The Chicago Cubs aren’t going to be able to spend much money this winter, so they’ll have to get creative and find value from lower-tier free agents.
Things are going to go a lot differently than usual for the Chicago Cubs this offseason. David Ross steps in to take over for Joe Maddon as the skipper, but he won’t have the benefit of an unlimited offseason budget to retool his roster and get the Cubs back to the playoffs after being left out for the first time since 2014.
The Cubs are already committed to $207.7 million in salary for 2020 and will blow past the luxury-tax threshold yet again after being hit with a $7 million penalty for their 2019 payroll.
Speculation continues to build that the Cubs will consider trading one of their young, cost-controlled superstars. It’s still hard to envision the Cubs entering 2020 without Kris Bryant or Javy Baez, and trading Willson Contreras or Kyle Schwarber won’t clear up a ton of money for free agents. The Cubs are going to be forced to work the edges of the market to find underrated players, older veterans seeking one-year deals or rebound candidates.
The Cubs put themselves in this position by giving bloated contracts to Jason Heyward and Yu Darvish that are obvious misses in hindsight. There is plenty of value to be found among the lower-tier free agents, and the Cubs can supplement their core with a few shrewd signings. Here are five reasonable free agents for the Cubs to target with their limited budget.
5. Kole Calhoun
The Chicago Cubs and right fielder Nicholas Castellanos have a mutual interest in reuniting on a multi-year deal. Castellanos was one of the only Cubs hitters producing down the stretch in 2019, and they may have finished even further out of the playoff race without him. Unfortunately for the Cubs, Castellanos likely priced himself out of their spending range by hitting .321/.356/.646 with 21 doubles, 16 home runs and 36 RBI in 51 games down the stretch.
If the Cubs are still seeking a right fielder, Kole Calhoun is a much cheaper option, who may approximate Castellanos’ offensive production with much better defense. Calhoun has hit .249/.322/.424 with 140 home runs and 451 RBI in eight years in the big leagues. He has tailed off the last three years after posting an OPS+ of 115 from 2013 to 2016.
Calhoun is an intriguing buy-low right fielder who hit a career-high 33 home runs last season. That total means much less than it used to given how the ball has jumped out of the park in recent years. The Cubs can play Calhoun in right field and move Jason Heyward to center field if they are ready to move on from Albert Almora in a full-time starting role.