This may come as a shock if you fell into a coma in 2017 and just woke up, but the Cubs aren’t in a financial position to land even mid-tier free agents. It was reported by Ken Rosenthal on Sunday that there’s “not a chance” the Cubs re-sign Nicholas Castellanos with payroll in its current state and the team has been telling agents they’ve got to move money before engaging with just about anyone.
That includes the likes of lefty starter Dallas Keuchel, who is back on the market after signing a one-year deal with the Braves this past June. Like Craig Kimbrel, Keuchel chose to wait out the draft pick compensation tied to his refusal of a qualifying offer and missed roughly half the season as a result. The 2015 AL Cy Young winner ended up going 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA, pitching 112.2 innings over 19 starts for Atlanta. It wasn’t a stellar campaign, but those are admirable results under the circumstances.
Certainly better than what Kimbrel was able to accomplish, relatively speaking. Maybe the Cubs are just trying to corner the market on once-elite pitchers who sat out for QO-related reasons.
Bruce Levine reported Monday that the Cubs are indeed looking at Keuchel as a replacement for Cole Hamels, who scored $18 million for one year from the Braves. Hey, maybe the two can just swap teams. Keuchel, who will turn 32 in January, is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to get $39 million over three seasons, which is too rich for the Cubs’ blood even before you consider how players have exceeded predictions so far.
With Stephen Strasburg getting a record $35 million AAV, Zack Wheeler getting $118 million total, and Madison Bumgarner reportedly targeting nine figures, Keuchel might be an attractive option even at $50 million. Of note, the White Sox were the team MLBTR predicted to land Keuchel and Levine reports that they too have “real interest” in him. After losing out in their bid for Wheeler, and with no designs on breaking the bank for Gerrit Cole, the Sox likely see Keuchel as a more economical veteran addition.
That we are living in a world in which the White Sox can readily outbid the Cubs is just wild. That it’s happening with mid-tier free agents is a travesty. If the Cubs need to move money off the books just to sign a 32-year-old whose best days appear to be well behind him, they might just be better off not moving at all. Which is to say they’re probably getting less value for Keuchel at $13-16 million than they would from the players they’d have to trade away to “afford” him.