So this should be fun.
Over at MLB Trade Rumors, Tim Dierkes just released the always-enjoyable top 50 free agent power rankings, with contract and destination predictions. The Cubs are all over the place.
From highly-attractive incoming free agents to some really notable exits, the Cubs offseason would be extremely busy if things played out the way MLBTR is guessing. You can see the full list and write-up here, and we’ll dig in on our own thoughts on the notable bits.
Starting with the incoming names …
Yu Darvish – Cubs: Six Years, $160M
Yup. According to Dierkes, the Chicago Cubs are in line to sign the top free agent available this winter, and to a pretty big deal at that. At six years and $160 million, a Cubs investment in Darvish would represent the second biggest deal in franchise history (Jason Heyward got $184M) and single biggest for a pitcher (narrowly beating Jon Lester’s $155M). Given the needs in the rotation and expected competitiveness, though, the Cubs might be in a perfect position to really go for it again next year.
Then again, as Brett explored this morning, it’s fair to pause for a bit before being all on board with the Cubs giving out such a sizable contract to Darvish.
Notable 2017 Stats: 186.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 27.3 K%, 7.6 BB%, 3.5 fWAR
Addison Reed – Cubs: Four Years, $36M
Addison Reed ranks as MLBTR’s 16th best free agent this winter, but the third best reliever, behind only Wade Davis and Greg Holland. At just 29 years old, Reed is a full three years young than each of Davis and Holland, and has been worth a combined 4.5 fWAR over his past three seasons – that’s better than both Davis (4.4) and Holland (4.0). If the Cubs can get him for just four years and $36 million, that’s a deal you strongly have to consider, even if you’re averse to giving out four-year deals to relievers. And, hey, that 4.9 BB% is just what the doctor ordered after the Cubs’ wildness this October.
With that said, Reed has thrown a TON of innings over the past two years (153.2 IP), and that amount of money is on the high end for the non-“proven closers” of recent offseasons.
Notable 2017 Stats: 76.0 IP, 2.84 ERA, 24.8 K%, 4.9 BB%,
Jake McGee – Cubs: Three Years, $18M
Reed wouldn’t be the only top free agent reliever the Cubs would add this winter in these projections. Behind him would be Jake McGee, who most recently pitched with the Rockies. McGee, 31, had his best season since 2014 this year (2.93 FIP, 1.5 fWAR) and is a left-hander who knows how to throw strikes (7.0 BB%).
Notably, McGee’s actually a reverse split lefty, so he’d be more of a full-inning reliever than a lefty-first guy, but with Brian Duensing a free agent and Mike Montgomery possibly getting some looks out of the rotation, McGee’s presence would be welcome. There’s familiarity there with his former Rays manager and pitching coach, too.
Three years and $18 million isn’t a cheap price tag, but given the growing importance of a quality bullpen, this may just be the price of admissions.
Color me at least partially concerned by his large 37.0% hard-hit rate and tiny 40.0% ground ball rate in a juiced ball era, though.
Notable 2017 Stats: 3.61 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 25.3 K%, 7.0 BB%
In whole, that would be a compelling offseason for the Cubs, addressing needs in the rotation and in the bullpen with some of the best pitchers available in free agency. But boy would it be an expensive offseason, and at a time when the Cubs might look to save a little powder for next offseason and for internal extensions.
Beyond those three names, MLBTR is not predicting any other top 50 free agents head to the North Side of Chicago this winter, but a few notable and former Cubs will be on their way out.
Jake Arrieta – Brewers: Four Years, $100M
Alex Avila – Yankees: Two Years, $16M
Wade Davis – Astros: Four Years, $60M
Jon Jay – Rangers: Two Years, $14M
First of all, wow. If the Brewers not only land Jake Arrieta but also get him on a four year deal, I’d be fairly surprised. In other words, while I do believe the Brewers could have justifiable interest in a pitcher like Arrieta given the corner they’re trying to turn, I can’t imagine Arrieta settles for just 4 years, even if he gets the $25 million AAV he’s hoping for.
With that said, MLBTR does leave the door open for a late-offseason reconnect with the Cubs, if Arrieta’s market isn’t quite where it should be. That would be surprising, but is possible.
If Avila is willing to settle for a two year, $16M deal I could see the Cubs having some interest. His left-handed bat pairs well with Willson Contreras, he’s got veteran, game-calling experience, is a positive presence in the clubhouse, and is acceptable behind the plate defensively. The only rub is that he’s looking for a starting job, and will probably find it for all of those reasons (and more).
Jon Jay seems to love Chicago and Joe Maddon seems to love him back, but even at two years and $14 million I’m not sure a reunion is necessary. Wade Davis is likely gone, as the Cubs don’t seem interested in those $50M+ deals for closers (especially aging ones).
Beyond those four outgoing Cubs and three incoming free agents, there are four other notable top free agents I’d like to address:
Alex Cobb – Twins: Four Years, $48M
Masahiro Tanaka – Phillies: Five Years, $100M
Greg Holland – Cardinals: Four Years, $50M
Brandon Morrow – Rockies: Three Years, $24M
Earlier this fall, the Cubs were preemptively attached to each of Rays starter Alex Cobb and Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow, and, frankly, they’ll likely continue to be connected throughout the winter. Still MLBTR finds Cobb to be a better fit with the Twins, while he sees Morrow sticking in the NL West, but in Colorado.
The Cubs were also briefly connected to Greg Holland last offseason before he got a pretty significant deal with the Rockies, but I wonder if that was more of a right-fit, right-time sort of thing. The Cubs haven’t yet been connected to Tanaka too seriously (in part because he hasn’t opted out yet), but they were connected to him before he signed with the Yankees originally and he’s still quite young and talented.
For more on the list and the predictions/projections, head over to MLBTR.