Dexter Fowler leads Cubs' free-agent class

CHICAGO -- Led by center fielder Dexter Fowler, eight Chicago Cubs declared for free agency on Monday, though pitcher Dan Haren has already stated he will retire.

In addition to Fowler, outfielders Chris Denorfia and Austin Jackson along with pitchers Trevor Cahill, Tommy Hunter, Jason Motte and Fernando Rodney will be available to sign with any team beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday. The Cubs have exclusive negotiating rights with the players until that time.

The team also has until Friday to extend a qualifying offer to any of the free agents which means if they leave for another team the Cubs would get an extra draft pick next summer. If the player accepts the offer he automatically receives a one-year deal with the Cubs worth $15.8 million. Only Fowler is expected to be extended the qualifying offer though no player has ever accepted it opting for more security.

Fowler had a big second half, getting on-base about 39 percent of the time, leading to speculation he’ll get a long-term contract after earning $9.5 million last season. The Cubs have stated their offseason goals are to land more pitching which might not leave room in the budget for Fowler’s return.

The other free agents all have some possibilities of coming back but are mostly secondary players. The most intriguing are Jackson and Cahill. The former could be a stop gap in center field, or at the very least a fourth outfielder, while Cahill’s late-season performance could earn him a new deal with the Cubs.