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).

  • Jim

    So many predictions, so many varying views. Still don’t see much about a backup catcher.

    • Funn Dave

      If we got Navarro back on a 1- or 2- year deal, that would give us a chance to restock the farm’s catcher options.

  • Jbaby

    I’m excised to see what the cubs do this offseason. I don’t know what it is but I feel the cubs will do something big this offseason

  • Patrick W.

    I would give Dioner Navarro a 2-yr deal, if he would take it knowing his playing time is likely to be equal to or less than 2013. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I don’t have a problem with a 2yr. contract.

  • Jose’s Eyelid

    I don’t think we will be talking to any of the guys tied to compensation.

    Here are a few intriguing names to me:

    Hart if he can play the outfield
    Colby Lewis
    Kelly Johnson if he can play 2b regularly
    JP Howell

    • willis

      I’d like Maholm back with the Cubs. Hughes intrigues me also.

    • Blublud

      I disagree about the compensation thing. I also disagree with people saying the Cubs will not spend big. I feel the Cubs took the approach they did signing international FA because they knew they would be losing a few draft picks in next years draft because they are going to add MLB talent. The first round pick is protected, so they will still get their one big prospect and the majority of their pool money. After that, I couldn’t careless if we signed 5 players with compensation tied to them. The first one we sign would cost us a 2nd round pick, but with each additional one we sign, the pick and pool money becomes less valuable. I don’t think we go after Cano but I’m almost certain we will sign one of Ellsbury or Choo. I’m almost certain we will be big bidders on Tanaka. I expect the Cubs to be one of the more active teams on top free agents.

      • Funn Dave

        I envy your optimism.

  • J.L.

    So, none of the experts from CBS Sports expects the Dodgers to sign a top-10 free agent. What are the chances of that actually happening?

    • Blublud

      I would actually say the chances are pretty high. The Dodgers have spent a lot of money recently and honestly, they are probably maxed out. They still need to re-sign their $30 million guy, and none of their big contracts, I believe, are scheduled to come off the books in the next 2 years. While the Dodgers have recently become huge spenders, their money does not grow on trees. I supposed if they wanted to sign one, they could. However, I think they are more interested in smaller pieces to upgrade their few weak spots then adding a big time player.

  • Eric

    Phil Hugh’s fly ball rate (around 48%) scares the crap out of me.

  • Norm

    Hopefully they try for Tanaka too, but I’d be happy with just Chris Young and Josh Johnson on 1 year deals.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Except that Chris Young is really bad at hitting the baseball. I don’t even like him as strictly a platoon player against lefties.

      Josh Johnson? The fact that pitching starved Toronto did not attach a qualifying offer to him screams out that Johnson is damaged goods. Been there, done that. No thanks.

      • Norm

        Yes, everyone knows Josh Johnson is damaged goods. That’s why you do the old 1 year deal with the intention of flipping him in July if he pitches like he’s capable. Everyone wins.
        If he sucks and they can’t trade him, o’well, it’s another Scott Baker.

        • willis

          Oh well? Baker was a wasted 5.5 million for a team that makes certain it’s always crying poor to the fans. Kind of a big deal. I’d rather not see that money wasted again.

          • Norm

            Oh, how do you guaranty having free agent money not being wasted?
            Or, what free agent has no risk tie to him?

            • willis

              Everyone has risk. I was disagreeing that the Baker debacle was just an “oh well” event. Normally, I’d agree. But the way the cubs are screaming that they have no money, 5.5 does more damage than we’re used to.

              Saying that, I’m all for FA risk, but not someone whos is never healthy and posted an awful partial season last year, no thanks.

            • DarthHater

              All you have to do is wait until the season is over, then decide how much the guy deserves to get paid depending on how things went. Easy as pie.

              • Norm

                I like this method.

            • YourResidentJag

              Granderson. They need a LH bat regardless of the projected farm system. They’re most likely going to need a corner OF. He comes cheaper than Choo and Ellsbury, and requires a 2nd round draft pick. Even if CarGo is a better offensive player, you’d still have to give up the likes of Arieta who has more value alone than that pick. So, if he elects FA, he’s got the least risk of anyone.

          • Blublud

            I would bet my house(especially since it kind of sorta belongs to the wife now) that the Cubs are no where near broke. They had a plan to dump contracts and stack the minor leagues, and stuck to it. Now that the fruit of the plan is bearing, or at least about to bear, don’t be surprised if all of a sudden money shows back up.

      • Cubswin2015

        Last year in the outfield I saw players like Mcdonald and Neal (briefly). I would gladly have Chris Young be our worst outfielder than any of the waiver pick ups we saw last year in the outfield.

  • Jon

    yeah! Dumpster Diving!

  • Joker

    I think no free agent signing for the Cubs will exceed 3 years or 10 million a year. The more I look around at the FA crop, I just don’t see it. They will kick the tires on Elsbury before quickly bowing out, make a strong bid on Tanaka but not strong enough, and probably dance with guys like Granderson and Salty before they price themselves out of the budget.

    I think we are in line for a BUNCH of one year/one year plus options with lots of incentive type deals. If they can’t get Navarro to come back, you pick up Jose Molina or another good D/poor O type veteran for a one million or less. You offer Hughes and Baker 5-8 million plus incentives on make good deals. You throw a one year, 2-3 million dollar offer at one of the closers out there (Mujica and Veras in my mind) and see who grabs first. They might need to offer 2 year deals on some bullpen guys if they want to try to solidify things out there with a veteran presence (Howell, anyone?) to go with the AAA cast of kids we will use in 2014. Other than that, expect some reclamation pieces (Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Chris Young).

    That said, I do expect that we trade for a bat to play the OF.

    • YourResidentJag

      That bat will cost more than $10 mil per yr. Unless Theo still feels he can gamble this season with wholesale “flip-mode” players.

      • Joker

        I think the Cubs will gladly pay 10 mil per year if they trade for the right bat. I just think they will not sign a free agent bat at that price per year.

        • YourResidentJag

          Another long season, you say?

          • Joker

            Was my optimism that apparent?

  • MightyBear

    I like the idea of Phil Hughes. I think being in the NL and away from New York would benefit him greatly. Remember the wind also blows in at Wrigley.

  • Kyle

    NL Central had Nos. 1 and 2 in the 2013 rookie class rankings by Fangraphs. One of the two is a bit surprising.

    • hansman

      The numbering on that list is wonky. He skipped 14 and had a tie at 26 but still had 27.

      Otherwise, good article. Still surprised there aren’t rankings based on players under “prime” “in-prime” players.

    • MightyBear

      Shocked by the Brewers is right. Cardinals, not so much.

  • Funn Dave

    How long a contract do people see Salty getting?

  • ETS

    Josh Johnson is this year’s version of brandon mccarthy for me. (IE the guy I’m rooting we get but kinda doubt and can’t really explain why I want him given the year he had prior).

  • August

    High fan expectations can make players uncomfortable. The perceived lack of them can make things easier for a player and they play “looser”; better. From that perspective, I think Hughes would succeed with the Cubs; more so than Johnson.

  • Die hard

    Bryant played catcher in high school and he would be more valuable as backup plus OF rather than butchering 3B

  • Bob Johnson

    I don’t like the idea of Theo getting to involved in signing free agents because if his track record. He should stick to his strength of evaluating young players.

    • Die hard

      Not to worry as none worth signing

  • gridge

    Does anyone think the exclusion of baez in the Afl could be because the FO wanted to maximize his trade value. They probably thought he would hurt his value rather then help it. To me it seems that the FO knows that Baez is at his max value and is going to trade him and get max value in return. Any other opinions..?

    • Luke

      The AFL tends to slant towards the hitters in most years. I suspect the odds are better that Baez would only have helped his stock had he gone.

      I buy into the fatigue theory. He played in 80 games in 2012, and 130 this season. That’s a big jump and I don’t doubt that he needed a rest more than he needed another 25 games or so.

  • gridge

    The fatigue theory could go hand in hand with the maximize trade value theory. If he were “tired” from the long season they wouldnt want to risk anything bad to happen and lose the value he gained all year. I hope not, but if there is a trade in the works I see Baez being the first to be included from the big four.

  • Matt

    What about this one…Mike Morse?

  • Matt

    I think the Cubs should get Tanaka, Josh Johnson, Mike Morse…if not Chris Young does make sense, Hughes, and Navarro. Maybe a couple bullpen arms also. I’d be happy to see this list signed.

    I also think the Cubs finally should/will trade Samardzija to the Diamondbacks. We could probably get Skaggs in that deal and a couple other fairly decent players.

  • Cubfan Budman

    Did anyone watch Moonshiners?

  • justinjabs

    I’ll pass on Benoit. Too expensive. Cubs shouldn’t spend in the bullpen, just keep trying out reclamation projects til some stick.

    Also, Reed mashes lefties….just sayin’…. 😉

  • Moises Canchola

    Whats insane is that half of the top FAs are linked to the Cubs in some rumor or another and in years past with Hendry those rumors def had a great possibility(and i have to admit winter meetings were super exciting then) but with Theo I feel they will probably get a Chris Young and probably some eh relief pitcher. Their slogan is buy low try to sell high and end up giving guys away for nothing (Marmol, Soriano & Dempster). If this whole rebuild drags on or fails miserably with Baez, Almora or Bryant being busts or come out strong then hit a Starlin Castro plateau, how fast will Cub fans be ready to Run Theo out of town. And yes I mentioned hendry because people want to complain that he screwed us with high contracts but we do have to admit we were in the playoffs a number of times and had the best teams in baseball, instead of horrible seasons.

    • Moises Canchola

      Oh and yes he did mess up with Soriano but he signed great guys like Lily to a 4 year 40mil deal unlike epsteins horrible edwin jackson sign of 4 for 52mil and Jackson is as terrible as steve trachsel losing 18 games