Winter Meetings: 5 bargain free agents that could impact Cubs

Chicago Cubs Postseason

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – SEPTEMBER 18: Julio Teheran #49 of the Atlanta Braves pitches in the third inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at SunTrust Park on September 18, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

CHICAGO — At this time, the Cubs are projected to have around a $190M payroll next year. 

While it’s been speculated and reported that the Cubs will trade one or more members of their core for financial flexibility, no big moves have been made yet.

As the offseason continues to roll on, Theo Epstein and company will most likely look to plug some holes with cheaper free agents.

On Monday, it was reported the Cubs and Phillies have discussed a trade involving Kris Bryant. It’s yet to evolve because of Bryant’s service time grievance has yet to be ruled on.

In an interview with WGN Monday, GM Theo Epstein remarked that talent is still intact on the roster to win. But he also alluded to changes.

“At the same time, we can’t just pretend that we can keep putting off making some important decisions for the future. If there’s an opportunity to strike and help ensure a better future, we have to do that,” Epstein said.

He ended the conversation discussing how the Cubs need to look at complimenting their current roster.

“We also have to be very mindful of what’s on our roster right now and how we can complement it and put ourselves in the best possible position for 2020,” Epstein said.

Below are five free agents who could make a positive impact on the roster without breaking the bank.

Julio Teheran

The Braves declined Teheran’s $12M team option and decided to sign former Cub Cole Hamels for on a one-year, $18M deal. Teheran would most likely be the most expensive fit on this list, but has quietly been an iron man.

Since his first year starting in 2013, he’s made at least 30 starts every season. What’s even more impressive is he yielded just a 3.05 ERA at home last year in a massive hitter’s park.

While the walk rate is concerning (4.3 per 9), Teheran has been improving on his home run rate and ERA since 2013. The two-time all-star’s durability and experience would make him a good fifth starter if the Cubs do not trade for pitching.

Dellin Betances

After pitching just a third of an inning last season, former Yankees reliever Dellin Betances is hoping to return to his previous form (115 strikeouts in 66.2 innings.) Yes, it’s risky considering he immediately tore his Achilles after coming back from shoulder surgery. But a cheap deal would be worth the risk if Betances gets his velocity up.

In theory, just like how the Cubs are reportedly hoping to bring back Brandon Morrow, Betances would be a candidate for a cheap, low-rise one-year prove it deal. 

Jose Iglesias

While Didi Gregious would be a better candidate to play second base, he’s likely going to be too expensive with the Cubs’ projected payroll. Former Red Scooter Gennett might be in play, but he’s been a horrendous career hitter at Wrigley Field.

Enter another former Red, Jose Iglesias. He’s an elite fielder who could slide right in at second base. Two things stand out to me that make the Cuba native potentially undervalued; His numbers the last two years at Wrigley (.375 BA in 32 at-bats) and the fact he played five seasons in Comerica Park. Look what happened last year when Nick Castellanos moved from Detroit to Chicago.

Tanner Roark

Solid sinker-ballers are hard to come by. Even though Will County native Tanner Roark has not been able to duplicate his 2016 breakout season, he still could be of value for this pitching staff.

With humidity and winds howling out at Wrigley during the summer, Roark’s sinker has been able to keep the ball at the ballpark at the Friendly Confines.

In 40 career innings at Wrigley, the University of Illinois product has posted an electric 1.75 ERA. 

Yes, he’s very similar to Tyler Chatwood. But whether Roark works out of the ‘pen or starts, he may be worth the risk and will be cheap.

Corey Dickerson

Some Cubs fans were puzzled when Albert Almora was brought back, but Chicago is most likely still looking at outfielders this winter.

Dickerson, coming off a foot fracture with Philadelphia, won the 2018 Gold Glove in left field with Pittsburgh. Yes, Chicago already has a left fielder with Schwarber, but just maybe Dickerson could be an option in right field.

He certainly has the bat. Dickerson has hit over .300 the last two seasons and in Tampa’s pitcher-friendly park in 2017, he hit .282 with 27 homers.

The lefty has absolutely crushed right-handed pitching and owns great numbers at Wrigley. Right now, he’s probably less likely to be signed by the Cubs than other players here. But that could change if the Cubs start making trades.

The Winter Meetings conclude Thursday in San Diego. The Cubs have an earlier start to the season than usual, opening up in Milwaukee on Mar. 26.

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