The first order of business at the end of any baseball season is the filing for free agency by players finally unencumbered from their expired contracts. Zach Davies and Matt Duffy were among the 160 who filed yesterday, but neither should generate any fanfare or drama regarding their futures. None of the newly minted free agents will be able to sign with another team for five days, so if you’re worried that Davies won’t leave, you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer.
More players will declare, wilfully or not, as teams and players decide on contract options in the days to come. Several dozen more players — including a handful of Cubs— will become free agents after being non-tendered later this month.
Five of Chicago’s North Side baseballers are already free. Besides Davies and Duffy, Robinson Chirinos, José Lobatón, and Austin Romine are now ex-Cubs. Players who will probably be non-tendered include Rex Brothers, Jonathan Holder, and Joe Biagini. Willson Contreras is a lock to be offered a contract, and Ian Happ and Adam Morgan could go either way.
That list of Cubs players is as uninspiring as in any offseason since 2013-14 and, other than Contreras, none will probably be difference-makers in Chicago if Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins decide to retain any of them. Then again, Davies could be a hell of a bargain if Hawkins thinks he can be revived. At the peak of his game, the 29-year-old righty would have been a decent free agent option. Then again, unless Hawkins can find a way to add about 10 mph to Davies’ fastball, you’ll probably never see him in royal blue pinstripes again.
As has been mentioned several times over the last month, only Kyle Hendricks is a lock to make next year’s rotation. Unless he’s traded, of course. The good news is — and I heard this from a legitimate source (one of the few I have) — most of the best players available, pitchers included, have no qualms with playing for the Cubs next season. The lone exception is Max Scherzer, which is understandable given he’d love to stay with the Dodgers.
That means only Jed Hoyer and Tom Ricketts can prevent the Cubs from using the club’s financial resources from bringing elite star power to the Friendly Confines, and they’re likely to do a damn fine job of pumping the brakes. The front office is far more enamored with the depth they’ve built into the farm system, and that shows in their recent hires. According to the same source, industry insiders believe Hoyer did one of the better jobs in all of baseball at the deadline, particularly in the deals that sent Kris Bryant to the Giants and Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees.
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) August 12, 2021
My friend described the latter deal as “highway robbery” even if the Cubs had only gotten Alexander Vizcaino. He said Hoyer must have had something on Yankees GM Brian Cashman to get Kevin Alcantara, too, and believes the 19-year-old could end up being the most exciting Cubs outfielder since Sammy Sosa. He added that Alcantara was the first player every GM asked about when talking to Cashman, so consider it a coup of sorts.
“If he continues to fill out, he’s going to be a monster,” my source said. “The bat is legitimate, he has enough power to move to a corner, and he is going to be the fastest riser in that system. I’d put him right there with Brennen Davis because he still has so much projection left. That trade was a bloodletting.”
Caveat Emptor: Just because he “could end up being the most exciting outfielder since Sosa” does not mean anyone expects him to be as good as Sosa. Alcantara is not going to sniff those 609 career home runs, but he could be as fun to watch.
Scouts are funny humans, but they are usually low-key guys when it comes to prospects. Overhyping a young player who eventually fails means a trip to the unemployment line, so praise and superlatives don’t usually make their way into casual conversation. Minor league scouts are also wrong more often than they are right, so take it all with a grain of salt.
If Alcantara ends up being a third of the player Sosa was, it will be an embarrassing footnote in Yankees history, especially since all they got with Rizzo was a loss to the Red Sox in their Wild Card game. But hey, it’s the official start of the offseason and there’s no better time to dream on tomorrow than right now.
Cubs News & Notes
- If you need further proof of Alcantara’s upside, our own Todd Johnson is similarly high on the young outfielder.
- Alcantara’s latest scouting report from Prospects Live shows 5-tool potential, but with extreme risk. He’s only 19 and has had just 280 professional at-bats.
- Joc Pederson to the White Sox and Carlos Correa to the Cubs may almost guarantee a Crosstown World Series in 2022.
Odds & Sods
This is where Cubs fans will vilify Hoyer for the purge because Chicago was 42-39 after 81 games. I was angry at first, too, but I’m not anymore. It was the right thing to do.
The last two World Series Champions with 162-game regular seasons had these records at the halfway point…
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) November 3, 2021
Posey never wanted the attention he truly deserved.
Holy hot stove! The Tigers made a trade with the Reds on the first day of the offseason, getting their primary catching target in Tucker Barnhardt. The Reds were planning to decline their $7.5 million option on the backstop, but now get minor-league infielder Nick Quintana in return. Thus lighteth the stove.
Trevor Bauer is not planning on opting out of his deal with the Dodgers. Why would he? If he remains on paid leave, Los Angeles will owe him $45 million next season and $64 million overall whether he plays or not.
One of the most intriguing groups of upcoming free agents consists of nine players who signed one-year deals last offseason and substantially improved their value, including Kyle Schwarber and Kevin Gausman.
7th Inning Stretch
If no CBA agreement is reached by the stroke of midnight on December 1, the expectation is the owners will lock the players out. That’s not the main point of this article by Joel Sherman of the NY Post, but it should be.
Publicly, both MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark are optimistic about reaching a new deal. After two challenging financial years, there should be plenty of incentives for the two sides to be in business on Opening Day. However, player agents are preparing for talks to drag into January, followed by a rapid-fire flurry of transactional activity just before or during spring training.
And franchise icon Henry Aaron wore number 44…
The #Braves won 44 games before the All-Star break, and won 44 games after the break. And they won the World Series in the 44th week of 2021.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) November 4, 2021
They Said It
- “I think [the 2016 Cubs championship clincher] is two days, right? Let’s make it into a two-day thing. All Cubs fans, go get drunk, remember it, have fun, go visit the people you need to visit. It deserves to be two days.” – Schwarber
Thursday Walk-Up Song
Goodbye Stranger by Supertramp – So long, Mr. Davies