Well, the first few hours of free agency were anything but exciting — and not just relative to our own expectations. It has been awfully quiet out there.
But, as Brett rightly pointed out on Twitter, this is nothing like the failed promise of an active trade deadline, where the absence of moves is always a possibility, regardless of the rumors. In this case, there simply *are* a ton of very important free agents on the market, and very few days to get deals in place. The fact is, the insanity is coming.
Free agency talks are “extremely” busy, in the words of one agent. We’re only 2 hours into the market. Busy weekend ahead. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) March 11, 2022
And, hey, at least we caught wind of a new rumor directly involving the Cubs and J.D. Davis. Here’s what else has squeaked out since the lockout ended.
Padres Looking for Outfielders
Although the Padres payroll is still too high for a significant free agent addition without a significant financial subtraction (a la Eric Hosmer or Wil Myers), they are still considered to be actively shopping the free agent outfield market.
Here’s the latest from Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union Tribune: “League sources confirmed in recent weeks the Padres showed interest in the top four free agent outfielders — Kris Bryant, Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto and Seiya Suzuki.”
I think it’s very safe to say that the ship has sailed on a reunion between the Cubs and Kris Bryant, and no one has connected the Cubs to Nick Castellanos at all this offseason (no matter how badly you want it), but Conforto and Suzuki have been two of our preferred outfield targets for the Cubs all winter.
Conforto, you’ll recall, comes attached to draft pick compensation, which makes a one or two year deal far less appealing, but I do think a three or four year deal could really capture some underrated value. Meanwhile, Suzuki, who’s coming over from the NPB, is more of an unknown, though he projects quite strongly. Maybe the Cubs, who have less to lose if he starts slowly (and more playing time available to let him settle in) could make the most sense for the 27-year-old outfielder, but he’s been targeted heavily by many contending teams. I don’t think he’ll come easily.
Circling back to the Padres, Acee re-confirms that the Padres have “been shopping first baseman Eric Hosmer for some time as part of a package that would likely involve prospects and a portion of Hosmer’s salary going to another club.” The Cubs and Padres have reportedly had those talks before.
Freddie Freeman First?
If I had to bet which of the major free agents would be the first to sign, my money would be placed on Freddie Freeman. He’s the best first base free agent to hit the market in a long time, and he has a trio of cash-happy teams right on his tail (Braves, Yankees, Dodgers), plus a few other stragglers hanging in the periphery (Blue Jays, Rays).
To that end, Jon Morosi is hearing that he “could be the next major free agent to sign,” alongside some other useful details:
#Dodgers interest in Freddie Freeman is sincere, based on what I have heard from sources tonight. #Braves and #Yankees obviously are prominent in the Freeman marketplace. Some in the industry believe he could be next major free agent to sign. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) March 11, 2022
Remember, Freeman’s web is entangled with the market for Anthony Rizzo, who has been connected to the Cubs recently, and Matt Olson, who’s the next best available option, albeit via trade with the A’s.
Yankees Big-Time Wish List
You may have missed this one during yesterday’s doom-scrolling of the CBA negotiations, but according to Jon Heyman, the Yankees requested the medicals of a trio of free agents: Carlos Correa, Carlos Rodon, and Yusei Kikuchi before the lockout.
The question we have to entertain is whether that was just them doing their due diligence (why wouldn’t the Yankees want to see this info, if it’s available), especially on Correa, or if they actually are interested in signing him. In terms of Correa, the general consensus seems to be that it’s fairly unlikely given what he’s expected to cost, because the Yankees already have two MAJOR free agent deals on the books (Giancarlo Stanton, Gerrit Cole), and another on the way (Aaron Judge extension). Yes, they’ve shown interest in Freeman, who is likely going to cost at least around $140M, but that’s probably less than half of what Correa is going to cost. They’re still the Yankees, after all.
As for Rodon and Kikuchi ….
The former, Rodon, makes sense for the Cubs on paper (plenty of upside, throws hard, not attached to draft pick compensation), but he does also have his warts (end-of-season injury, inconsistent career, still expected to be pricey) and hasn’t been connected to the Cubs in some time. And the latter, Kikuchi, he may have made sense for the Cubs before other additions, but he might get multiple years from a team less concerned by his peripherals.
I do still expect the Cubs to add a starter, but I think he’ll be of the high-velocity, lottery ticket variety.
As a related aside, the Twins also received the medicals of Rodon and Kikuchi, and are reportedly looking for “multiple arms,” including starters and relievers *and* a shortstop.
Have we discussed how many former Cubs are/were free agents this offseason? The list is ridiculously long: Javy Báez (signed with Tigers), Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Joc Pederson, Ryan Tepera, Andrew Chafin, Robinson Chirinos, Daniel Vogelbach, Eric Sogard, Starlin Castro, Albert ALmora Jr., Billy Hamilton, Jake Marisnick, Dexter Fowler, Billy McKinney, Brett Anderson, Jake Arrieta, Trevor Cahill, Brad Brach, Jesse Chavez, Steve Cishek, Tommy Hunter, Dan Winkler, Brandon Workman, Derek Holland, and Drew Smyly (kinda).
One guy I didn’t mention above is Jorge Soler, the 2021 World Series MVP, who’s largely being targeted as a designated hitter. And reportedly by as many as six teams:
The addition of the Universal DH should help free agents such as Jorge Soler. More than a half-dozen teams had already shown interest in the World Series MVP, though that number figures to rise now that the DH is coming to the NL.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) March 10, 2022
One potentially-speculative report mentioned the Nationals, Guardians, Marlins, Red Sox, Yankees, Braves, Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox, Mets, Phillies, Rays, and Orioles. But I’m not sure how far we should take that one just yet.
Soler, now 30, had his big breakout season in 2019 (48 HRs, 136 wRC+), but followed it up with two relatively mediocre (if not downright bad, given his defensive deficiencies) seasons in 2020 (108 wRC+) and 2021 (101 wRC+).
HOWEVA … his expected statistics for 2021 (.359 xwOBA) were a lot stronger than his actual results (.323), and in a believable way. Soler still took his walks (11.1%), cut down on the strikeouts (23.6%), and hit the ball with authority (91.2 MPH average exit velocity) in the air (15.7 degree launch angle) all season long. Frankly, he strikes me as a good bet, and with the universal DH arriving, I think he’ll actually get a nice deal.
But given his age, expected price tag, and the fact that the Cubs could probably put the DH spot to better use, I don’t see this reunion happening.
Odds and Ends:
• Speaking of reunions, I was curious how you guys felt about the four biggest former Cub free agents:
Which former #Cubs free agent would you most like to see back this year?
Don’t worry about if it’s likely or not, just pure preference:
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) March 11, 2022
• In case you missed it, I think the Cubs would be smart to go after Jimmy Nelson … as a reliever … for 2023.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) March 5, 2022