While teams will always take the sacrifices it requires, being a World Series champion means that a club has to make some tough decisions immediately after hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy, as the Chicago Cubs are finding out this week.
Monday is the final day when players can agree to contracts with their former teams before they become free agents on Tuesday. The Cubs have a very young core and therefore don’t have a ton of free agent decisions to make, but there are at least a few key players who could be leaving the North Side as the offseason begins.
Which players will stay, and which players will go? To answer those questions, we have a list of the Cubs’ impending free agents, and we have assigned them percentage odds of whether or not they’ll be donning blue pinstripes next season.
2016 Salary: $4.25 million
Chances of Coming Back: 30 percent
Cahill, who found himself slowly worked out of the mix as the season wound down, didn’t make any of the team’s three playoff rosters. He did post a solid 2.74 ERA in 50 total games (including one start) this season, but with the emergence of guys like Carl Edwards Jr and the addition of Aroldis Chapman, there simply weren’t enough bullpen reps to go around.
While the Cubs may want to keep Cahill because of his ability to seamlessly enter the rotation if need be, another team may want to scoop him up with a decent-sized contract, and it would be a well-deserved reward after Cahill remade his reputation during his time in Chicago.
2016 Salary: $11.325 million
Chances of Coming Back: 10 percent
The Cubs brought Chapman in for one purpose: to help them to win the World Series. Despite running out of gas late in the series against the Cleveland Indians, that’s exactly what Chapman did as he got some key outs, including three in a row in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7.
With Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen both available, the Cubs certainly do have options at closer, but they could also go with an in-house option, as Hector Rondon is still available and could regain his role as the team’s closer. It will be interesting to see what they do, but with Chapman’s off-field issues and large price tag, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be back next season.
2016 Salary: $4.8 million
Chances of Coming Back: 40 percent
Coghlan came back to the Cubs earlier this season, and although he put up decent numbers for a purely off-the-bench player, it’s hard to envision a scenario where he’s a lock to come back. After all, the Cubs will have a healthy Kyle Schwarber back next season, and along with Willson Contreras and Jorge Soler, there will be plenty of options to go around for a corner outfield spot, leaving Coghlan out in the cold.
2016 Salary: $8 million
Chances of Coming Back: 25 percent
Fowler, who was the Cubs’ primary lead-off man and one of their most consistent hitters, opted out of the second-year of the two-year deal that he signed with the Cubs prior to the 2016 season, and with good reason. With the decision, Fowler will be a highly sought after free agent, with plenty of teams interested in his services because of his glove and his consistent bat.
Even with that in mind, there is still a chance that the Cubs could make a run at re-signing him. Albert Almora and Jason Heyward aren’t bad options in center field by any stretch for the Cubs, but there really isn’t anyone on the current roster capable of handling the lead-off spot in the order quite as well as Fowler has the last two years.
2016 Salary: $9 million
Chances of Coming Back: 1 percent
The Cubs opted not to pick up Hammel’s contract option on Sunday, and there is a very good reason for that. The team is hoping that a player like Mike Montgomery could end up being the fifth starter, or they could go out and get the high-quality, cost-controlled starting pitcher that they’ve been coveting for several years.
In either case, there’s no room at the inn for Hammel, and even though missing out on $10 million next season may seem rough, he’s going to get more than that in an incredibly weak free agent market for starting pitchers.
2016 Salary: $5.25 million
Chances of Coming Back: 20 percent
With his penchant for giving up home runs and his inconsistent play to start his Cubs career, Smith really didn’t make a huge impact after the team acquired him just before the MLB trade deadline. With plenty of options available in their farm system and some players available in free agency, Smith seems like the kind of guy they’ll cut loose, but if he’s available at the right price (i.e. lower than what he made last season), Theo Epstein and company could at least consider it.
2016 Salary: $6.17 million
Chances of Coming Back: 60 percent
Wood, the longest tenured member of the Cubs, made the transition from the rotation to the bullpen over the last few seasons, and although he didn’t have a great season, (his ERA of 2.95 was very solid, but his appalling statistics against right-handed batters made him a lefty-specialist by the end of the season), the Cubs could still look to keep him around next season.
The big question will be whether or not the team feels that Mike Montgomery is going to be a starter or a swingman/long relief guy. If it’s the former, then Wood has a lot more value. If it’s the latter, then they may let him go elsewhere.