Though there may be little value in each individual breakdown of these ubiquitous free agent rankings, I keep doing it because they’re all pieces of a bigger puzzle. All of them have different shapes and it’s often difficult to see how they make sense sans context, which is why I think it’s important to maintain an open dialogue that allows us to connect dots between them.
For instance, Keith Law’s top 50 for The Athletic was based more on a subjective measure of how he thought the individual players would live up to their contracts over time. Or something like that. The Cubs were tied to nine of the top 13 players on that list, mainly pitchers and shortstops, which is a sign that it’s not just us gullible rube bloggers who’ve been snowed by Jed Hoyer’s bluster.
Now we turn our attention to Jon Heyman’s top 30 over at the New York Post, a roll based largely on a combination of hype and value. Heyman also includes teams in the mix for each player and an outside expert’s prediction for eventual salary terms.
First, a look at the players who have the Cubs listed among their potential suitors:
3) Carlos Correa – 9 years, $275M ($30.56M AAV)
4) Trea Turner – 9 years, $275M ($30.56M AAV)
8) Dansby Swanson – 7 years, $175M ($25M AAV)
13) Kodai Senga – 5 years, $65M ($13M AAV)
18) Kenley Jansen – 1 year, $14M
Nothing surprising among the first four names, other than a much lower salary figure for Senga. Being able to land a potential impact starter at just $13 million AAV would be a steal, and it wouldn’t be an awful deal even if concerns about his fastball command lead to him being a swingman or long reliever. I tend to believe the Cubs would actually prefer to do that same amount over four years, though duration might be important for Senga.
The name that really jumps out here is Jansen, who I haven’t seen connected to the Cubs at any point thus far. We all know how the Cubs like to cobble together bullpens with veteran relievers they pick up on the cheap, but Jansen doesn’t really fit that mold.
The 35-year-old notched 41 saves for Atlanta after racking up 350 over a dozen seasons with the Dodgers and could still be an elite closer. Getting him on such a short deal would eliminate almost all fears of regression, but is he looking to join a team with an uncertain level of competitiveness after all that time in LA and Atlanta? I could see this happening if Jansen’s market doesn’t develop and the Cubs can get him at a lower price.
Now let’s have a look at some who don’t have the Cubs listed despite early smoke, wishful thinking, or being a fit on paper:
1) Aaron Judge – 9 years, $330M ($36.67M AAV)
2) Jacob deGrom – 3 years, $125M ($41.67M AAV)
5) Justin Verlander – 2 years, $75M ($37.5M AAV)
6) Xander Bogaerts – 8 years, $225M ($28.125M AAV)
7) Carlos Rodón – 5 years, $150M ($30M AAV)
11) José Abreu – 3 years, $75M ($25M AAV)
17) Anthony Rizzo – 2 years, $40M ($20M AAV)
25) Josh Bell – 3 years, $51M ($17M AAV)
28) Michael Conforto – 1 year, $14M
This section is far more interesting to me because of the five names in the middle, all of whom have been very specifically mentioned in connection with the Cubs over the last few months or weeks. Bogaerts isn’t just among the group of top shortstops in whom the Cubs have long had reported interest, he’s been named as a target more than once. Whether that’s just fluff or not, it’s interesting that he’s in this section.
Verlander is the one who got away after the 2017 trade that wasn’t and he’s still going strong at 39, so it’s easy to draw a line from him to the Cubs. His age and the questions about how quickly the Cubs will be able to win complicate matters a bit, but getting a title with the Astros might give him the psychological freedom to pursue other options.
The two who stand out most in this group are current/former White Sox players, and not just because of the city connection. There have been legitimate reports about the Cubs’ interest in both Abreu and Rodón, so it’s odd to me that Heyman doesn’t list them at all. The salary figures seem high on both, Abreu in particular, and I can see the Cubs not wanting to stretch to those lengths if the market indeed gets that big.
However, I just can’t see Abreu getting that kind of cheese for three guaranteed years because it doesn’t make any sense. Particularly with Rizzo at almost half the salary for one less year. The last two players listed above are more about the possible fit and not because anyone had reported interest from one side or the other, so we’ll dispense with any serious conversation there.
Even as we allow for a healthy dose of skepticism due to bias from personal subjectivity and agenda, like doing favors for owners or agents, there can be takeaways from the info in these rankings. Whether you like their work or not, these national pundits do have connections and they’re hearing things from various sources about who’s planning what.
Is all of that information accurate? Of course not, much of it is meant to obfuscate or spur interest. That’s why it’s important to track what comes out and see where we get an overlap in reporting, like with Senga, Correa, Turner, etc. The rankings themselves don’t matter in the least, but it’s good to again see the Cubs mentioned as being involved in several players up near the top.