You can’t quite say that “free agency officially begins” today, since the free agents are not yet free to sign with new teams for another four days. But today is the day that all eligible players become free agents, so it’s still a thing.
160 Players today were declared XX(B) free agents. Additional Players may become XX(B) free agents pending option decisions in their Uniform Player Contracts.
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) November 3, 2021
As of today, all players with at least six years of big league service time, who are on expiring contracts, automatically become free agents. They are now free to start discussions with other teams – or, well, have their agents make and receive calls – and then could officially start signing with new teams as soon as November 7 (when Qualifying Offers and options decisions are also due).
Usually you don’t see too many deals struck during this brief “exclusive” window, but it does happen very occasionally. Does the impending CBA scuffle make deals in this period more or less likely? I could probably make the argument in either direction – we know many teams will not want to lock down huge, multi-year deals until they know the shape of the game for years ahead, but might some players seek out security with familiar teams? We’ve already seen some short-term extensions over the last couple months, so maybe another one or two happen now that the postseason is over. (I betcha the Braves are trying really hard with Freddie Freeman right now …. )
For the Cubs, today’s official free agents are Catchers Robinson Chirinos (37) and Jose Lobaton (37), starter Zach Davies (28), and utility man Matt Duffy (30). The Cubs could conceivably look to bring back Duffy, who wound up a perfectly solid bench guy. Chirinos, if healthy, could come back as a depth catcher on a minor league deal. I don’t see the Cubs and Davies re-upping after a year where virtually nothing worked in the marriage. I wonder if Lobaton hangs ’em up.
(Austin Romine is listed as a free agent also, which is correct, but he was already effectively out of the Cubs organization.)
Upon the departures, the Cubs’ 40-man roster is down to 37, HOWEVER, the Cubs still have seven guys to re-activate from the 60-day IL this week, so they are effectively still four spots over 40 (and they need to get much lower than that to leave room for additions in the offseason and protecting prospects from the Rule 5 Draft).
Here’s hoping Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins have already long established free agents they want to target aggressively in the early part of free agency (non-Qualifying-Offer types, presumably), and calls are going out to agents as a heads up this week.