That Huge Free Agent Class May Not Be So Huge on Quality Pitching … Good for the Cubs

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That Huge Free Agent Class May Not Be So Huge on Quality Pitching … Good for the Cubs

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs Rumors

Among the many reasons for the unusually slow 2017-2018 offseason, one of the most frequently-cited is the enormous free agent class looming after 2018. And there’s no doubt that it’s no joke.

We took a closer look at that ridiculous post-2018 free agent class at the beginning of January, and more or less came away as impressed as we expected to be. HOWEVA, there’s one major consideration.

While the class as a whole is still impressive, the group of free agent starters may not be quite as interesting as the rest. In fact, the way Craig Edwards puts it at FanGraphs, teams should be careful what they wait for. As in, waiting on starting pitchers may not pay off.

Let’s take a closer look at that list of free agents (age in 2019 in parenthesis), and see what he means by that.

  • Clayton Kershaw (31) (guessing he opts out)
  • Dallas Keuchel (31)
  • David Price (33) (has an opt-out)
  • Gio Gonzalez (33)
  • J.A. Happ (36)
  • Garrett Richads (31)
  • Drew Pomeranz (30)
  • Charlie Morton (35)
  • Patrick Corbin (29)
  • Brandon McCarthy (35)
  • Adam Wainwright (37)
  • Nathan Eovaldi (29)
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu (32)
  • Lance Lynn (32)
  • CC Sabathia (38)
  • Matt Harvey (30)
  • Jason Hammel (36)
  • Francisco Liriano (34)
  • Miguel Gonzalez (35)

That’s nineteen recognizable starting pitchers, but there are a lot of caveats to everything you see above. For example, if you eliminate the pitchers who are going to be 35-years or older in 2019, the list drops by seven names (Gonzalez, Hammel, Sabathia, Wainwright, McCarthy, Morton, and Happ (and Liriano is right there on the cusp)).

Of the remaining eleven pitchers, the headliners are obviously Kershaw, Keuchel, and Price, but two of those three come with big buts as well. For example, while Kershaw is likely to opt out of his remaining two-year/$65 million deal with the Dodgers, he’s almost certainly going to just to turn around and earn a bigger payday while staying in L.A.. Obviously, we can’t know that for sure, but it sure seems likely, and with the Dodgers getting under the luxury tax threshold this offseason, there’s no reason to believe they won’t have the cash, space, and desire to keep him around.

Similarly, Price has an opt-out after the season … but he’s actually pretty unlikely to use it. With four years and $127 million remaining on his deal after the 2018 season, he’s not likely to find a better option out there, especially after taking a step backwards in 2016, and throwing just 74.2 innings in 2017.

So with both of those cuts and the old guys stripped away, let’s see what’s left:

  • Dallas Keuchel (31)
  • Gio Gonzalez (33)
  • Garrett Richads (31)
  • Drew Pomeranz (30)
  • Patrick Corbin (29)
  • Nathan Eovaldi (29)
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu (32)
  • Lance Lynn (32)
  • Matt Harvey (30)

Okay, there’s still some interesting players there – especially Keuchel, who’ll probably turn out to be the gem of the class – but it’s a much different picture than you might have been thinking. Even Gio Gonzalez, who’s been solid and figures to be next season, as well, will be on the older side of free agent starters by the time next offseason rolls around.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Of course, guys like Drew Pomeranz, Patrick Corbin, Nathan Eovaldi, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Lance Lynn, and Matt Harvey could all turn into high attractive free agents with big, healthy seasons in 2018 (and who knows, maybe Alex Cobb will settle for a one-year deal and be right back out there, too), but every single one of them comes with concerns – you can check out Edwards piece at FanGraphs for a deeper look into that.

And, sure, pretty much every free agent pitcher that’s ever hit the market comes with concerns, but there’s no doubt that the profile of this particular crop of free agent pitchers has been lifted by the more appropriate excitement over the position players and the presence of Clayton Kershaw and David Price, whose situations are complicated.

In any case, now feels like a good time to remind you that the Cubs have a minimum of two years of control over Yu Darvish (up to six), three years over Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, and Tyler Chatwood, and up to four years on Jon Lester.

On top of that, they also have two years of control on Drew Smyly, four on Mike Montgomery, and a great group of developing pitching prospects. Needless to say, they’ve positioned themselves to not need a free agent starter from next year’s class, which is a very good position to be in. While other teams are forced to use dollars on pitchers to fill their rotations, the Cubs can save all of them for a position player.

Perhaps they can even snag themselves one of those 26-year-old perennial MVP types – there’s literally two of them in that class (Manny Machado and Bryce Harper). And now I’m all excited again.


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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.