR’s). Last year was the first time his ERA bore out his far superior advanced metrics, and he looks like a very solid back-of-the-rotation candidate to me. At, say, three years and $30 million, in this market, I’d be very interested (though he probably gets more). He’s not tied to draft pick compensation, either.

Of particular note on the HBT list? Carlos Marmol comes in at number 66, one spot ahead of Dioner Navarro. Mr. Irrelevant (number 150) is none other than former Cub Rich Hill.

Lastly, Yahoo laughs at HBT’s 150 and throws up a 200 spot. Navarro slips to 83 on this one, which is nuts to me, even if he is a backup catcher. If that’s his value on the market, then here’s hoping the Cubs do re-sign him (though, unfortunately, I think the market is smarter than that, and he’s going to get a healthy two-year deal). Marmol is 145 to Yahoo, by the way. Random thought: Phil Hughes is down at 47, and he continues to intrigue me as a one or two-year guy. At just 27, and with the bad luck combo of high BABIP and low LOB% last year, he’s in line for a bounce-back. And he’d probably like to do it on a short-term deal so that he can hit free agency again in his prime. The Cubs love to accommodate such arrangements, and have showed that they, too, can have success with erstwhile flyball pitchers (a la Travis Wood).

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