It’s highly unlikely that the Cubs are going to sign many impact free agents this offseason. In fact, many of the free agents you will hear the Cubs linked to at the winter meetings will be coming off seasons hampered by injuries. The track record of the front office in previous years has been to buy low and sell high. Just look back at signings such as Scott Feldman, Paul Maholm and Scott Baker
Although these aren't the sort of moves that excite or energize a fan base, the Cubs have proven they can provide a cost effective way to acquire talent.
Here are some possible free agents that fit that mold and also fill the Cubs primary needs: starting pitching, right handed outfielder and back end of the bullpen.
Keep in mind that this list strictly consist of players coming injury plagued seasons
The former South Sider pitched just 24 innings in 2013, and was largely ineffective when healthy, going 0-4 with an ERA over 5. Not exactly impressive numbers, but there is reason to believe he is a solid bounce back candidate.
Floyd is just 30 years old and still in his pitching prime. Looking at his career norms and removing his outlier 2013 season, Floyd averaged 30 starts a year from 2010-2012. He has typically been a 2-3 win player, averaging of WAR of 2.6.
Hanson was a highly touted rookie after a strong 2009 campaign with the Braves, then was later traded to Los Angeles. He was sidelined with a forearm strain in June and never reestablished himself in the Angels rotation. His fluctuating velocity has always been a concern. The 27 year old right hander has recently altered his delivery to clean up some mechanical flaws, which makes him an intriguing option for the Cubs.
I am really high on Gutierrez. With that being said, he has missed at least 50 games in three consecutive seasons, which is why a team like the Cubs are even potential suitors for the 30 year old outfielder. He will likely only get a one or two year deal to regain value on the open market.
Gutierrez had his best season in 2009 with Seattle. He posted a WAR over 6. To put that in perspective the highest WAR among the Cubs roster was 4.36 (Wellington Castillo). Even if he is half the player he displayed in 2009, it would be a wise investment.
In addition to being a gold glove caliber outfielder, Gutierrez can hit for some power. In limited action he slugged .503 in 2013. Those numbers are especially impressive when you consider that six of his ten homers were hit at Safeco Field, a notoriously pitcher-friendly ballpark. Gutierrez would be the perfect stop gap player while the likes of Albert Almora and Jorge Soler get groomed to patrol the Wrigley outfield in the future.
Bailey underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in July. Presumably due to health concerns, he was non-tendered by the Red Sox earlier this week, making the former closer an unrestricted free agent.
While in the A's organization he had three straight years with 20 saves or more. He also posted successive seasons with a sub-2.00 ERA. Bailey would bring a much needed veteran presence in a relatively inexperienced Cub bullpen.
Before going down with a right shoulder strain, Jesse Crain was having one of the better statistical seasons of his career. He had a remarkable ERA of .74. Last year was no fluke either, Crain has consistently performed as one of the more productive setup men in all of baseball over the course of the past few years.
The advantage the Cubs have in possible negotiations with Crain is the opportunity to be the team's closer. Like Bailey, Crain would be a welcomed addition to an unproven bullpen.
While none of the free agents mentioned in this post are popular or flashy signings, they are low risk/cost-effective options. Granted, the success rate of these deals aren't very high, they are a better alternative than given out payroll crippling multi-year contracts to aging superstars. Given the influx of young talent in the organization, the Cubs can ill-afford to mortgage the future for short term success.