This is the second of these pieces I’ve written today alone and the third in the last three days, so I’m sure you won’t mind if I dispense with most of the preamble here. In a nutshell, these things are worthwhile in the sense that we get multiple perspectives on what the Cubs are believed to be trying to do this offseason. Some of that could be careful misdirection, but it starts to feel pretty solid when you hear it from enough different sources.
Jim Bowden’s top 25 at The Athletic is an interesting one because, unlike most other writers with a national platform, he used to be an MLB GM. Rather than getting into the reasons why he’s a former GM or calling into question some of his sourced reporting in other areas, I’ll just say that I have found his free agency prognostication to be quite strong in the past. That’s particularly true when it comes to projecting contracts.
As such, I think this list is as good an indication as any we’ve seen so far of who the Cubs are looking at. Here are the players for whom Bowden listed the Cubs among the best fits:
4) Carlos Correa – 10 years, $327M (32.7M AAV)
5) Trea Turner – 8 years, $264M ($33M AAV)
10) Koudai Senga – 3 years, $72M ($24M AAV)
12) Willson Contreras – 4 years, $78M ($19.5M AAV)
18) José Abreu – 2 years, $34M ($17M AAV)
Call it confirmation bias if you like, but my initial thought is that this is leaps and bounds better than the projections we saw in Jon Heyman’s rankings. Abreu was at $75 million for three years and wasn’t even connected to the Cubs, for starters. What I really like here is that we’re seeing at least two instances of players potentially being coaxed into shorter deals with higher AAV.
Take Senga, for instance. FanGraphs projected him at $75 million for five years and Heyman had him at $10 million less over that same period. While it might seem as though this inflated AAV is way out of line with those numbers, consider what we’ve been saying for a while now about the Cubs’ willingness to pay more annually in exchange for less time commitment.
The same is true for Turner, whose projected deal exceeds Correa’s in terms of AAV despite being two years shorter. Turner is a little more than a year older and speed doesn’t age as well as other carrying tools, so it makes sense that he’d take a shorter deal. But the (former) Dodgers shortstop has plenty of pop and could even improve in that area as he ages.
Turning back to Abreu for just a moment, the projected contract above is pretty much exactly what I had pegged as a good deal following Bruce Levine’s report that the Cubs would prioritize him in free agency. As for Contreras, it sure feels like he’s only coming back to the Cubs if his market craters. The team wants to move in a different direction, which means getting a bargain on him and convincing him to serve more time at DH than catcher.
I won’t dive into much on the players not listed as Cubs fits, though I do want to list some of them out here for the sake of posterity. Again, I feel like Bowden’s salary projections make a lot more sense than what we saw in that earlier piece.
2) Jacob deGrom – 2 years, $90M ($45M AAV, opt-out after first year)
3) Justin Verlander – 3 years, $135M ($45M AAV)
7) Carlos Rodón – 5 years, $144M ($28.8M AAV)
19) Anthony Rizzo – 3 years, $54M ($18M AAV)
Very interesting that he’s got deGrom and Verlander at the same AAV, only with Verlander as the one getting a longer guarantee. That three-year, $145 million blockbuster is exactly what I’ve mentioned for deGrom because it’s short enough to mitigate his injury risk, though we could say the same thing for Verlander’s age. Rodón’s deal here is pretty hefty and I don’t think the Cubs would push to that unless they missed elsewhere.
Finally, we come to our old friend Rizzo. Not only would this deal represent a big win following his decision to opt out of another year with the Yankees, but it would give him $70 million in total earnings over four years. What was it the Cubs had offered him in an extension? Oh yeah, it was that same $70 million over five years.
If Rizzo is indeed able to get this deal from either the Yankees or the Padres — the two fits Bowden lists — he’ll have been proved “right” for walking away from the Cubs’ offer. Not to mention he’s been to the postseason the past two years and would figure to be again moving forward.
Do I like Bowden rankings and projections simply because they sync up so closely with both the numbers and the concepts I’ve espoused over the last several weeks or even months? No. Well, not only because of that. From top to bottom, this one just strikes a better balance and feels more realistic. Depending on what happens this weekend, we could find out pretty soon just how realistic.