It’s interesting to see the difference between the beginning and ending of the free agency period before the 2016 MLB Season, with the Chicago Cubs, many’s top pick as favorites to win the World Series or at least make it out of the NL, making the most splash in the early goings, while the Baltimore Orioles saved their best and biggest spending for the other end of the period.
There’s no doubt the Orioles have been the dominant free agency team in the month of February, and maybe in something of surprising fashion. Not known for being a team with a lot of spending power, and mostly busy re-signing players earlier on, the Orioles went on and got the two best remaining free agents this month, first with Yovani Gallardo (now pending) to be one of their starting pitchers and then with Dexter Fowler, who had a lot of teams chasing him in the last month or so.
The big move for the Orioles has undoubtedly been re-signing Chris Davis, something half the league was monitoring, and kinda kept the slugger market stuck for a short while. Davis re-signed with the Orioles for $161 million over seven seasons, but they’re also been able to hold on to Matt Wieters who took the $15.8 million qualifying offer and Darren O’Day with a $31 million, four-year contract. Fowler signed a three-year deal, $35 million deal which is a bit higher than expected. Gallardo reportedly signed a similar contract, but now it turns out that a medical problem could be putting a stop to this deal.
So while the Orioles figure out whether they’re losing two draft picks or just one, the Cubs have been pretty quiet over the last two months. They did most of their business in December, focusing especially on annoying division rivals, who they also knocked out in the 2015 postseason, the St. Louis Cardinals. First by signing John Lackey on a two-year, $32 million contract, hoping that signing a 37-year old starting pitcher for that much money doesn’t come back to bite them.
The biggest signing was to their outfield, adding Jason Heyward for his defense and improving power, landing him for $184 million over eight seasons, which is less money than some other teams offered. The Cubs managed to sign Ben Zobrist, who half the league was after, for less money than he had coming from other places, counting on him being a 34 year old that’s not going to suddenly decline, paying him $56 million over the next four years.
One more interesting move the Cubs did to improve their pitching situation which is undoubtedly their Achilles heel was trade away Starlin Castro, a three-time All-Star from 2011 to 2014, getting Adam Warren in return. The Cubs talent and young stars is focused on their lineup and hitting, but maybe with the additions they’ve made to their pitching staff, they’ll be able to overcome the issues that surfaced in their disappointing exit against the New York Mets in the NLCS.