This has been a boring offseason, at least for the Chicago Cubs, who waited until last week before they signed a free agent to a major-league contract. Steven Souza Jr. and Jeremy Jeffress are the only such free agents signed by the Cubs this winter.
Now, both of those men could wind up being useful contributors to the 2020 Cubs. With spring training games just two and a half weeks away, though, any further additions to the cast that will assemble in Mesa for spring training are likely coming in on minor-league contracts.
Which brings me to this idea. Here is MLB Trade Rumors’ list of remaining free agents for this offseason. I’ve pinpointed five players who I think the Cubs could bring to camp on minor-league deals.
Let’s be clear. Hamilton can’t hit. His best OPS in a full MLB season is .664, and for his career it’s .623.
Hamilton has played in 809 major-league games because of his speed, which not only helps him on the bases but has made him a quality MLB center fielder.
In fact, I was kind of hoping that the Cubs would have claimed him when the Royals waived him last year, but they passed and the Braves got him. Had the Cubs wound up playing the Braves in the postseason last year, they might have started him because Hamilton has somehow posted .276/.350/.393 numbers in 308 career PA agains the Cubs, and his 31 walks off Cubs pitching are his most against anyone.
Think of him this way: He wouldn’t beat out any outfielder currently on the Cubs’ roster for a 26-man slot, but he could be the Cubs’ new Terrance Gore. Stash him at Iowa and add him in September (yes, even with the lower September roster limit).
Walker has been injured and missed most of the last two years after having had Tommy John surgery.
Before that, he had put together a very good year in 2017 for the Diamondbacks. He’s posted good K rates and walk rates throughout his big-league career.
The main reason I’d take a chance on Walker is that he is only 27 — won’t turn 28 until August. Even if most of 2020 was another rehab year for him and he had to spend time at Triple-A Iowa, he could be in the mix for the rotation in 2021 when Jose Quintana is gone (and Jon Lester likely is gone, too).
See above. Like Walker, Sanchez is just 27. He’ll turn 28 July 1. That’s important because per this article, Sanchez could miss the entire 2020 season after shoulder surgery. For his part, Sanchez thinks he’ll pitch this year:
Sanchez said his surgery was nearly identical to what Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias underwent in 2017. Urias went under the knife June 27, 2017 and returned to major-league action Sept. 15, 2018. An estimated time frame for this injury sits between 12 and 14 months. Despite that, Sanchez remains confident. “It’s going to be a while,” Sanchez said. “I could come back mid-next year is kind of what (the doctor) said .... I’ll definitely miss the first part of next year, but I will pitch next year.”
(The article is from last September, so “next year” refers to 2020.)
Again — there’s no risk to a minor-league deal here, and here’s another guy who could be in the starting rotation mix for 2021 at still a relatively young age.
Gennett’s name has been mentioned by some commenters here. The Cubs obviously weren’t going to sign him to a major-league contract and he is coming off an injury-plagued season.
Gennett was really good in 2017 and 2018, when he produced 3.2 and 4.4 bWAR, respectively. At this stage of the offseason he just might take a minor-league deal. I was skeptical previously, but as is the case with all minor-league contracts with non-roster invites to spring camp, there is zero risk involved.
Truth be told, Cahill would have been a better signing by the Cubs before the 2018 season than Tyler Chatwood. He’d have been cheaper, and he had a far better season that year (3.76 ERA, 1.191 WHIP, 1.3 bWAR in 21 appearances, 20 of which were starts).
Cahill is 32, has been a Cub before, is versatile — can start or relieve — and though he wasn’t nearly as good in 2019, again, zero risk to a minor-league signing.
I’m not suggesting the Cubs sign all of these players, but these are five they could certainly take a look at for spring camp.
Lastly, I note that Ben Zobrist is still a free agent. It seems likely to me that he’ll retire.
Which of these free agents should the Cubs sign to a minor-league deal?
This poll is closed
None of the above
A different free agent not listed here (leave in comments)