Late last week, we kicked off our 2018-2019 offseason preview with a look into Bryce Harper’s exciting trip through free agency from the perspective of the Chicago Cubs. Ultimately, it is still our hope that Harper will be the front office’s primary target of the winter, though multiple, recent developments have indicated otherwise.
But there are a lot of potential free agents out there – 131, give or take – and whether the Cubs decided to spend freely or not, they should be at least involved in many of those discussions. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the full set of contract predictions made by Jon Heyman and his “expert” to get a sense of the market. We couldn’t possibly share everything here, so be sure to check out the full list at FanCred. We also discussed the financial projections from MLBTR here this weekend.
Bryce Harper is listed first, as he’s expected to land the most lucrative contract of the offseason. Heyman has him at 11 years and $330M total, while his expert has him at 11 years/$374M. That’s a difference of $4M/year (both in actual dollars and AAV), so that’s a pretty sizable gap. Ultimately, I think he’ll land closer to Heyman than his expert, but $350M isn’t out of the question. As for potential landing spots, Heyman lists the Nationals and Phillies as “for sure,” before adding the Giants, Cubs, and Yankees.
Unsurprisingly, Manny Machado is listed next, and he’s expected to get slightly less than Harper. Both Heyman and his expert expect Machado to land a 10-year deal, but the expert is going on the high-end of total dollars ($325M) compared to Heyman ($300M). Of course, Machado’s overall earning potential will almost certainly be decided by Harper’s deal, so their thoughts on Harper probably influenced this position. And that means that, once again, I think Machado could land somewhere in the middle, but probably will not exceed $325M. Heyman believes the Phillies and the Yankees are the most obvious suitors, and I would agree.
A trio of pitchers follow these two prime-aged bats – Dallas Keuchel, Clayton Kershaw, and Patrick Corbin – but I don’t actually expect the Cubs to be involved with any of them. Note that Kershaw wound up extending with the Dodgers for three years and $93 million, a far better deal than the 4/$100M he was projected to get.
The next free agent listed who could be of interest to the Cubs is Craig Kimbrel. The formerly dominant closer wasn’t quite his usually dominant self this season, but he was still good, and should probably ride his name into a big deal. Heyman and his expert are both predicting four years, which sounds right, but their money, is once again spread widely: $60M for the expert, $72M for Heyman.
One of the questions I asked on Twitter the other day was If you could get Andrew McCutchen *and* Manny Machado for the same price as Bryce Harper, would you do it? And the results were almost completely split down the middle. Of course, some people thought the entire premise was unlikely, based on what McCutchen should get in free agency. But, well, maybe that’s not so true. According to Heyman’s expert, McCutchen is in store for just 4 years and $15M/year ($60M total), while Heyman thinks he’ll get fewer years (3) and less money/per season ($13M/year, $39M overall).
So by Heyman’s standards, McCutchen+Machado would cost you $339M total, while Harper would cost $330M, and his expert sees the duo costing $385M total with Harper at $374M. So, basically, the premise is almost exactly spot on … have you changed your mind? Does it even matter?
MLBTR projected McCutchen to the Cubs on a three-year, $45 million deal. While he might not be the top choice for an offensive upgrade, at that price tag, he might not be a bad addition in concert with other moves.
One very intriguing – perhaps unexpectedly so – free agent to keep an eye on for the Cubs this winter is Marwin Gonzalez. The versatile Houston Astro could play second base for the Cubs, back up Javy Baez at short, and spend time in the outfield as needed. Because of that versatility, however, he won’t come cheap. The expert has him at 4 years and $56M overall while Heyman is just behind that: 4 years, $52M. Ben Zobrist’s 4/$56M with the Cubs is clearly being used as a comp.
Some outgoing Cubs free agents, just as an FYI: Jesse Chavez is projected at one or two years, and about $6 million per year, Justin Wilson is projected at two or three years and $7 to $8 million per year, and Jorge De La Rosa is projected at one year and $2 to $3 million.
The crop of free agents is enormous, so head over to FanCred Sports and check out all the contract projections to get a rough sense of the market.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.