Since there’s a whole bunch of news out there, most of which is not directly Cubs-related, I thought it best to round things up for the normally Rundown-free weekend. And unlike every other time I say I’ll keep it short, this time I mean it.
Between writing this and publishing, the Cubs made a series of moves that won’t be discussed below because we’ve got separate posts on them. As expected, Jon Lester‘s $25 million option was declined and the Cubs may try to work out a much lower deal with the lefty. Anthony Rizzo will earn $16.5 million as his option is being picked up, but Daniel Descalso is gone.
David O’Brien of The Athletic reported Friday that the Braves have already reached out ($) to free-agent righty Adam Wainwright. The 39-year-old has expressed a desire to return to the Cardinals, the only MLB team he’s ever pitched for, but he’s also a Brunswick, GA native. What’s more, he was actually drafted by the Braves in the first round way back in 2000 and pitched in their organization for four years before being traded as part of the JD Drew deal.
When Wainwright debuted in 2005, he became teammates with a young catcher who had broken through the previous season. Yadier Molina turned 38 in July and has likewise only worn a Cardinals uniform at the big league level. He’s spent 19 years in the organization and would prefer to return, though he and Wainwright are both said to be weighing their options.
As O’Brien wrote, Waino and Yadi “have mentioned the possibility of going somewhere in a package deal, although it’s not clear how serious they were.” That could be little more than a ploy to get the Cards to bring them both back, but it’d be kind of hilarious to see them both head to Atlanta or anywhere else. While they’ve both had their share of success, they could be in for a rude awakening if they disappoint in front of fans who don’t genuflect at the mere mention of their names.
Top 50 free agent projections look way too robust
I’m not going to waste your time by running through all of these, or any of them really, but it really feels like both the FanGraphs staffers and the readers responsible for the crowdsourced estimates grossly exaggerated the market. Their predictions for the contracts of the top 50 free agents are certainly lower than what we might expect most seasons, but they don’t seem to adequately take into account just how cheap the owners are going to be.
There is the possibility however, that new Mets owner Steve Cohen — whose $14.6 billion net worth is more than three times greater than that of the next-wealthiest owner — could decide to go big this winter. Most teams figure to be sitting on their hands, so going after JT Realmuto, Trevor Bauer, and George Springer could be realistic. Not likely, mind you, but it’s out there.
Declined options galore
There has already been a slew of declined options around the league with more to come during the five days following the World Series in which teams can negotiate with their own players. Kolten Wong was probably the most surprising of those, since his $12.5 million option was anything but an albatross and he’s been a mainstay for the Cardinals over the past few years.
Then there’s lefty Brad Hand, a finalist for AL reliever of the year and one of the most consistently excellent southpaw bullpen arms in the game for a while now. The Indians declined his $10 million option and placed him on waivers in the hopes that a team would claim him and save his former team the burden of his $1 million buyout. But he cleared waivers, so the Indians are on the hook and he’s a free agent.
A lot of folks understandably saw this as a clear sign of the suppressed market, perhaps even to the point of being indicative of collusion, but I think there’s a little more to it than that. FanGraphs projected Hand at around $10 million AAV for either two or three years, so it’s possible teams weren’t willing to pony up that same annual amount for just one season.
That’s particularly true when 2021 figures to be way down again in terms of revenue, which could mean lots of end-loaded contracts and deferrals. Part of the reluctance on Hand might have been preferring to negotiate a deal in which a team has more control with less immediate payroll responsibility. Or it could simply be the whole damn league is cheap, which is definitely more Occam’s razor-y.
Whatever the case, this is absolutely a guy the Cubs should be in on if the bottom really falls out. I mean, they should be in on him regardless, but you know how that goes. His low groundball numbers are a little concerning, but he’s done a good job of keeping the ball in the yard and has posted excellent K/BB ratios.
The other overarching factor when it comes to the market as a whole is that owners are probably going to want to re-negotiate some of the parameters for next season, including bringing back rules changes like the universal DH and 7-inning doubleheaders. Evan Drellich of The Athletic even indicated that the owners might try to push back the negotiation ($) of the next collective bargaining agreement, which the players would strenuously object to given how badly they got hosed (much of which was their own fault, or that of their leadership, but still) on the current pact.
It’s very obvious that this free agency is going to be a buyer’s market and that those buyers have all been crying poor for the last several months at the very least. There almost certainly won’t be some watershed moment following which everything becomes more clear, so you should probably expect to sit around and watch paint dry until February or even later.