The prediction and projection season is upon us, here at the outset of full on free agency, and MLB Trade Rumors put out its top 50 free agent rankings, predictions, and projections.
For the Cubs, they land Andrew McCutchen (three years, $45 million, ranked No. 11), a free agent we’ve talked about around here as a plausible fit. They also land Jesse Chavez (two years, $10 million, 44), which certainly makes sense.
But that’s it. Although the Cubs are mentioned as possible suitors for a number of other free agents – Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel, Marwin Gonzalez, Zach Britton, and Jed Lowrie – they are not picked to sign any. I could see the Cubs also having interest in guys like Brian Dozier, Andrew Miller, Joakim Soria, Brad Brach, and Martin Maldonado.
I think it could play out that the Cubs don’t sign very many of the top free agents – you can never count on landing the most desirable guys – but I would be very surprised if the Cubs had such a limited offseason in free agency, unless they’re going to go wild in the trade market (which, given how far over the luxury tax the Cubs already are, they may well do). There are free agents beyond the top 50, of course, but none are going to be significantly impactful, especially on the offensive side.
There are things to like about Andrew McCutchen, by the way – I think folks are really sleeping on his offensive bounce-back – but I’m not sure he’s the impact offensive move you’d most like to see the Cubs make.
Bryce Harper was the top free agent on the list, projected for a massive, record-shattering 14-year, $420 million contract from the Dodgers. Sound crazy? Given the big market teams that reset their luxury tax penalties and are otherwise clearly comfortable obliterating the top luxury tax tier in the coming years, would you really bet against Harper’s contract being eye-popping? Every year, with the top free agents, this happens: we think of what would be a crazy big contract, and then the guy winds up getting another year and another few million in AAV. So, no, I would not be shocked by this kind of contract. I’m not sure Harper will break the $400 million barrier, but I sure ain’t gonna be the one ruling it out.
As for why the Cubs were not the pick for Bryce Harper, MLBTR conceded that they very nearly were, until the financial concern rumors started floating about on Friday: “The Cubs were the pick here until the very end, and they are still a good match, but payroll concerns pushed us to switch to the Dodgers.”
To be sure, I have always been concerned about the Dodgers on Harper, and I probably wouldn’t *bet* on the Cubs being the team at the end (but that’s mostly because I don’t think you could fairly say that any team is a better than 30% chance right now). But, like we said yesterday, I’m just not sure anything that happened with the Cole Hamels option, the Drew Smyly trade, or the reporting about a tight budget actually changed the thinking that we already had: if the Cubs decided to keep Hamels, then it was going to be very tricky to be competitive on Harper unless the Cubs blew through the top luxury tax tier or made other significant payroll-related trades. But I can’t believe that the Cubs picked up the option on Hamels knowing that committing $15 to $20 million to him (depending on how you frame the Smyly trade) would totally take them out of the Harper race. They just wouldn’t do that.
So, then, while I think it’s perfectly fair to pick the Dodgers here – especially at that contract level – I don’t see any reason to totally cut the Cubs out just yet.
You can and should peruse MLBTR’s list for much more, even if only to apprise yourself of the situation for the top 50-ish free agents out there. Although the top end fell off considerably this past season from where we expected it to be, it remains a deep, deep class.