Is now the time for the Cubs to make use of their payroll flexibility?

The Cubs traded away their core gamers reasonably than prolong them, and now the membership is mild on monetary commitments in addition to good MLB gamers. Is that this winter the time to strike?

Assured Contracts

  • Jason Heyward, RF: $44M by means of 2023
  • Kyle Hendricks, SP: $29.5M by means of 2023. Contains $16M membership possibility for 2024
  • Wade Miley, SP: $10M by means of 2022
  • David Bote, 2B/3B: $13M by means of 2024. Contains $7M membership possibility for 2025 and $7.6M membership possibility for ’26

Arbitration-Eligible Gamers (projections from MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)

Choice Choices

  • Wade Miley, SP: exercised $10M membership possibility after claiming off waivers from Reds

Free Brokers

When the mud settled after the July deadline, the Cubs accomplished eight trades. Of the 9 gamers despatched packing, seven are at the moment free brokers, Trevor Williams is perhaps non-tendered by the Mets and the White Sox picked up Craig Kimbrel’s possibility. Seeing Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez in numerous uniforms marked the top of an period, and now the Cubs have a bunch of additional prospects and a clear monetary slate. In addition they have a brand new second-in-command within the entrance workplace behind Jed Hoyer in Carter Hawkins, employed from Cleveland. The Cubs additionally employed Ehsan Bokhari from the Astros as assistant GM and Greg Brown from the Rays as the brand new hitting coach. Moreover, longtime government Jason McLeod is leaving, and Randy Bush is shifting into an advisory position.

Hoyer mentioned in late September, “We plan to be actually energetic in free company.” Making an attempt to decode GM-speak is all the time troublesome, however Hoyer elaborated a couple of weeks later, saying, “We have now cash to spend this winter. However it’s actually essential that we try this in an clever manner.”

Moreover he mentioned, “We should be energetic in a manner that we really feel like we’re getting the proper worth for the {dollars} we’re spending, and we’re additionally ensuring that we’re not hindering ourselves going ahead with expenditures for proper now.”

Hoyer additionally cautioned towardsprofitable the offseason.”

MLBTR projected the highest 12 free brokers to every obtain contracts of not less than 5 years, apart from a record-setting three-year deal for Max Scherzer. When I attempt to translate spending cash “intelligently” and “not hindering ourselves going ahead,” I take it to imply that the Cubs received’t signal any of these high dozen or so free brokers. Hoyer has said that the Cubs “have a variety of holes to fill on this roster,” which is a euphemism for an absence of current MLB expertise. The Cubs will store on the high finish of the free agent market once more, however I don’t suppose it is going to be this winter.

So what is going to the Cubs do? Hoyer made it clear that including pitchers, significantly these with strikeout means, is the group’s high precedence. Why, then, did the membership commit $10M to 35-year-old lefty Wade Miley, whom the payroll-cutting Reds solid off after a superb season? Miley possessed a 90 mile per hour fastball and the sixth-worst strikeout fee in baseball this 12 months amongst these with not less than 160 innings. The reply is that Miley continues to be a stable pitcher, the one price was his wage and it’s a one-year dedication. For a group with no rotation locks past fellow soft-tosser Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs took the chance that fell into their lap. Miley’s finest attribute is his means to generate weak contact, as he ranked fourth in baseball in common exit velocity.

The Cubs could but add two or three beginning pitchers to the rotation. So far as potential free agent targets, let’s cross off these searching for five-plus years or a right away shot at a championship. We’re left with Carlos Rodon, Eduardo Rodriguez, Alex Wooden, Yusei Kikuchi and Jon Grey atop the strikeout leaderboard. We imagine Rodriguez could require a four-year deal — plus Boston’s qualifying provide means the Cubs would sacrifice their second-round draft decide. Noah Syndergaard comes with that very same draft decide downside, if he even reaches the open market. Rolling the cube on Rodon makes some degree of sense, in that the Cubs wouldn’t be hampered by a deal wherever from one to 3 years, and he provides potential ace-like pitching with out a $100M dedication if the membership rolls the cube on his well being. Rodon is the moon shot possibility, whereas Wooden, Kikuchi, Grey and James Paxton are safer selections. Free company additionally provides pitchers with first rate velocity if not the strikeout fee, like Steven Matz, Garrett Richards and Anthony DeSclafani.

The commerce market can also be an possibility for the Cubs, which may provide one 12 months of Willson Contreras, deal away a few of their prospect capital or simply tackle an undesirable contract. Strikeout pitchers who may very well be obtainable in commerce embody Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Tyler Mahle, Pablo Lopez, Sonny Grey, Frankie Montas, Zac Gallen, Sean Manaea, Chris Paddack, Chris Bassitt, Caleb Smith and Luis Castillo. The Rays’ Tyler Glasnow is sensible for the Cubs, despite the fact that he received’t be recovered from Tommy John surgical procedure till the 2023 season. Certainly, such a commerce was thought of again in July.  The Tigers’ Matthew Boyd, who underwent flexor tendon surgical procedure in September, could also be non-tendered by the Tigers and likewise is sensible for the Cubs. Again when the Cubs had some cash to burn, they signed Drew Smyly to a two-year, $10M deal off Tommy John surgical procedure with a watch fully on the second season.

Three of the most effective commerce targets are on the Reds, which can be reluctant to commerce a starter to the division-rival Cubs along with Miley. The concept of the Cubs reacquiring Darvish one 12 months after his commerce considerably kicked off their rebuild is simply too amusing to not point out. After the Cubs shipped Darvish and backup catcher Victor Caratini to San Diego for 4 low-minors prospects and Zach Davies, Darvish went on to publish a 2.44 ERA by means of the season’s first half. He bought blasted (largely by residence runs) within the second half to the tune of a 6.65 ERA. Darvish is owed $37M over the following two years, and the Cubs all of the sudden have the payroll flexibility the Padres need. Simply saying, it’d be enjoyable to see.

The bullpen is one other clear want for the Cubs, that are left with guys like Codi Heuer and Rowan Wick atop their depth chart. Just a few low-cost free agent investments make sense right here.

The Cubs’ infield is usually set, with Contreras at catcher, Frank Schwindel at first, Nick Madrigal at second, Nico Hoerner at brief and Patrick Knowledge at third. Whereas Schwindel (age 30) and Knowledge (29) aren’t probably long-term options, they’ve not less than earned at-bats in 2022. The Cubs additionally must see if a Madrigal-Hoerner double-play mixture has endurance.

With one 12 months of management remaining on Contreras, the Cubs enter into the acquaintedprolong or commerce” territory that led to their July sell-off. The free agent market is weak on the place, and groups just like the Yankees, Guardians, Rangers, Marlins and Giants is perhaps searching for catching assist.

Ian Happ averted a potential non-tender by posting a 147 wRC+ over the season’s ultimate two months. He figures to carry down left area, whereas Rafael Ortega can hold heart area heat till the Cubs deem high prospect Brennen Davis prepared. In proper, there’s Jason Heyward and the $44M owed to him over the following two years. After a brutal 68 wRC+ in 2021, the Cubs most likely can’t justify a roster spot for Heyward by means of all of ’22 except he manages not less than league-average hitting. Whereas the Cubs may discover a possible dangerous contract swap, they’re in additional of a place to tackle lifeless cash as a method of accumulating but extra prospects.

One outfield addition that would make sense for the Cubs is true fielder Seiya Suzuki. It’s practically unattainable to venture what degree of contract Suzuki would require if he’s posted by the Hiroshima Carp, however he’s solely 27 years previous and among the best gamers in Japan. Signing him can be akin to the membership’s $30M deal for Jorge Soler, which occurred about eight months into Hoyer’s tenure with the group.

We’re about to embark on a free company expertise not like something we’ve seen in recent times, with a possible lockout adopted by a compressed signing interval. If some gamers fall by means of the cracks in that situation, the Cubs are well-positioned to make opportunistic strikes with one-year provides. With Heyward, Hendricks, Miley, David Bote, Contreras and Happ, the Cubs have an estimated $63.7M dedicated for six gamers. As a group able to sustaining a payroll in extra of $200M, the Cubs are a sleeping large proper now. In reference to the Giants, Hoyer mentioned, “They actually didn’t win the offseason final 12 months. They received the season.”  Whereas I can say with certainty the Cubs received’t win 107 video games in 2022, it’s clear that the group would favor to keep away from the highest finish of free company this winter, turn out to be a shock contender after which look to flex its monetary muscle.

 

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