The volume of interesting players non-tendered this year sure seems high. I look around the league at the newest free agents and I can easily see a ton of guys that look like interesting buy-low, bounce-back types, or even immediate contributors in complementary roles. Was a guy on the fence for a team? Yeah, he was non-tendered.
Against that backdrop, and with insiders prognosticating several weeks ago that it could be a very high non-tender year, it’s not at all surprising to have seen a slow free agent market, given how dramatically that market just increased (especially in the middle and lower tiers).
As much as we might not want to see the Cubs focused on “bargain hunting” this year, *IF* that’s where a lot of their maneuvering will live, then it’s sure not a bad year to be in that market. Consider some of the newest free agents who absolutely could contribute to the Cubs in some kind of role:
Billy Hamilton, 28 – You know the story here. The guy can’t hit (his wRC+ has topped 70 just once in the last four years), but his defensive and baserunning ability are so extraordinarily, historically good that his value as a bench guy just strikes me as too compelling not to pursue. I’d imagine lots of teams will be in on Hamilton with that kind of role in mind. It’s tough with a four-man bench, to be sure, but … dang … want.
Brad Boxberger, 30 – He’s not a closer, as the Cubs demonstrated when facing him, but he’s pretty much always been a very good setup pitcher when healthy.
Shelby Miller, 28 – He didn’t quite make it all the way back from Tommy John last year (he pitched in limited duty, but the command wasn’t there yet), but some team is going to try to reclaim him. Probably a rebuilding club. If he gets healthy, he could be a solid back-end starter again very quickly. Could he pitch out of the bullpen?
Tim Beckham, 28 – He was awful last year (hence the non-tender), but he was a 3.4-win player in 2017 for the Rays. A depth middle infield option with some upside?
Jonathan Schoop, 28 – Basically everything I just said about Beckham.
Wilmer Flores, 27 – Another very usable middle-infield depth type with decent offensive potential.
Chris Owings, 27 – He was especially terrible at the plate last year, and even before that, was like an 85 wRC+ type. But he can play up the middle, and has the versatility to be a depth guy. Minor league deal, perhaps?
Hunter Strickland, 30 – Down in 2018, and kind of a jerk, but he was consistently very solid for years prior.
Xavier Cedeno, 32 – A very good lefty reliever, who has basically been really effective for years now. Huge splits prior to 2018 (LOOGY), but he owned both righties and lefties in 2018.
Dan Jennings, 31 – A perfectly solid lefty reliever.
Cory Gearrin, 32 – A perfectly solid righty reliever.
Matt Bush, 32 – A breakout reliever who was borderline ridiculous in 2016, solid in 2017, and then way down in 2018
Blake Parker, 33 – A former Cub who was great at times, injured at other times, and then broke out with the Angels in 2017. Last year, though, he saw pretty much every important number (stats and also pitching data) dip.
James McCann, 28 – He’s had only one passable offensive season, though he’s always hit lefties very well. McCann plays excellent defense, but rates terribly as a framer.
Caleb Joseph, 32 – He was a brilliant framer before last year when he inexplicably became one of the worst in the game. He was also a typically-hitting back-up catcher before last year, when his bat fell off the face of the earth. Wonder if something was wrong with him, or if he’s just in decline.
Chris Herrmann, 31 – A back-up catcher who hit well in limited duty with the Mariners last year, but not so much before that. Average defense, average framer.