Chicago Cubs: Key free agent moves since 2016 – expectation vs. reality

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
Craik Kimbrel / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: The biggest free agent signing was in the regular season, and there was not much around that.

Daniel Descalso

Expectations: To be a veteran utility/depth guy to play reliable defense and come off the bench. The fans wanted another lefty bat in Bryce Harper, but that did not happen. Another familiar face to Cubs fans as he spent many years in St. Louis.

Reality: Woof. After a solid first few weeks, Descalso suffered an ankle injury and his season was derailed completely. He finished the 2019 season hitting a career low .173 in 82 games with only eight extra-base hits. Descalso was never Ted Williams as a hitter, but no doubt 2019 was far and away his worst season as an MLB player.

Current Grade: F

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Brad Brach

Expectations: An experienced bullpen arm that can miss bats and be relied on to appear in 60+ games. Brach came to Chicago with a career 3.08 ERA and 9.5 K/9 in 456 innings. An All Star in 2016 with the Orioles, Brach had an overall good resume outside some command issues.

Reality: In 43 appearances as a Cub he walked 31 batters and pitched to a 6.13 ERA before being released. The Mets picked him up and he in 16 games pitched more effectively (3.68 ERA and 2.67 FIP). Just did not work out for the Cubs.

Final Grade: F

Craig Kimbrel

Expectations: The Cubs got a closer, a real closer…the best closer the past decade. Obviously this move was made mid-season when Kimbrel waited out the offseason to be signed. In July, 2019 the two sides agreed to a 3-year, $43 million deal. Kimbrel is a seven-time All Star and is the save-leader among active relievers.

Reality: His first stint as a Cub was an utter mess. Blowing three of 13 saves does not seem all that bad, but the numbers are ugly. 6.53 ERA, 1.597 WHIP and 8.00 FIP in 23 games. In just that span he gave up a career-high nine home runs. Kimbrel’s struggles can likely be attributed to not only having to come in mid-season but also injury issues he had as well. Still giving him the benefit of the doubt moving forward having such an incredible resume, but so far it has been not good at all.

Final Grade: D-

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The last few years have been pretty brutal for the Chicago Cubs in free agency. Not only making few big moves, but seeing them mostly not work out for various reasons. There is potential for some of them who are still on the team to rebound but some of the ones that did not work are already gone. Curious to see what happens this coming winter.