With the World Series coming to an end with the St. Louis Cardinals coming out victorious, players were permitted to file for free agency starting today. 148 players filed for free agency today, six of which were Cubs. Pitchers Kerry Wood, John Grabow, Rodrigo Lopez, and Ramon Ortiz, first baseman Carlos Pena, and outfielder Reed Johnson now have until Wednesday at 11:00 p.m to negotiate new contracts exclusively with the Cubs. If a deal is not reached by then, the players can negotiate with any team.
Out of the six players, I can see Kerry Wood and Carlos Pena returning. Wood would be a good re-sign, as he pitched pretty well in 2011 and helped the bullpen achieve good success. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be the closer in 2012 and Marmol will return to the set-up role, where Marmol has pitched the best in his career. But that’s just my personal speculation right now. Wood will also not cost much and a cheap RP signing that will help a lot. Pena could return too if the Cubs can’t sign either Fielder or Pujols or if they decide to stay away from both of them. In that scenario, I do see Pena returning.
As for the other four players who filed for free agency, I do not see them returning. Reed Johnson is a good clubhouse guy and an all-out player, but he’s too injury-prone and the Cubs would be better off going with guys like Tony Campana or Tyler Colvin. John Grabow was good when the Cubs acquired him from the Pirates, but after that he has pitched poorly. Rodrigo Lopez was an injury replacement and nothing more. Ramon Ortiz is also a mere injury replacement and valuable only for organizational depth. At least three of these players will probably not sign until spring training. I see Grabow signing before spring training, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t.
I don’t see the Cubs signing either Wood or Pena before they can talk to other teams.
One more player that may elect free agency is third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez has a club option worth $16 Million that the Cubs have yet to decline or pick up. Based on reports, the Cubs will decline the option and he will become a free agent. However, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have not spoken much yet and we don’t know which direction they’re going to go in. Ramirez’s option could still be picked up, but we don’t know yet.