The day after the World Series ends, players eligible for free agency automatically become free agents. That means, as soon as six days from now, the Cubs could have as many as nine outgoing free agents.
Let’s have a little chat about each one, in alphabetical order:
Jesse Chavez, RHP
Chavez, 35, wound up being one of the Cubs’ best relievers in 2018 after coming over in a midseason trade. We’ve discussed him at length already, and the Cubs would be very justified in trying to re-sign him soon.
Jorge De La Rosa, LHP
Much of what I just said about Chavez, I could say about De La Rosa, 37, and he also got some love right here in a deeper take. The Cubs may well try to keep him around if there’s a reasonable short-term deal to be had.
Jaime Garcia, LHP
Not unlike De La Rosa, Garcia had success working out of the bullpen even as he struggled in the rotation with the Blue Jays. He didn’t have much of a showing with the Cubs because of the timing of his addition, so the decision on him is less about “do we retain this guy” and more about “is this a free agent we should target as a complementary, buy-low piece?” You wonder if Garcia will wind up signing a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite when all is said and done. Not at all a bad guy to have on that kind of deal.
Cole Hamels, LHP
Hamels has, of course, already generated a great deal of conversation about whether he’ll be a Cub next year (pick up the option? sign a multi-year deal?), and there will be more as the Cubs’ decision on their option approaches. It still feels like $20 million for 2019 is just a touch too high for Hamels given his age and the risk, but it also feels like a HUGE risk to just let him head on into free agency, where he’s never been before, and where he might find a few attractive multi-year offers waiting. I’ve gotta believe the Cubs plan to engage him – or already have – in talks very soon to at least see where he stands before the offseason really kicks in.
Brandon Kintzler, RHP
A tremendous disappointment after the Cubs added him at the deadline, Kintzler has the right to return to the Cubs on a $5 million player option (the Cubs have a $10 million team option, but there’s zero chance they exercise that), and I suspect he’s going to take it. Hopefully he gets things turned around in the early going next year, as he can still obviously be a useful middle reliever.
Daniel Murphy, 2B
I’d argue that Murphy was also ultimately a disappointment for the Cubs, who got decent productivity over his 146 Cubs PAs (.297/.329/.471, 115 wRC+), but who needed impact. Murphy just wasn’t that guy, and given the knee surgery that preceded his late start in 2018 and his age (34 in April), I expect he’ll very likely head into free agency to land a multi-year deal with an AL team that can give him plenty of reps as a DH. Arguably, the Cubs could look to add a second baseman in free agency (if Addison Russell is dealt and Javy Baez becomes the full-time shortstop, for example), but I don’t see an aging Murphy as that guy unless he has to settle for a one-year deal (and unless the Cubs whiff on Manny Machado (if the Cubs, indeed, go after Machado)).
Pedro Strop, RHP
Although Strop can be a free agent, the Cubs have a $6.25 million option for 2019, which they will exercise without blinking.
Bobby Wilson, C
The man. The myth. The legend. Yes, he was a Cub for a minute this year. If the Cubs look to add veteran catching depth on a minor league deal, perhaps Wilson could be that guy.
Justin Wilson, LHP
We’ve given Wilson a lengthy look right here, and ultimately retaining him will come down to the contract range in which he finds his free agency. In my view, it’s not at all difficult to want Wilson back … but not on a three or four-year deal if that’s where the bidding takes teams that can overlook his unbelievable struggles in the second half of 2017. If you think that was a fluke, then you’ve got a guy who is just pretty consistently very good with a 97 mph fastball.
Note that the Cubs could have additional free agents later in the offseason as players are potentially released or non-tendered.