Chicago Cubs Rumors: MLB experts predict FA activity

United States v Japan - Baseball Gold Medal Game - Olympics: Day 15
United States v Japan - Baseball Gold Medal Game - Olympics: Day 15 / Koji Watanabe/GettyImages
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Zach Eflin
World Series - Houston Astros v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Five / Elsa/GettyImages

8. Zach Eflin (Predicted by Tim Dierkes of MLBTR)

Another starting pitcher in what is becoming a trend of guys that won't be slotted into the top of the rotation, we come to Zach Eflin. Eflin, like Syndergaard before him, has somewhat been a victim of bad luck in the last couple of seasons. His adjusted numbers, according to FIP, don't put him in that elite company category but they do suggest he should be at least a little better than average. For example, in 2022, Eflin recorded a 4.04 ERA but his FIP was almost 50 points lower at just 3.56. The same thing in 2021, he recorded a 4.17 ERA with a FIP of 3.68.

What I don't like to see though is that Eflin hasn't had more than 20 starts in a season since 2019. He also hasn't recorded more than 105.2 innings pitched in a season for the last three years. Granted 2020 was drastically shortened by the pandemic, so I'm not sure how much you can expect him to be able to stretch out right away if you put him into a full-time starting role. If the Cubs look to compete in 2023, a repeat of last year's 75.2 innings of work is not something that is going to be what helps them get there.

Carlos Estevez
Arizona Diamondbaccks v Colorado Rockies / Dustin Bradford/GettyImages

9. Carlos Estevez (Predicted by Steve Adams of MLBTR)

Last but not least we land on former Colorado Rockies reliever, Carlos Estevez. Estevez has a career ERA of 5.59 but most of that is from the first two years of his career. In 2022, he notched his best year, posting a 3.47 ERA in relief over the course of 62 appearances and 57 innings pitched. For a reliever, his projection of 3 years and 21MM seems a little high for my taste, unless he was putting up ERA numbers in the high 2.00s to low 3.00s, but nevertheless, he does have enough of a home/away split that we should at least discuss. He has spent his whole career in Coors Field, after all.

On the road, Estevez has recorded a respectable 3.51 ERA over the course of his 6-year career. Back in the Mile High City though, he notched an underwhelming 5.57 ERA. Normally, I wouldn't dive too much more into home/road splits other than analyzing what I see and saying "Okay, he's just not as good on the road" or "He's just bad playing at home in this ballpark", etc., and I would leave it that.

In this case, however, being that it is Denver and with the most hitter-friendly ballpark due to having the highest elevation of any field in the MLB, I do think you can at least give him a break and realize, in a different atmosphere, he might wind up having mostly good numbers. For example, in 15.2 innings pitched at Petco Park, Estevez has recorded a career 1.15 ERA.

Example: Say the Padres were to sign him. What would his ERA be if he played half his games in Petco park? Probably much lower than what he recorded because half his appearances were being played in Coors Field. Mathematically, you could envision a scenario where in the right home ballpark he could have very solid numbers overall.

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Whether Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins feel the same way will be up to them. The Cubs have a lot of intriguing options in the bullpen this season. Codi Heuer will be back. Brandon Hughes, Adbert Alzolay, Danis Correa, and Jeremiah Estrada all have tremendous upside on much cheaper contracts. They also have Kyle Hendricks and Adrian Sampson whom they need to find roles for unless they want to have an eight-man rotation.