These types of columns always come back to bite me in the ass, but I’m going to be a glutton for punishment once again and make some free agent predictions. I’m usually very, very wrong on these so don’t place any wagers on my insight or lack thereof.
I’ll use the expected salaries over at MLBTR as my guideline, though it’s been sort of a crapshoot for those nice people the last few years, too. I’ll also assume Chicago has about $75 million in AAV at their disposal since I just don’t feel like anticipating any trades. Under that assumption, Willson Contreras, Kyle Hendricks, David Bote, Ian Happ, and yes, Jason Heyward, will still be drawing their paychecks from Tom Ricketts next season.
I am also going to assume the National League adopts the DH and I’ll keep in mind that the Cubs have several in-house options — Contreras, Happ, Frank Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom, and Nico Hoerner — to serve as the team’s stunt bat™ on a revolving basis. Nick Madrigal will be the starting second baseman and a rotation of Hendricks, Wade Miley, and Adbert Alzolay seems pretty accurate, with Rowan Wick serving as closer.
Oh yeah, I’ll pencil in Brennen Davis as starting center fielder by at least June 1.
Finally, I’ll exclude any players attached to a qualifying offer, so you can stop reading if you hope Nick Castellanos, Robbie Ray, Corey Seager, or Carlos Correa make the list. I don’t think this is the year the Cubs will be ready to give up draft picks or IFA bonus money.
- Kevin Gausman — 6/$138 million ($23 AAV)
This is the big splash and the Cubs get a bona fide top-of-rotation starter. He’ll be 31, so he’s still in his prime and we shouldn’t be terribly worried about diminishing returns as his contract ages. Gausman also seems to value security and probably won’t be partial to an opt-out. He averaged 10.6 strikeouts per 9 innings in ’21, doesn’t walk many batters, and does a good job of keeping the ball in the park. His ERA and FIP are nearly identical, so I like Gausman as a Cub.
- Avisaíl García — 3/$36 million ($12 AAV)
If you’re looking for a guy virtually guaranteed to outearn his contract and who fits Chicago’s timeline perfectly, Avi is your guy. I know Seiya Suzuki is the outfielder most everyone wants at this price point, but MLBTR is predicting a five-year deal and there is some risk attached to players coming over from foreign professional leagues. It’s hard to believe García is just 30 years old as it seems he’s been around forever. His batting metrics indicate he’s due for a breakout, and at $12 million per year he could be traded at the end of his deal if the Cubs’ minor league outfielders develop quicker than expected.
- Alex Wood — 3/$30 million ($10 AAV)
I think someone will pay him more, but how do you pass on the left-handed Wood at that AAV? He carries significant injury risk, but he’s one of the better starters in baseball when healthy, as evidenced by his 2017 and ’21 seasons. The Cubs can take the risk because Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele make decent understudies, but more so because Caleb Kilian and Jordan Wicks could move a lot quicker than anybody anticipates. That’s good because Wood is most effective when keeping his workload maxed out at 150 innings or less. Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins want to find value and this is one way they can do it.
- Eddie Rosario — 2/$15 million ($7.5 AAV)
Rosario is an outfielder in name only. His bat plays up as the DH and he would give David Ross a lot of options to fully rest his regulars. Rosario will get you 20 homers in 400 at-bats, doesn’t strike out much, and he’s also good on the bases.
- Javier Báez — 5/$100 million ($20 AAV)
A no-brainer for the Cubs, but will El Mago hold out for a higher payday? He’s the only star shortstop in this heralded class not towing a QO, so that may work to his advantage. At the very least, he’ll energize a traumatized fanbase. If anybody deserves to lead the Cubs back to the playoffs, it’s Báez.
- Andrew Chafin — 2/$5 million ($2.5 AAV)
This team needs its Sherriff. The dude had a 268 ERA+ after the A’s acquired him and 230 for the entire year. ‘Nuff said.
Look at that, I’ve added exactly $75 million in AAV and filled every hole, which is baller-level. But wait, you’ll say, “What about Miley and his $10 million option?”
The Cubs saved roughly that much when Theo Epstein stepped down last year and Hoyer went a year without a GM, so I’ve baked that into this year’s budget. Carry on.
Cubs News & Notes
- Whenever I feel a little cautious or reserved about making predictions, it always helps to read someone who thinks Castellanos, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo are all coming back to the Cubs. Heck, why not Joe Maddon, too? Watch, now it will happen.
- The Cubs announced Monday that they’ve hired Daniel Moskos as assistant pitching coach. He joins a staff that includes pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and bullpen coach Chris Young.
- Wisdom and Schindel received some recognition in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, finishing 4th and 7th respectively.
- Brailyn Márquez could be Chicago’s secret weapon next year and Ross may want to mirror the way the White Sox used Michael Kopech this year.
- The Cubs have re-signed catcher Tyler Payne to a minor league deal.
From the Front Office
“It’s valid to ask how many innings [Márquez] is going to have next year. We’re going to have to be careful coming off of a COVID season, coming off of a season where he didn’t pitch. I think those are constantly issues that we’re having to ask and address. We’re going to have innings limits on him. We’re going to figure out when to use that.” – Hoyer
Climbing the Ladder
Kyle Schwarber by the numbers, per baseball insider Robert Murray. The slugging outfielder projects to a four-year, $70 million contract and that could be a bargain for the team that signs him.
- Schwarber has more 30+ home run seasons than Castellanos, Correa, and Michael Conforto combined.
- Schwarber has four seasons with an 800+ OPS. Marcus Semien has two.
- Schwarber, Conforto comparison: Home runs since 2018: Schwarber 107, Conforto 84; career OPS: Schwarber .836, Conforto .824.
- Schwarber has led all MLB left fielders in assists twice: 2018 (11), 2019 (7).
Odds & Sods
Gauntlet thrown. I think it’s fair to say Correa won’t be signing with the Marlins, and he may no longer be welcome in the Bronx.
Carlos Correa isn't holding back https://t.co/OfIrw6bhir
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 16, 2021
Podcast host Michael Balko claims an MLB insider called Correa to Detroit a “done deal.”
The odds may finally favor Minnie Miñoso for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. The White Sox legend is on the Golden Days ballot for candidates from the 1950s and 1960s, but his record crosses over to the other ballot — Early Baseball — which is largely evaluating Black players from the era before integration.
If Miñoso is elected, it will be long overdue. His legacy is everywhere, and no aspect of it is more important than the road he paved for the game’s scores of Cuban and Latino stars.
The Mets are set up to be big spenders this winter.
Guardians owner Paul Dolan is actively seeking a new investor who could eventually take over as the team’s principal owner.
The team announced Monday that Julio Lugo, who was the shortstop for the Red Sox’s 2007 World Series championship team, has died. He was 45.
Stop the presses! Someone took the Mets’ job, and his name is Billy Eppler. I’m sure Eppler winked and crossed his fingers behind his back when Sandy Alderson asked if he would be bringing Shohei Ohtani with him. That said, and not that my opinion matters, this move is definitely a precursor to luring David Sterns away from Milwaukee next winter. Sorry, not sorry, Brewers fans.
They Said It
- “[Although] we have probably a broader scope in a larger market, you still want to be so delivered with those decisions and still want to be right more often than you’re wrong. You’ve got to realize that sometimes you’re going to be wrong and not let that get in the way of being opportunistic. Certainly, as we go into this offseason, we’re going to try to make the most of the opportunities.” – Hawkins
Tuesday Walk-Up Song