2019 Options exercised: Cole Hamels (team), Jose Quintana (team), Pedro Strop (team), Brandon Kintzler (player)
Via Trade: RHP Rowan Wick
Re-signed: LHP Kyle Ryan (MiLB FA signed to MLB deal)
Non-40 Man Roster Additions: OF Johnny Field (waivers), LHP Jerry Vasto (waivers)
Traded: LHP Drew Smyly, 2B Tommy La Stella, 3B Jason Vosler (prospect)
Via Free Agency: RHP Jesse Chavez
Non-Tendered: Justin Hancock, Allen Webster, Ronald Torreyes
Remaining Free Agents: LHP Justin Wilson, LHP Jorge de la Rosa, LHP Jaime Garcia, 2B Daniel Murphy, C Bobby Wilson, IF Mike Freeman (outrighted), OF Terrance Gore (outrighted)
Players Under Contract
Arbitration Eligible Players (with estimated arbitration salary)
The Cubs chose to tender contracts to 7 of their 8 arbitration eligible players, including currently suspended shortstop Addison Russell. The team released a statement from Russell along with another from Theo Epstein addressing the decision. The one exception was recently acquired utility man Ronald Torreyes. It is a curious decision, and one I can only explain by saying it is possible the time saw the flood of other non-tender players from around the league and decided they would have more options than they believed two days ago. The “trade” was essentially a no-risk move equivalent to waiver claim as the cash involved in such “PTBNL or cash” deals is almost always worked out as the cash value necessary to make a waiver claim.
Year 2 (of 3): Kyle Hendricks (~$7.5M)
Year 1: Kris Bryant (~$12.5M), Javier Baez (~$7.0M), Addison Russell (~$4.3M), Mike Montgomery (~$3.0M), Kyle Schwarber (~$3.0M), Carl Edwards Jr (~$1.4M)
Non-tendered: Ronald Torreyes (~$0.9M)
It should be noted regarding Russell that the decision to tender him a contract does not fully guarantee him his salary in 2019. All contracts awarded by an arbitration panel are non-guaranteed, which is one reason why most contracts are settled before a hearing, but in the case of Russell the team will undoubtedly decline any requests from Russell’s camp to agree on a deal beforehand and instead wait on the arbitration panel’s ruling.
Even if the Cubs have not traded Russell prior to spring training they would still have options to only pay him a portion of his salary if they choose to move on from him. If he were to be released more than 15 days prior to Opening Day the team would only owe him 30 days of pay (roughly $690K) and if he is released less than 15 days from Opening Day they would owe him 45 days of pay (roughly $950K). This is the same situation the Cubs saw play out with Justin Grimm last year.
Russell’s contract only becomes guaranteed if he makes it to Opening Day (with the Cubs or another team).
Non-Arbitration Eligibile Players
Year 3 (of 3): Willson Contreras, Albert Almora
Year 2: Ian Happ, Victor Caratini, Kyle Ryan
The Cubs non-tendered a pair of right handed relievers (Allen Webster and Justin Hancock) in order to free up roster space, but also because if the Cubs had tendered them a contract the team would have been unable to remove them from the 40-man roster until long into spring training. As fringe roster players the Cubs could ill-afford that roster inflexibility. The two have also spent extended time on MLB rosters, Webster in stops previous to Chicago, and Hancock in a long DL stint last year. Because of that their salaries, even if they spent all of next year in Iowa, would have been higher than a normal depth reliever as well. In addition, Webster was out of options.
Catcher Taylor Davis was in the same situation, but the Cubs chose to extend him a contract for 2019. With the league desperate for catchers and Davis developing into a respected clubhouse presence in Iowa, it is quite possible that they now envision him capable of filling the “veteran” catcher role in Iowa. He may lack the MLB playing experience of previous players placed in that role, but he has spent time with the big club the past two years, both in the spring and then again in September. He is familiar with the pitchers and has become a reliable receiver even if his physical skills are nothing special. There is also more offensive upside with Davis than with previous candidates.
Updated 40-Man Roster
Remaining Key Dates
Dec. 9-13th: Winter Meetings
Dec. 13th: Rule 5 Draft
Jan. 11th: Arbitration filing deadline