A Review of the Top Remaining Free Agents is a Reminder That Some Markets Are Still Robust, Others Not

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A Review of the Top Remaining Free Agents is a Reminder That Some Markets Are Still Robust, Others Not

Chicago Cubs

Good call by MLB Trade Rumors on publishing the updated top remaining free agents list today, as we flip the page to 2022. The lockout is still ongoing, and will be for quite some time yet if the state of negotiations is any indication. But we can kinda reset the stage a bit here in January.

For the Cubs, who’ve already added Marcus Stroman, Yan Gomes, Clint Frazier, and Wade Miley (via waiver claim), there is much work to be done if they truly want to field the kind of roster that has a good chance at projecting in that 85-90 win range by the time April rolls around. We’ve talked about the need at shortstop, both to improve the infield defense and to free up Nico Hoerner a bit. There’s also a need for a significant bat or two – perhaps some left-handed power – for the middle of the lineup. A premium stuff/velocity starting pitcher, even one with risk, wouldn’t be a bad thing. And the Cubs have indicated they do want to add in the bullpen.

How much help could the free agent market still be for them, even after the dizzying market spend in the run-up to the lockout on December 1?

Well, as I said, MLBTR teed things up today by revisiting their top free agents list, noting who was still available. Of the original 50 names on the list, an even 20 remain unsigned (plus 11 honorable mentions, which is still a deep enough tier to include guys like Andrew Chafin and Joe Kelly). Although it has become light on shortstops (only Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, and Jonathan Villar remain) and starting pitchers (only Carlos Rodon, Clayton Kershaw, Yusei Kikuchi, and Zack Greinke remain), there’s certainly plenty of impact bats remaining (Kris Bryant, Freddie Freeman, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, Seiya Suzuki, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, Michael Conforto, and Nelson Cruz, among others).

On the whole, though, you don’t immediately get the sense that the Cubs will be able to land a huge bargain late in the (shortened) offseason. Big market teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Giants have done exceedingly little so far this offseason, and there are plenty of teams like the Cubs that’ve done a bit, but figure to do more. Here’s hoping the Cubs do take a big swing at a guy like Carlos Correa, who checks a lot of boxes for them (in addition to being, you know, a stud).

Otherwise, I don’t know if the Cubs land an impact bat, because reunions with Bryant, Castellanos, Schwarber, Rizzo, or Soler seem unlikely for various individual reasons, Conforto is attached to the Qualifying Offer so that’s a factor, and Suzuki’s market is going to be extremely broad. The availability of Matt Olson and Matt Chapman on the trade market could help the Cubs (by diluting the free agent group a bit), but still. It’s a numbers game of musical chairs, and there might be enough longer-term chairs out there for these guys (the Cubs are likely to stay very short-term in their offers to these types).

I feel good about the Cubs’ chances of finding useful bullpen arms from here to add to a really good holdover set. Not only is it a really deep group in-house as is (both at the MLB level and Triple-A), but the Cubs have shown for years a penchant for finding great reclamation opportunities in the bullpen, and then executing on it.

On the starting pitching side, though, it’s pretty sparse. Maybe the Cubs take the big risk on Rodon. Or maybe they think they can unlock Kikuchi. Neither Kershaw nor Greinke is going to be seriously pursued (nor would either likely have interest in the Cubs at this particular moment). So, if another starting pitcher is to be added, it might be a guy who is far from a guarantee to contribute. Actually, I take that back. If the Cubs add any realistic starting pitcher from here in free agency, it’s not going to be a guy you can lock in for 32 starts. So that means either it’s time to start accepting that reality (and hope Adbert Alzolay’s new(?) cutter was a true revelation (plus Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson)), or the Cubs might look to the trade market for a rotation boost. Even that area, I would think, would have to be a less-impactful type, since the Cubs are not likely in a place where they want to part with a huge prospect package.

That is all to say, it was good to review the top remaining free agents today. It was a reminder, however, that it is probably not going to be an area where the Cubs can fundamentally transform their rotation from here. Marcus Stroman, Kyle Hendricks, Wade Miley, and then a mix and match of Alzolay, Steele, Thompson, and Alec Mills? Hope Cory Abbott takes a step forward? Hope Caleb Kilian is so for real that he’s a rotation mainstay in the second half? It’s not the disaster it was last year, but it’s also got plenty of risk.

The full list of all remaining free agents is here at MLBTR, by the way, if you want to start thinking about Matthew Boyd or Chad Kuhl or Michael Pineda or Vince Velasquez or Kwang-Hyun Kim.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.