We’re pretty deep and late into the offseason, which means big moves aren’t likely. Teams still have needs though, like both Chicago teams, the Cubs and the White Sox, looking into outfield additions while the Cubs are trying to see what the Tampa Bay Rays have to offer them in terms of pitching as well.
The White Sox seem to be chasing a bat in the outfield all offseason. The Cubs got theirs with Jason Heyward being signed off of the St. Louis Cardinals, but they’ve been in contact with Dexter Fowler, who waived the $15.8 million qualifying offer and hasn’t liked what he’s been getting offered since. The White Sox are probably more in need of signing a guy like Fowler, but they seem to be less than willing to spend a lot of money on either him or Austin Jackson.
Jackson, like Fowler, is something of a surprise to see on the remaining list of free agents. He hit .267 with nine home runs last season and while he isn’t bursting with power, he’s been quite solid at the plate over the years, playing 29 games for the Cubs last season after arriving from the Seattle Mariners. He did better in Seattle, but overall, there doesn’t seem to be anything suggesting the 29 year old is to stay away from. He did make $7.7 million last season which might be keeping some suitors away, but his hitting and defense have been good enough to get him a team.
The Cubs aren’t interested in Jackson, the White Sox are, and considering Fowler has a lot more teams looking into him and probably commands a higher price (hit a career high 17 home runs last season) he might end up playing for them. But both these cases, among others, provide an interesting situation in the free agency market at this point, which we’ll touch upon in a minute.
The Cubs are also interested in seeing what bullpen options are available to them via trades. They gave Jake Arrieta a big, $7 million raise and are trying to see if there’s a way to improve their bullpen through what the Rays have. Even after trading a couple of good relievers, there’s plenty of depth when it comes to relief pitchers in Tampa Bay.
And as for the “stranded” free agents, it seems that baseball is going through some interesting trends, similar to what’s been happening in the NFL and NBA. Experience just isn’t important to teams anymore, finding it difficult to quantify. Youth, analytics and most importantly, the money being demanded decides, which means veterans with good numbers can’t find a team. The tanking situation is also limiting the market, with teams not even thinking about slight upgrades, which usually mean signing veterans. Guys like Jeff Francoeur, Shane Victorino, Marlon Byrd and Drew Stubbs, all outfielders who could be of some help to the both the White Sox and Cubs, seem to be out of the picture for almost everyone, at least until injuries start becoming a factor.