The window to sign free agents opened today, November 8 and signifies the start of the hot stove season which will run until March 2017. Things start to get kicked around this week at the General Manager meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona, but it remains to be seen as to when signings will actually start to pick up. Keep in mind, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the clubs and players expires at the end of November, so that may slow the signings of free agents until there’s more certainty around governing issues.
For the Cubs, they have nine players whom I would qualify as notable free agents. Here’s a rundown of those players along with their status and what’s being said.
Dexter Fowler – Dex was made a qualifying offer, the only Cubs’ player to have received one, on Monday. He now has until November 14 to accept or reject that offer of $17.2 million. It’s largely expected that he’ll reject the QO and opt to enter the free agent market seeking a long-term deal of four years or more. It’s not expected that the Cubs will offer Fowler a long-term deal, so we can, most likely, consider him gone for 2017.
While Dexter was a critical piece to the Cubs’ World Series run, there’s no question that the team has plenty of outfield depth to make up for the loss, starting with the uber-talented Albert Almora. We wrote in more detail on this topic this morning if you’d like more background on it but, ultimately, the Cubs will be fine even though they will miss him.
Aroldis Chapman – Since Chapman joined the Cubs in the middle of the year he does not qualify for a QO. It’s been confirmed that the Yankees have already contacted Chapman (MLBTradeRumors.com) which, of course, is no surprise. What’s not clear is whether the Yankees are attempting to come out of the gate strong and shutter other teams desire, since, well who can compete with the Yankees, or if the Yankees are willing to put out the top offer for the fire-ball throwing Chapman. It’s also not clear if Chapman would prefer to stay with the Cubs, where he won his first World Series, or if he’s so engrained in the Yankees culture that the thought of playing out his career with another team is out of the question.
Clearly, the Cubs could benefit from the continued presence and, let’s face it, utter domination that Chapman brings to the table. The real question is if the Cubs are willing to spend what will likely be in the $80-$90 million range for a closer. Of course, Kenley Jansen is a free agent as well but he’ll also likely command a salary in the same range as Chapman. They’re completely different pitchers, to be certain, but I’m hoping the Cubs can get one of these guys and sign them as a free agent. If one thing was clear in the Cubs’ Championship run, it’s that bullpen pitching is vital to going deep in the postseason. Either of these guys can get it done and I don’t believe that Hector Rondon is the answer.
Jason Hammel – The Cubs exercised their club option and released Jason from the final year of his contract (we wrote about that here). There’s not a lot more to say here beyond what we’ve already said. Jason was obviously a big part of the Cubs 2016 regular season and he had a good year. Although, as we’ve seen in the past, his second half (4.35 ERA) was far worse than his first half (3.46 ERA) and that was very likely a big factor the Cubs considered when deciding to release Jason.
In addition to the big three above, Travis Wood, Joe Smith, Chris Coghlan, Trevor Cahill, Munenori Kawaski and David Ross are all free agents as well.
David Ross has declared his intentions to retire and there’s no reason to think he won’t. Although, after the post-World Series comments by Miguel Montero (ESPN.com) about his role, or lack thereof, in the postseason, it’s not hard to imagine that a team with David Ross would be better suited for 2017 than a team with Miguel Montero. All the same, Ross is retiring. Let’s call is a near-certainty since Ross himself has said that it’s a 99.9% chance. So you’re sayin’ we got a shot?!
As for the other free agents, it’s possible, but not entirely likely, that the Cubs could re-sign one or more of them to a contract in 2017 and/or beyond. None of them are truly impact players. The biggest loss for the Cubs would be Travis Wood. He pitched 61 innings for the team during the regular season and he had a career low 2.95 ERA. On the other hand, his FIP was a stout 4.54, so it’s clear the Cubs stellar defense could be pointed to as a reason for why Wood’s ERA was so good in 2016. Of course, if you add in the fact that he’s a servicable lefty coming out of the ‘pen it does increase his value. Of these remaining free agents, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Cubs re-sign Wood.
Chris Coghlan is also a possibility to get re-signed. He’s a tough player and he’s historically performed well during his career as a Cubs’ player. It’s likely the Cubs could get him fairly cheap so I wouldn’t rule out seeing him return in 2017, especially since the Cubs will likely lose Fowler in the outfield. His return may hinge on what the Cubs end up doing about/with Tommy La Stella. I can’t imagine that the Cubs were all that thrilled with the way La Stella handled his demotion – by going AWOL – to Triple-A Iowa at the end of July. Of course, he was included on the NLDS roster but he was cut from the postseason roster for the NLCS and World Series.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours? Leave ’em below and let me know if you think I’m crazy.