A couple list reads for you today if you want to get an early grasp on the free agent market.
The annual FanGraphs take on free agency is out, complete with Craig Edwards’ projections on contracts as well as the crowd-sourced estimates. For me, the huge caveat here is that we are getting new data points every day on just what this market might look like, and since the variance on the market was necessarily ENORMOUS, I cut anyone some slack on their projections right now. That said, these look very high to me, almost entirely across the board:
2021 Top 50 Free Agents https://t.co/0vSQNYuqOn
— FanGraphs Baseball (@fangraphs) October 30, 2020
As you can see, the top-of-the-market trio (Realmuto, Bauer, Springer) still get paid pretty well, in the nine-figure range, which wouldn’t surprise me. As we’ve seen in recent years, even as mid-and-lower-tier of free agency pulled back, the top-tier guys were all still getting theirs. Now, if you asked me which teams are going to be out there handing out $100 million contracts this offseason, the only confident answer I could give you is: not the Cubs. Beyond that, maybe the Mets will just sign them all?
Among guys who might interest you, Ha-Seong Kim is pegged between four and five years, and $11 to $12 million AAV. Throw in the posting fee, and you’re looking at $50 to $70 million for Kim, which isn’t crazy high, but – in this market – is a huge amount of money to plop down on a guy who isn’t certain to translate. If he hits as he’s projected – solidly above average – then he’s probably a steal at $70 million over five years. With needs in the infield in the coming years, I sure wish the Cubs would pony up for the 25-year-old Kim. But even at that price point, I don’t know if they will swing it. If he’s on the lower end of those projections, though? Where – once you get through the pandemic year – it’s a contract that wouldn’t kill you as a flop? Please take the chance.
If Kevin Gausman lands the projected two or three years at $12 to $14 million AAV, then he’s not going to be a guy the Cubs will target. There has been reported love there in the past, but the Cubs are highly unlikely to spend big on a starting pitcher this offseason, and instead would target multiple buy-low options in whom they see something they can tweak. They’ve had great success on this front in the bullpen, but have mostly targeted higher-priced starting pitchers to date (and have had mixed results there, but mostly good). This market should be loaded with options/opportunities for the Cubs pitching infrastructure to make hay. (And before you jump to mention a guy like Taijuan Walker, holy smokes he’s projected at 2/$19M, which ain’t the price point I’m talking about. That does seem awfully high, though. Even Jose Quintana is projected at one or two years and $10 to $11 million AAV, so again, I just think these are high across the board.)
Tommy La Stella, rumored to be a Cubs target, is pegged for two years and $7 to $8.5 million per year. In a normal environment, that sounds pretty good – maybe slightly light – but in this environment? Much less wouldn’t shock me for that tier of player.
Meanwhile, Keith Law previewed his top 40 free agents:
Subscribers can also see my ranking of this winter’s top 40 free agents here: https://t.co/yw1W76VeYA
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) October 30, 2020
I always like to read Law’s take on these things, because he sees a whole lot of players from a very different perspective than what sometimes becomes an echo chamber of “industry consensus.”
Among Law’s thoughts, he appears to have been blown away by the Cardinals’ decision to let Kolten Wong go, and sees an above-average regular who might now land a three or four-year deal (Wong is his 9th ranked free agent overall!). I’m not convinced Wong will get a huge contract – if he had any trade value at $12.5 million, the Cardinals would’ve kept him – and he might wind up a guy who takes a one-year deal near the option value to try again next year when things have stabilized.
Law sees Kim as more of a super-utility type, who can contribute at shortstop (but not necessarily stick there long-term), second base, and third base, and get 400+ at bats per season. If a lot of teams see him that way – a useful contributor, but not a consistently above-average offensive starter – his price tag will go way down. Maybe even so far down that he decides to wait until next year and come over in free agency, rather than the posting process.
I’m shocked that Law has Jose Quintana as his 18th ranked free agent (just one spot behind Kim), but then again, part of that is the lack of real quality depth in free agency this year. The praise for Quintana is not effusive, and instead just likes him as a 4th starter on a good team on a two-year deal. If that offer is out there for Q, hey, go, God bless. Like I’ve said, I just wonder about that tier of player in this market – I could see very, very, very low-ball one-year offers coming, and players deciding less about money and more about fit.
Quintana’s lefty rotation-mate Jon Lester gets a shout from Law as the number 40 player on the 40-player list, worth of a one-year offer at the back of some team’s rotation. Might that be a reunion with the Cubs? If not, we’ll always have the beer he bought.