The top of the upcoming free agent class simply will not rival the top of last offseason (Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg) or the year prior (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson), but there is more than enough to love in the upper-middle tier.
MLB.com has a nice breakdown of the top-25 free agents this winter, and you’ll quickly see the top-10 features plenty of talented players: J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer, George Springer, Marcus Semien, Marcell Ozuna, D.J. LeMahieu, Marcus Stroman, Didi Gregorius, Liam Hendriks, and Blake Treinen. There’s also Ha-Seong Kim and (maybe) Tetsuto Yamada. And, of course, we still expect several high-profile non-tenders to add to that list, as well.
Of course, none of this matters for the Cubs, who’s worst-case scenario budget projections could actually lead to the release or trade of a star player (or two) – and that’s because we clearly agreed to sell all rights to any future happiness in order to win the 2016 World Series.
It was worth it!
Trevor Bauer: Cost, Market, More
Trevor Bauer rubs a lot of fans the wrong way for being a generally annoying human-being, but he’s a very good pitcher. In fact, Bauer (1.73 ERA, 2.88 FIP) is one of the front-runners to finish second to Yu Darvish in the 2020 NL Cy Young award race.
(I know, I know … he just beat Darvish for the Player’s Choice Outstanding NL Pitcher award. Whatever).
But while he’s still only 29, and while I do believe that the top of the market will still get their money this offseason (despite universal financial uncertainty), there’s no way Bauer’s getting this much. No. Way.
"It's more likely he’ll wind up with something closer to the 7-year, $245 million deal that Stephen Strasburg signed"
"You have to be willing to accept that he’ll be a distraction at times"
— SNY (@SNYtv) October 22, 2020
I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t share the report, because that *is* the rumor, and it does seem to be legitimately informed speculation. But I just don’t see it. At the risk of boiling things down WAY too much, let’s just be clear about one thing: Bauer has finished with an ERA under 4.18 just twice in his 9-year-long career, and one of those seasons was 11 starts and 73.0 IP (2020).
This past season was excellent and you pay for future, expected performance, but come on.
And none of this is to mention that he may have been doing something extra to put a little more spin on the ball. After all, Bauer, himself, claimed that no one could reach the RPMs he’s now achieving “on his own.”
In any case, it’s true that Bauer is entering free agency at the *exact* right time, and he does look like a completely different pitcher than he was in the past, but I think you’d be nuts to give him Stephen Strasburg money. Nuts.
But you know who might actually be nuts? The Mets new owner, Steve Cohen, who may just be willing to spend whatever it takes to get a winner out of his new team while Jacob deGrom is still on the roster and near the top of his game. The Mets are one of the speculated destinations, alongside two other teams that make sense: The White Sox and the Angels. The Angels can afford a deal that big, though they have been spending up the wazoo lately, but the White Sox certainly cannot.
There is talk about him going year-to-year so he can get a huge AAV for one season and claim he’s the highest paid pitcher in baseball, but that doesn’t really make sense, either. Who wants to pay $37M to one guy in 2021? Is anyone paying attention? Let’s move on.
Ha-Seong Kim: A “Long-Shot” for Cubs
Well this is depressing. Ha-Seong Kim, the 25-year-old star KBO shortstop who’s making his way to the states this offseason, represents one of those unique fits for the Cubs that transcends whatever financial restraints may otherwise legitimately exist for any team.
His age, profile, position, and timely availability just make too much sense for the Cubs in the short and long-term and he has already been mentioned in connection to Chicago.
But the two Cubs beat reports I trust the most (Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma) recently had this to say about the possibility: “Signing Korean shortstop Ha-Seong Kim through the posting system already appears to be a long-shot move that would require a significant amount of maneuvering.”
If signing Kim is a long-shot move that would require significant maneuvering, you can pretty much kiss any offseason joy goodbye.
Josh Harrison Already Off the Board
This is interesting:
Sources: Josh Harrison’s one-year deal is for $1 million guaranteed with incentives for plate appearances starting at 200. PA incentives max out at $250,000.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) October 22, 2020
For one, the Cubs are likely going to swim in the affordable second-base/third-base free agent market this offseason and Harrison was a theoretical target in that respect. But more importantly, it’s interesting to note his price tag and his eagerness to sign before the offseason even began. I won’t be surprised to see a number of players in his tier try to jump the market before it gets too icy. Hopefully, the Cubs are ready to pounce on any value deals they come across.
Just Sayin’, Carl Edwards, Jr. is Available
The man who ALMOST got the final out of the 2016 World Series, Carl Edwards Jr., is again available this offseason, electing free agency after being out-righted to Triple-A by the Seattle Mariners.
Edwards actually had a nice little start to the season (1.93 ERA over 4.2 IP with 6 strikeouts and just 1 walk), but was placed on the 10-Day IL with a right forearm strain on August 10 and eventually missed the rest of the season. If he’s injured, he’s injured, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him return to the organization that probably knows him best on a Minor League deal. But again, he may have an injury, they traded him away in the first place, and his velocity is down nearly two MPH from his peak with the Cubs in 2016.
Marcell Ozuna Back to the Braves?
The Atlanta Braves nailed it when they signed Josh Donaldson to a one-year deal in 2019 (132 wRC+, 4.9 WAR), and they nailed it when they signed Marcell Ozuna to a one-year deal in 2020 (179 wRC+, 2.5 WAR in 60 games). But after letting Donaldson walk last year, they may not be ready to let go of Ozuna so easily.
“Marcell was amazing for us. He was awesome. I’d love to have him back,” GM Alex Anthopoulos said via MLB.com. “I certainly plan on having discussions.”
Anthopoulos went onto explain that the uncertainty with respect not only to revenue but also the existence of the universal designated hitter will play a role in how aggressively they can re-pursue Ozuna. Which sort of makes this a two-fer: Ozuna rumor, reminder that we need to know as much about 2021 as we can as soon as we can for any front office to make a move.
There’s also a rumor about a Freddie Freeman contract extension, not that anyone ever thought they’d let him play anywhere else.