The top 2019 free agents based on WAR and age

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Brad Mills - USA Today Sports
Brad Mills - USA Today Sports

While everyone is focused on names like Machado, Harper, Corbin and Pollock, the fact remains that there are about 173 other free-agents out there this season, and that doesn’t count the non-tender class that will be added to the FA list in about two weeks.

There’s probably one reason that 99% of the focus lands on Machado and Harper, and it isn’t necessarily about their ability; it has to do with age. Maybe it’s because I am paying a lot closer attention to this year than I did in years past, but this year’s list of free-agents just seems… well, old, and in some cases, not very valuable.

The truth is, this year’s free agent class isn’t really all that impressive, which is exactly why the Cubs should focus their efforts on the trade market and FAs. If the Cubs are going to sign free-agents, they need to be looking toward Galvis, Brantley or McCutcheon, not Harper or Machado.

Everyone seems to worry about replacing those guys who are getting long-in-the-tooth, but the truth is, you’re really not going to find a youthful solution in the FA market- at least not this year. Ben Zobrist will be 38 next season, and I fear his retirement is approaching, but he’s only a few years older than the average FAs for any position that Zo plays.

Speculation and rumors (if you believe them) have the Cubs in some sort of financial bind. While it’s true they are upside down in a handful of contracts, most notably those of Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood, I tend to believe that money could be spent on free agents, but maybe this class isn’t so appealing to Theo Epstein and the gang. Epstein may be a little gun-shy after last year’s signings, and who could blame him?

Broken down by position, the number of free-agents available, age and WAR, this year’s class is as follows. Note: “Top of the class” below is based solely on WAR. While I don’t believe WAR is the only criteria that should be used, it does serve as a catch-all for offense and defense.

Catchers: 20 available, average age- 34.25 years, average WAR- 0.7. Top of the class: Yasmani Grandal (3.6 WAR).

First Baseman: 7 available, average age- 33.57 years, average WAR- 0.21. Top of the class: Steve Pearce (1.6 War).

Second baseman: 14 available, average age- 33.29 years, average WAR- 2.14. Top of the class: Jed Lowry (4.9 WAR).

Third baseman: 11 available, average age- 30.73 years, average WAR- 0.46. Top of the class: Eduardo Escobar (3.5 WAR).

Shortstops: 7 available, average age- 30.14 years, average WAR- 1.74 Top of the Class: Manny Machado (6.2 WAR).

Left Fielders: 11 available, average age- 34.36 years, average WAR- 0.66. Top of the class: Michael Brantley (3.5 WAR).

Center Fielders: 5 available, average age- 33.6 years, average WAR- 0.3. Top of the Class: AJ Pollock (2.5 WAR).

Right Fielders: 11 available, average age- 32.91 years, average WAR- 1.14. Top of the class: Bryce Harper (3.5 WAR).

Designated Hitters: 3 available (not including guys like Murphy who could DH), average age- 34, average WAR- 0.77. Top of the class: Nelson Cruz (2.5 WAR).

Starting Pitchers: 36 available, average age- 33.28, average WAR- 0.42. Top of the class: Patrick Corbin (6.3 War).

Relief Pitchers: 52 available, average age- 33.25 years, average WAR 0.28. Top of the class: Adam Ottavino (2.0 WAR).

Overall average free agent age: 33.03 years.

Overall average WAR: 0.8.

The youthful age isn’t there, and with the exception of a few players, the WAR isn’t there either. Very little about this class makes me smile, and I don’t think the Cubs will (or should) tie up finances to acquire Harper or Machado. If Theo is going to go all-in, grab a couple relievers, grab a shortstop, and by all means, grab a right-handed starter.

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