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jacoby ellsburyAs expected, each of the 13 free agents who were extended a qualifying offer this year have declined the offer, which would have netted them a one-year, $14.1 million contract.

Thus, each of the following 13 free agents is now tied to draft pick compensation:

  • Carlos Beltran, Cardinals
  • Robinson Cano, Yankees
  • Shin-Soo Choo, Reds
  • Nelson Cruz, Rangers
  • Stephen Drew, Red Sox
  • Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
  • Curtis Granderson, Yankees
  • Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians
  • Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees
  • Brian McCann, Braves
  • Kendrys Morales, Mariners
  • Mike Napoli, Red Sox
  • Ervin Santana, Royals

To sign one of these guys, the signing team will lose a draft pick. The pick will depend on where the signing team’s first round draft pick falls. If it’s in the top 10 picks (11 this year because the 11th pick is the one the Blue Jays got for failing to sign their first rounder last year, and that pick cannot be lost – I believe), the team will lose its second round draft pick in order to sign the player. If the team’s first round pick falls outside of the top 10, however, then the signing team will lose its first round draft pick. If you sign more than one qualified free agent, you lose more than one pick.

So, if the Cubs sign one of these guys, they’ll lose their second round pick (and if they sign two, they’ll also lose their third round pick). This gives the Cubs a slight advantage over teams that stand to lose a first round pick, since the value of those picks – and the pool money associated with them – is much, much higher than a second round pick.

Of the qualified free agents, the Cubs have been connected to Cano, Choo, Ellsbury, Granderson, and McCann, though I’d question the reality of Cano and McCann, and I think Ellsbury and Choo are increasingly becoming a stretch (and Granderson may be ill-fitting).

I think Cruz or Jimenez could make sense for the Cubs on the right deal, but that’s about it from the list. Santana stands to be way overpaid, Napoli and Morales aren’t fits, Beltran is going to sign a three-year deal with a contender, Kuroda is pretty much Yankees or Japan, and Drew very likely isn’t a fit.

It’ll be interesting to see which, if any, of the free agents are dragged down by the noose of draft pick compensation a la Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse last year. If the Cubs do as I suggest, and wait out the free agent market this time around to see who’s left scrambling for a team come late-January/early-February, a couple of these guys could become intriguing why-the-hell-not targets.

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