Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Jaw-Dropping Predictions for Cubs Free-Agent Targets


Well, if you thought the first set of predictions for Cody Bellinger’s free agent contract were low, then get ready for some jaw-dropping numbers for him and few other Chicago Cubs free-agent targets.

MLB Trade Rumors released their annual top-50 free agents rankings that includes predictions of their contracts and where they will end up. To no one’s surprise, Shohei Ohtani is No. 1, with a projected $528 million deal over 12 years. Oh baby!

Tim Dierkes, Anthony Franco and Steve Adams from MLB Trade Rumors put these together and sure, you may scoff at the predictions, but they do put in the work.

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This list is a labor of love that represents more than a month of work by Anthony Franco, Tim Dierkes, Darragh McDonald, and Steve Adams.  We live and breathe MLB free agency at this website, and we’ve spent countless hours debating these contract projections.  While we reached a general consensus on the contracts, points of disagreement certainly remain.  We’ve each made our own set of team picks as well, but it’s worth noting the difficulty in getting even one-fifth of those correct.

Of course, these are only predictions and you can take them with a grain of salt, but I do think it’s helpful to see what some people who do have connections and more insight than the normal fan think about the upcoming free-agent market. That being said, this Bellinger predictions looks absolutely insane to me.

Bellinger is ranked second in MLBTR’s top-50 free agents list and his contract prediction is for more than $250 million!

 Cody Bellinger. Twelve years, $264MM

Tim: Yankees / Anthony: Giants / Darragh: Giants

All right, so it’s not like we haven’t seen these long deals in recent years. Last offseason Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts signed 11-year contracts, while Bryce Harper inked a 13-year deal and Manny Machado also had a 10-year agreement back in 2019. Bellinger does have age on his side, as he won’t be 29-years-old until next July and as Cubs fans saw, a healthy Bellinger is still one of the best hitters in baseball and he can carry a team for long stretches of time.

And hey, the average annual value of that prediction is only $22 million. You would certainly take that if Bellinger remains healthy throughout his prime. But maybe that huge number seems so out of whack because other projections aren’t even close.

The Athletic’s Tim Britton recently wrote about some of the top free agents and his projections were based on historical comps, tracking similar players performances and the contracts they ended up signing. Because Bellinger did have those two awful seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his perceived value might be driven down, even in a free-agent market scarce of top position players.

Britton’s prediction for Bellinger was 6 years, $162 million, which comes out to $27 million per year.

Jim Bowden was on the lower end in his predictions, only seeing Bellinger get $144 million over six years, an average annual value of $24 million.

So yeah, predicting $100 million more, is definitely going out on a limb here from MLBTR.

Another possible Cubs free agent target that stood out from the MLBTR predictions was Jeimer Candelario. The switch-hitter was considered the best bat to get at the trade deadline and although he did get off to a hot start with the Cubs, Candelario slumped to end the season and was also sidelined with a back issue in September.

Overall in 2023, Candelario posted a 117 wRC+, slashing .251/.336/.471, with 22 home runs between his time on the Washington Nationals and Cubs. That was his second 3+ fWAR season in the past three years, so his recent track record is good, but in 746 career games Candelario has mainly been just a barely-above average hitter.

That makes this contract prediction a bit eye-popping from MLBTR.

Jeimer Candelario. Four years, $70MM

Tim: Cubs / Anthony: Royals / Darragh: Blue Jays

That’s a lot of bread for the soon-to-be, 30-year-old with new back issues. Don’t get me wrong, I do think re-signing Candelario would be a fine move by the Cubs, but certainly not for four years and no way for $17.5 million a year.

You can see the entire list of predictions from MLBTR here.

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