Royals: Making the case for free agency, Cubs edition
By Jordan Foote
Ahead of Kansas City Royals free agency, let’s take a look at the Chicago Cubs’ upcoming free agents and decide whether the team should pursue any.
Welcome to the continuation of our “Kansas City Royals: Making the case” series for free agency. The Chicago Cubs missed the playoffs in 2019 after qualifying for the postseason in four consecutive seasons. After firing manager Joe Maddon and hiring former major league catcher David Ross, the organization will seek to return to contender status in 2020.
Per Spotrac’s official list, there are 20 players the Chicago front office will be tasked with deciding whether to bring back or cut loose this winter. 18 of them are at least 30 years old. Instead of listing all 20 names and doing a case study on each and every one of them, we’ve cut the total in half. Are any of these players worth pursuing? Let’s find out.
Cole Hamels, P
Hamels remains an effective starting pitcher at the age of 35. Set to turn 36 in December, signing him wouldn’t be a bad idea if the Kansas City Royals expected to contend for a championship in 2020. That isn’t going to happen, so neither will a Hamels signing.
Yu Darvish, P
Darvish isn’t the flat-out dominant presence he once was but with that said, he’s still pretty solid. The veteran tossed more innings in 2019 (178.2) than he did the previous two years combined (89.2). He has a $22 million player option that he’ll likely pick up for 2020, meaning the Royals probably won’t even get a chance to court him.
Ben Zobrist, 2B
Zobrist is remembered by many for his role on the 2015 World Series team in Kansas City. At 38 years old, he’s still trucking along in the infield. After taking a significant chunk of the 2019 season off in order to work on some marriage issues, it’s not certain that he’s going to return for a 15th major league season. Even if he does, it’ll likely be as a member of the Cubs.
Castellanos spent years pestering the Royals as a member of the Detroit Tigers. After putting together a so-so performance with the Tigers to start 2019, Castellanos was shipped to Chicago. He flourished in 51 games with the club, hitting for a .321/.356/.646 line with 16 home runs and 36 RBIs. He’ll be just 28 years old by the time next season rolls around, so perhaps Dayton Moore should make a run at him as a corner outfielder.
Steve Cishek, P
Cishek has quietly been one of the better relievers in all of baseball throughout the entirety of his career. His 2019 ERA of 2.95 doesn’t sit too far off from his career average of 2.69. A 4.54 FIP indicates a bit of luck may have been in play and at age 33, it’s worth questioning. Cishek doesn’t necessarily fit the Royals’ timeline and although he’d be a great piece for a contending team, Kansas City is not that. He’ll cost a bit, too.
Pedro Strop, P
After putting together five-straight seasons with an ERA under 3.00, Strop saw that figure skyrocket to 4.97 in 2019. He had a great run in Chicago before that, though. At 34, he’s in the same boat as Cishek as far as the Royals are involved (or not involved, for that matter).
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Rizzo is one of the better players in all of baseball. Chicago has a $14.5 million club option for him that they’re certain to accept. No chance he hits the open market, as much as the Royals would love him to.
Spending his entire career in the city of Chicago, Quintana used to square off with the Royals as a member of the Chicago White Sox. Although the lefty’s ERA in 2019 (4.68) isn’t promising, his FIP (3.80) is. Quintana will be 31 by spring training which certainly isn’t young, but he’d be a cheap(er) candidate for Kansas City on a one- or two-year contract until some current minor leaguers are ready to go at the MLB level.
Verdict: Pursue (assuming CHI declines his $10.5M option)
Former All-Star reliever put together quite the solid 2019. Same as the other guys, though: He’s aging (35) and doesn’t make any sense unless it’s on a one-year deal.
The two-time All-Star spent time with both the Cubs and the Los Angeles Angels in 2019. Hitting .189/.283/.283 in 27 games with Chicago, It doesn’t look like the 33-year-old has much left in the tank. The Royals can get that level of production out of who they already have on the depth chart behind Salvador Perez.