OK, so the Chicago Cubs are going to name Joe Maddon the new manager on Monday. Until then, we have a stream of roster moves as a relatively big trade happened as the Milwaukee Brewers traded for Adam Lind and sent noted Cub-killer Marco Estrada to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays also announced a host of other moves as they declined a bunch of options (we’ll get into that later). Meanwhile, Melky Cabrera became the first to receive a qualifying offer, which means that a bunch of other decisions will happen soon re: the QO between now and the deadline on Monday afternoon. The following Monday, we’ll know which players will have accepted the QO and which ones will decline. Usually most free agents will decline the QO and look for a bigger payday elsewhere, but with the QO at $15.3MM, it’s hard to walk away from that much money, so maybe someone will take the team up on their offer/bluff.
The MLB Trade Rumors folks recently set up a predictions blog for their top 50 free agent rankings. You’ll notice that the Cubs are featured prominently, as well as perennial buyers like the Boston Red Sox. This reminds me of a story about ten years ago when I asked my grad school friends whether it’d be awesome if the Red Sox and Cubs met in the World Series one year. Of course, one was a Yankees fan and the other was a Cardinals fan, so they thought it was a terrible idea. I think it’ll happen again, though. And this time I think the Cubs will have a better chance at victory.
Getting back to the MLBTR blog, there are five free agents that Tim Dierkes believes are likely signs for the Cubs:
I had previously blogged about getting a Nick Markakis type, but the real Markakis is likely to stay in Baltimore so we’ll have to look elsewhere. You may also note that the first two names on Dierkes’ list are names I mentioned from our initial free agent ponderings blog this summer. Obviously Jon Lester got traded so he can’t get the QO anymore, but Russell Martin had a career year and is going to be expensive. My feeling is that the Cubs stay with Welington Castillo instead of blowing money on an aging catcher who may only be a slight upgrade, even if Martin is a better defensive catcher and had that career year that he might not fall too far off of. The QO math suggests to me that the Cubs will be more likely to forfeit their second round (or third round) pick(s) for pitching rather than position player upgrades, which is something like what Andy had previously talked about. I don’t think the Cubs will go after David Robertson either, but I do think if they were to splurge on a reliever, they’d go after Andrew Miller instead, who has two pluses in that Miller is left-handed and he doesn’t have a sizable platoon split so he doesn’t have to be used as a LOOGY. I’m also not entirely sure the Cubs will go after Jake Peavy, who is on the old side and may be priced out of value range for a pitcher of that caliber.
Justin Masterson is an interesting name because he is no longer eligible for the QO after a midseason trade to the Cardinals. Thankfully he didn’t have any arm problems, but he did struggle badly for both the Indians and the Cards last season due to a nagging knee injury. If he can recover from that, then he should bounce back to a solid starter, and he has a history with the Cubs front office as well since they drafted him for Boston all those years ago. Considering his struggles, he should come relatively cheap and may be a good signing in the mold of Jason Hammel/Scott Feldman/Paul Maholm: a one-year pillow contract to rebuild value and who could be turned into a prospect if the Cubs so chose.
Two very intriguing names that just popped up on the radar after their teams declined their options are Brandon Morrow and Brett Anderson. Both pitchers are still young, are coming off injury-riddle campaigns and/or struggles, and could also represent a buy-medium/sell-high transaction later on…or the Cubs could just hang on to them to solidify the rotation if they don’t suck. While the Cubs have a ton of options that they can let pitch every fifth day, past success stories like Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks, there aren’t a lot who one could consider “reliable” and therefore a couple of value signings to supplement a big Jon Lester-type signing could be crucial to a surprise 2015 Cubs contender. I’d also name Brandon McCarthy as a potential get, since he also was traded mid-season, won’t be eligible for the QO, and pitched very well to end the season, but I can’t see the Yankees letting him go.
We will get a better idea of which free agents are there for the taking by the following Monday when qualifying offers are accepted or declined, but there’s your pre-Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game food for thought.
Now let’s get ready for some baseball…
— John Manuel (@johnmanuelba) November 1, 2014