CHICAGO -- Bryce Harper and Manny Machado headline the list of free agents this offseason, and the Cubs will likely be linked to both, especially Harper, who is buddies with Kristopher Bryant and who named his dog Wrigley.Does Harper fit in the Cubs' outfield? Remember, Jason Heyward is expected to
CHICAGO -- Bryce Harper and Manny Machado headline the list of free agents this offseason, and the Cubs will likely be linked to both, especially Harper, who is buddies with Kristopher Bryant and who named his dog Wrigley.
Does Harper fit in the Cubs' outfield? Remember, Jason Heyward is expected to stay rather than opt out of his contract and is owed $106 million over the next five seasons, plus the Cubs have a crowded outfield mix that includes Albert Almora Jr., Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Benjamin Zobrist. Harper has batted .333 (18-for-54) in 17 games at Wrigley Field and has a career .272 average against National League Central teams.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has had time to examine the team's financial flexibility since the abrupt end to the season. He did issue a cautionary note in his wrap-up earlier this month.
"We've spent a lot of money on players, and that's not always the answer to rush back out and spend more," Epstein said. "There are obviously a lot of attractive players out there and impact players out there. We'll get together to discuss what's possible, not possible."
What's on the Cubs' to-do list?
• The Cubs must decide by Friday whether to pick up Cole Hamels' $20 million option for the 2019 season or let the Rangers pay his $6 million buyout. The lefty posted a 4-3 record with a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts with Chicago, including the Cubs' only complete game of the season. Epstein called Hamels "a breath of fresh air for us."
"He's absolutely someone we'd love to have as part of the mix going forward," Epstein said.
Adding Hamels to a rotation already stocked with Jonathan Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and a healthy Yu Darvish would give the Cubs a formidable group in 2019.
• The Cubs have to determine whether to pick up options on relievers Pedro Strop and Brandon Kintzler by the end of the week. Strop provided a closer option when Brandon Morrow was injured and finished with a 2.26 ERA in 60 games. He has a $6.25 million option.
"We fully expect him to be back next year and play a huge role," Epstein said of the right-hander.
Kintzler, who has a $10 million team option, posted a 7.00 ERA in 25 games after he was acquired from the Nationals. The Cubs may not be inclined to keep the right-hander.
• Teams have an exclusive five-day window to negotiate with their free agents -- which ends Friday at 4 p.m. CT, also marking the deadline for teams to extend their free agents a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer -- and the Cubs could secure some of their bullpen pieces this week. Among the free agents are Jesse Chavez and Jorge De La Rosa, who both were key in the second half. Chavez, who had a 1.15 ERA in 32 games with the Cubs, made it clear after the NL Wild Card Game that he wanted to return. De La Rosa compiled an impressive 1.29 ERA over 21 innings in 17 appearances.
The Cubs' other free agents include infielder Daniel Murphy, catcher Bobby Wilson, and pitchers Jaime Garcia and Justin Wilson.
Murphy, who turns 34 on April 1, batted .297 in 35 games with the Cubs and was an extra hitting coach for the young players.
• Cubs consider re-signing Murphy
"Our guys loved talking about hitting with him," Epstein said. "It was a daily occurrence. We looked a lot better with him than without him."
The Cubs had high hopes for Justin Wilson, acquired from the Tigers in July 2017 for Jeimer Candelario, but the lefty reliever was inconsistent. He compiled a 3.86 ERA in 94 games with the Cubs, and despite being touted as a possible closer, he was 0-for-4 in save opportunities.
Bobby Wilson never appeared in a game for the Cubs as he rehabbed a sprained right ankle.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.