How will the Cubs approach free agency?

November 4th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian's Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Over the past few weeks, we have been looking back at the 2022 season and ahead to the offseason and ’23 campaign. This week, we’ll run through an offseason FAQ for the Cubs as we await the winner of the World Series and the start of the Hot Stove season.

Which Cubs players are free agents?
Catcher Willson Contreras and lefty Wade Miley will be free agents. Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer also announced that outfielder Jason Heyward will be released, making the veteran a free agent this winter as well.

Are any of them likely to receive a qualifying offer?
Yes. At his end-of-season press conference, Hoyer said that the team would make a one-year qualifying offer to Contreras. Before the season, Contreras said he would have to at least consider the offer, but the expectation is that the All-Star catcher will decline the deal and hit the free-agent market.

Do any players have an option for 2023?
Lefty Drew Smyly and the Cubs have a $10 million mutual option for ’23, or a $1 million buyout.

Which players are under contract for '23?
Righty Marcus Stroman ($25 million), Heyward ($22 million), outfielder Seiya Suzuki ($18 million), righty Kyle Hendricks ($14 million), catcher Yan Gomes ($6 million) and utility man David Bote ($4.01 million) are all on the books for next year.

Which players are eligible for arbitration?
The Cubs’ list of potential arb-eligible players this offseason includes: left-handers Steven Brault and Brad Wieck; right-handers Codi Heuer, Alec Mills, Adrian Sampson and Rowan Wick; infielders Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal; outfielders Rafael Ortega and Ian Happ; and designated hitter Franmil Reyes.

Are there any non-tender candidates, and when do the Cubs have to make those decisions?
Given the 40-man roster crunch the Cubs face this offseason -- there is a group of prospects expected to be rostered for protection from the Rule 5 Draft -- Chicago will have multiple non-tender candidates. Brault, Mills, Ortega, Reyes, Wick and Wieck could be on the bubble. The tender deadline is Nov. 18.

Who are some players who need to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid the Rule 5 Draft?
Some no-brainer additions to the 40-man roster will be prospects like outfielders Brennen Davis (No. 2 in the Cubs' organization per MLB Pipeline), Kevin Alcantara (No. 3) and righty Ben Brown (No. 7). The pool of Rule 5-eligible players is deep for the Cubs, but other Top 30 prospects include outfielder Yohendrick Pinango (No. 18), infielder Chase Strumpf (No. 25) and righties Luis Devers (No. 26), Ryan Jensen (No. 28) and Kohl Franklin (No. 29).

The deadline for these 40-man decisions is Nov. 15. The Rule 5 Draft will take place on Dec. 7 at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

What kind of help do the Cubs need and how active will they be in free agency?
Hoyer has emphasized the importance of “intelligent spending,” but that should not preclude the Cubs being players for some blockbuster additions. Chicago is in the market for an impact bat and could be a suitor for one of the big-ticket shortstops this winter. The Cubs will also be looking to fortify their rotation, add some veteran depth to the bullpen and bring in a catcher (if Contreras departs). There is a wave of prospects climbing the ladder, so beyond a major add or two, the Cubs might be looking at shorter-term deals to strengthen the MLB roster.