Low-cost moves the Cubs could make after signing Daniel Descalso
Low-cost moves the Cubs could make after signing Daniel Descalso
The Cubs likely aren't done making additions to their roster, but with Theo Epstein suddenly operating like he's running the Tampa Bay Rays it's unclear where they'll be looking next.
The Cubs in the Theo Epstein era are used to making a big splash in free agency. In 2014, they brought in Jon Lester. The following year, it was John Lackey, Jason Heyward, and the surprise Dexter Fowler deal in spring training. Last year, they grabbed Yu Darvish. And finally, the Cubs have made their big free agent splash for the 2018 offseason: Daniel Descalso. Season ticket holders had to put a deposit down by December 12, so clearly their faith has been rewarded. In all seriousness, Descalso is a useful player whose role should have some factor on the 2019 team. But he's less of a big veteran addition and more of an older Tommy La Stella, who the Cubs previously traded to the Los Angeles Angels. Descalso made his big league debut in 2010 with the St. Louis Cardinals, and he played a large role on the 2011 World Series championship team. The 32-year-old stuck around in St. Louis for five seasons before playing two years with the Colorado Rockies and then two more with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Overall in his career, Descalso is underwhelming in almost every way. His career year in 2018 saw him post a 106 OPS+, which made him a slightly above-average hitter. The left-handed hitter has a career OPS+ of 85 to go along with a slash line of .240/.324/.370. Although, last year saw some changes in Descalso at the plate. He was more selective, and the result was harder contact and more walks. Descalso's .436 slugging percentage and 13 home runs were both a career-high. If you really want to dig into the silver lining here, it's that the Cubs now have their official position player who sometimes pitches. Descalso has made five appearances on the mound in his career, totaling 5 2/3 innings, four hits, one walk, two strikeouts, and three earned runs. Frankly, that's really not bad for a second baseman. If we looked at those numbers as if they were from one game and rated it by Game Score, Descalso's pitching line would rank better than half of Tyler Chatwood's 20 starts in 2018. How Descalso's presence changes the roster dynamic is currently unknown. The Cubs' infield to start the season projects to have Descalso, Ben Zobrist, and David Bote as second basemen with Javier Baez at shorstop and Bote backing him up. Addison Russell [theoretically](https://chicago.suntimes.com/sports/cubs-tender-addison-russell/) could return when his suspension for domestic violence ends in early May, but he'll likely need some time in the minors – if he hasn't been traded or given his outright release first. Although Descalso is essentially taking La Stella's spot on the roster, expect that he'll have a bigger role than the Cubs' former pinch-hitting specialist. He has totaled 821 plate appearances over the last two years in Arizona in 268 games, which is fairly regular playing time. By comparison, La Stella accumulated only 587 plate appearances over his four seasons in a Cubs uniform. The Cubs likely aren't done making additions to their roster, but with Theo Epstein suddenly operating like he's running the Tampa Bay Rays it's unclear where they'll be looking next. A trade could be on the horizon, as the Cubs need relief pitching. At any rate, here are two other free agents that could be on Epstein's shopping list. __More:__ [BetChicago MLB coverage](https://www.betchicago.com/mlb-betting) ## Troy Tulowitzki As far as cheap options go, this one is the cheapest. Former Gold Glove shortstop and five-time All-Star Troy Tulowitzki is a free agent after having been released by the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this month. The Jays are paying Tulo $38 million simply to go away, including $20 million for the 2019 season. If you count the $20 million salary they paid him in 2018 to rehab following heel surgery, Toronto will have given Tulowitzki $58 million for exactly zero games on the field. But the 34-year-old is supposedly healthy and [recently](https://sports.yahoo.com/time-will-tell-whats-store-troy-tulowitzki-working-nearly-dozen-teams-011736651.html) put on a show for around a dozen major league teams, including the Cubs. According [to](https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/12/market-for-troy-tulowitzki.html) MLB Trade Rumors, the Cubs are one of four teams that have specifically reached out to Tulowitzki's agent following his release. Whichever team signs him will be on the hook for just slightly more than $500,000 of his salary, so put the Cubs in the “highly interested” category. Tulowitzki is no longer the guy who hit .309/.385/.553 with a 137 OPS+ during a six-year stretch from 2009-2014. In 238 games over three seasons with the Blue Jays he hit .250/.313/.414, and surgeries on both heels will almost certainly change the equation on how he's regarded defensively. But with Baez at shortstop, Tulowitzki could be signed to play second base along with Descalso. At worst, he might be a platoon candidate. Either way, it's a low-risk, high-reward kind of deal. ## Nick Markakis If the Cubs do end up making a trade of some significance, they could end up in a position to sign another outfielder. Atlanta Braves free agent right fielder Nick Markakis could be one name to watch, in that scenario. He's not likely to come as cheap as Descalso, who signed to a two-year, $5 million deal with incentives that could escalate the contract to a three-year, $8.2 million pact. Markakis is coming off a year in which he made $11 million and posted a 117 OPS+. But he's also 35 years old, so expecting to get close to the same money going forward would be foolish on his part. Markakis is remarkably consistent at staying on the field, averaging 154 games played per season over the entirety of his 13 year career. He doesn't hit for much power anymore, although he did hit 14 homers in 2018, but he does get on base. In four seasons with Atlanta, Markakis posted a .359 OBP. He's not on par with Jason Heyward when it comes to defensive ability, but Markakis did win his third Gold Glove in 2018. For a team like the Cubs that have badly needed a lead-off hitter since losing Fowler in the wake of the 2016 championship season, a two-year contract for anywhere under $18 million would be worthwhile. But again, with Heyward, Zobrist, Albert Almora, Ian Happ, and Kyle Schwarber all currently slated for playing time in the Cubs' outfield, it would only make sense if accompanied by a trade. __Play and win:__ [Free contests to win prizes](https://betchicago.chalkline.com/)2018-12-19T16:40:58.844Z2018-12-19T09:30-07:00