Baseball doesn’t really have an off-season. It would be more accurate to label winter as baseball’s second season. There may not be games played in Major League ballparks, but the news cycle rarely slows down. The day after the Royals beat the Mets and won the World Series, 139 players became free agents as all 30 teams made roster moves.
Free agency officially starts Friday night (11:01pm CST) and teams must decide by Friday (4:00pm CST) to make qualifying offers to their eligible free agents. Players have until Nov. 13 (4:00pm CST) to accept or reject the $15.8 million offer for next season. Over the first three years of the current system, a player has not accepted a qualifying offer.
Several free agents the Cubs have been linked to, as well as players that have not opted out or declined options for next season, will receive qualifying offers. The list includes Jordan Zimmermann, John Lackey, Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon and Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs will make Dexter Fowler a qualifying offer. If he signs with another team, the Cubs would recoup its first round pick if they ink a free agent attached to draft pick compensation.
Two players the Cubs have shown a lot of interest in the past, David Price and Ben Zobrist, cannot receive a qualifying offer because they were traded in-season.
David Price is considered by most the top free agent starting pitcher available this off-season. Some think and have reported the Cubs are the frontrunner to sign him.
Price reportedly would like to sign with the Cubs and has for a while, even before Joe Maddon was hired. The front office has tried to acquire Price but was not able to make a deal with the Rays or Tigers. Now there are questions about the Cubs having the financial flexibility to sign him.
Because Price was dealt to the Jays at the deadline he cannot receive a qualifying offer, which would be appealing to the front office. The Cubs would be able to forfeit its first round pick on another player and basically get the pick back after Dexter Fowler signs elsewhere.
According to Nick Cafardo, Price could be looking at a seven-year, $210 million contract. Those Cafardo has talked to about Price doesn’t think he will live up to the contract “unless he goes somewhere he’s totally comfortable.”
The knock on David Price is his struggles in the playoffs. Price is as good as it gets in the regular season and is one of the few true Aces in the game. Price should win his second AL Cy Young award. Teams have to get to the post-season and it takes pitchers like David Price to get there.
Price’s market will be limited due to the enormous contract he will likely sign. Price would reportedly like to pitch in the National League. The Dodgers and Cardinals are expected to pursue Price according to Cafardo and the Blue Jays would like Price to return to Toronto.
The Cubs will be connected to David Price until he signs. It will be interesting to see how far the front office is willing to go for Price after so many years of trying to add him to the rotation.
Alex Gordon is expected to become a free agent once he declines his $14 million option for next season. The Cubs are reportedly very interested in Gordon, who turns 32 in February and he could be looking at a five-year contract with an AAV of $15 million.
Jon Heyman reported the Royals are hoping Gordon will “take a hometown discount on perhaps a three- or four-year deal to give himself a chance to become a lifetime Royal.” Gordon grew up a Royals fan and just helped his team win the second World Series Championship in franchise history.
If Gordon declines his option, teams are going to lineup to sign him.
Multiple reports in the last week have indicated the Royals, Cubs, Astros, White Sox, Red Sox, Yankees and Orioles will all be in on Gordon once he basically opts out of his contract. Henry Schulman thinks Gordon is going back to Kansas City and said the Giants “will not spend big on a bat.” And Tim Kurkjian thinks Gordon must be the Royals top priority and re-sign him.
Jeff Samardzija is a free agent and is expected to receive a qualifying offer from the White Sox. Things reportedly did not go well for Samardzija on the South Side, beyond the numbers. Samardzija will turn down the Sox’s qualifying offer.
Reports have suggested Samardzija could be an option for the Cubs. He has an excellent relationship with Chris Bosio and could fill the three or four spot in the rotation.
Even with the poor year, Samardzija is expected to have plenty of options to choose from and one team that has been linked to him for a while is the Yankees. Samardzija has history with Larry Rothschild and Jim Hendry. Buster Olney is concerned about a fit between Samardzija and the Yankees because he’s a fly ball pitcher.
According to Dan Hayes, as many as eight teams are possibly interested in Samardzija … Cubs, Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Angels, Mariners, Astros and Rangers.
Jason Hammel re-signed with the Cubs last winter and had a very good first half of the season. Hammel struggled in the second half after he suffered an injury on July 8 that affected the rest of his year.
Acccording to a report from Patrick Mooney, due to Hammel’s “up and down season” he could be a “flip-able asset that clears the way for a bigger deal.”
Hammel is owed $11 million on his contract. Hammel is due $9 million in 2016 and the contract includes a $2 million buyout on a $12 million club option for 2017. The third year turns into a mutual option if he is traded or reaches 200 innings in 2016. Hammel also has the right to void the third year of his contract if he completes 200 innings next season.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer said at the end of the season that Hammel is in the team’s plans for next year. The front office believes in Hammel and thinks he is closer to the pitcher that was very, very good in the first half than the one that was in large part ineffective after the break.
Rumors and More Rumors
• Don Mattingly is calling the shots, but the Marlins “will not pursue top price free agent starters” like Zack Greinke and David Price according to Joe Frisaro.
• LHP Rich Hill may be an option for the Yankees to fill the role as a swingman and rotation insurance for the Yankees according to Sweeny Murti.
• Ben Zobrist’s agent, Alan Nero, thinks he can get a three- or four-year deal for his client this winter according to Nick Cafardo.
• Buster Olney reported the Orioles intend to make a qualifying offer to Matt Wieters.
• According to Henry Schulman, the Giants will “go into super-secret mode” this winter as the team looks to improve the pitching staff. The Giants made their interest in Jon Lester last off-season known and will not use the same tactics this year. Schulman reported the Giants are interested in bringing back Mike Leake and will check on Jordan Zimmermann, Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto.
• Rob Bradford explained how two wins during the season might end up shaping the Red Sox off-season.
• The Sporting News ranked the top 25 free agents … 1) David Price 2) Jason Heyward 3) Zack Greinke 7) Alex Gordon 9) Howie Kendrick 10) Jordan Zimmermann 14) Jeff Samardzija 15) Ben Zobrist 16) John Lackey 17) Wei-Yin Chen 19) Dexter Fowler
• The Yankees view LHP Wei-Yin Chen as a possibility according to Jon Heyman.
• Joel Sherman examined the many ways the Mets could go this winter to improve its roster.
• Carrie Muskat reported hot stove options aplenty as Cubs eye arms.
• A.J. Preller could deal Craig Kimbrel and/or Tyson Ross to improve the Padres roster.
• Tim Kurkjian reported count on a busy time for free agents and a whole lot more this off-season.