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Today is the deadline for teams to tender a contract to their arbitration-eligible players, namely, those players who have accumulated at least three years of service time, but not more than six. Such players start to see their salaries rise through the process of arbitration (before skyrocketing once they reach free agency after six years of service time), but teams are not bound to them: today, they can be “non-tendered.”

Salaries for 2012 are not determined today (unless the player is actually signed to a contract), mind you. Today is merely the deadline for saying: yes, we want to keep you under team control. If the Cubs and the player cannot agree to a salary for 2012 in short order, then the arbitration process kicks in. But we’ll get there when we get there. Today is just about the contract tender.

For the Chicago Cubs, there are seven arbitration-eligible players on whom the team must make a decision: IF Jeff Baker, IF Blake DeWitt, RHP Matt Garza, C Koyie Hill, C Geovany Soto, 3B Ian Stewart and RHP Randy Wells. Garza, Soto, and Wells merit no discussion at all. They will be tendered contracts.

Baker and Stewart will also receive contracts, but I break them out separately for a small point on each. Baker is in his final year of arbitration, will make around and $2 million in 2012. He could have some value on the trade market if the Cubs decide they don’t need another utility player (depends on their other moves). That is all to say: the Cubs will tender Baker a contract, but it remains uncertain whether he’ll actually break camp with the Cubs. If he does, he could split some time at third with the other subject of this paragraph: Ian Stewart. Obviously the Cubs will tender him a contract after trading for him last week. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened today if the Cubs hadn’t pulled the trigger on the trade. Would the Rockies have tendered Stewart at the risk of taking on some $2.5 million in salary for a guy they didn’t want anymore? We’ll never know.

Which leaves the only two real questions: Blake DeWitt and Koyie Hill.

Let me dispense with Hill up front. If the new front office believes 32-year-old Koyie Hill, his .573 career OPS (that’s not a joke), his two fingers (that one is a joke), and his declining defense are really worth about $1 million AND a roster spot, then I simply won’t know what to believe anymore. Actually, I will know what to believe: after tossing his now useless naked photos of Jim Hendry, Hill stalked Theo Epstein for weeks until he finally got that magical shower shot.

The Cubs can turn over backup duties to Welington Castillo or Steve Clevenger, or can bring in an equally cheap, but far more productive veteran back-up. I simply do not see a scenario where Hill at $1 million is the Cubs’ best back-up catching option in 2012. Heck, if you absolutely have to have Hill around, non-tender him, and offer him a minor league deal.

DeWitt is a much tougher choice, and the tender decision is probably more about the roster spot than the money. As a first-time arbitration-eligible player coming off another down year, DeWitt doesn’t figure to make much more than $800k or so. DeWitt’s case for sticking around got a major boon last week when both DJ LeMahieu and Ryan Flaherty – young guys who theoretically could have covered the same back-up role as DeWitt – left via trade and the Rule 5 Draft, respectively.

DeWitt plays great defense at third base, and can fill in at second. He can even play left field in a pinch, or at least Mike Quade thinks so. But he’s never been able to hit much at the big league level – last year’s 95 OPS+ (.265/.305/.413) was a career best. Jeff Baker can play the same positions as DeWitt (and more), and is a more reliable bat. Is DeWitt’s remaining upside (he’s still just 26) and his left-handed bat enough to offer him a contract? I’m betting it is. From there, the Cubs might see about shopping him around in Spring if it no longer looks like he’s necessary.

The tender decisions could be announced any time today or tonight.

  • die hard

    DeWitt would outhit Stewart if allowed to play everyday at 3B which is why if Cubs were not going to try Soto at 3B, should have given DeWitt shot there…could have saved a few pennies too

    • The Omnipresent Mystery Team

      By this logic, would it also be a mistake to acquire Hanley Ramirez, because DeWitt would outhit him, too?

    • Levi

      Good lord, stop with the “Soto at 3rd base” already.

    • oswego chris

      die hard…do you have stock in Soto playing 3B?…I think Baker will play 3B against certain lefties…so not a strict platoon per se….he could also play 2B…he rakes lefties..

      • The Omnipresent Mystery Team

        I suspect the commitment to Baker and the commitment to Stewart are two different types. Baker is worth more to other teams than to us; he should be traded by the ’12 deadline, if not before. His playing time will be dictated by increasing his trade value.

        Stewart is a possible part of a contending club and may play everyday in a non-competitive season to see what he can do.

        Either way, I’m not counting on Baker or Barney to be a part of what we field at the end of 2012.

  • Kyle

    I’d bet pretty heavily on a Dewitt/Baker platoon to outhit Stewart at 3b and play better defense, all for the same price.

    • CubFan Paul

      i’ll take Stewart

    • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

      In a perfect world, with a perfect manager, probably.  The only problem is managers never allow platoons to play out.  They always will play the hot bat over the splits to the detriment of the platoon.

      Right now, Theo is banking on Stewart having a rebound year and picking a player up on the cheap who will be able to hit .270/.360/.500 with 30 HR’s and above-average defense.

      Additionally, with Hoyer in the room making this decision, there is a reason they didn’t go after Headley, which probably means too expensive to be able to complete any other trades they have their eye on.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      What about a Stewart/Baker platoon?

      • Kyle

        Awfully expensive for what you’d get.

        It just comes down to how completely skeptical I am of Stewart.

        Batters who are moving from Colorado to other ballparks have a history of falling apart.

        Batters who are recovering from major wrist injuries tend to have their power sapped (and power is a major part of his offensive game).

        Batters who have 25%+ K rates have a history of complete offensive collapses. When they lose it, they lose it, there is no bounceback (Mark Bellhorn, Adam Dunn).

        One blinking red “Stay away, collapse in progress” warning light was bad enough. But Stewart hits a horrible trifecta.

        • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

          Stewart has a triple slash that is pretty close home and away.  His SLG is only .003 lower and has hit 4 more homers away than home with 36 more PA.

          His K rate was trending down before 2011 and his walk rate isnt atrocious.  There are some red flags but there are some positives.

          • Kyle

            That likely just means he was slumping at home and would have had an even worse split if Coors hadn’t boosted him back up.

            • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

              Oh I see, so he only slumped in home games…nice.  NOTHING TO SEE HERE FOLKS, NO GOAL POST MOVEMENT AT ALL.

              It must be a really bad home field slump, looking at Tulowitzki and Gonzalez’es splits and they are pretty profound, Tulo is in the 80’s for tOPS on the road (OPS+ of the split compared to normal OPS+) and Gonzalez is in the 70’s.  I am not saying that Stewart will ever be as good as either of those two but it is interesting that he hasn’t hit very well at home…could be that is his ceiling or could just be that the field doesn’t suit him.

        • JasonB

          Since when is extra $1.7 million / year “awfully expensive” in baseball? Aaron Harang just signed a deal for $6 million/year. There’s no reason that Stewart/Baker platoon is any less desireable than a DeWitt/Baker platoon at an incremental cost of less than $2 million / year.

          For the record, I do expect DeWitt to be tendered and expect him to be on the roster next year. We need an alternative at 3B if Stewart fails and Baker isn’t it because he can’t hit righties.

          • Levi

            Baker hits righties OK, he just kills lefties.

            • JasonB

              His career slash is .239/.296/.364 versus righties – .660 OPS.

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      I’m not so sure about the better defense end of things. Rockies fans who cheered when Stewart was traded will also say that he was underrated on defense. Stewart might be a little better than we’re expecting.

      • Kyle

        I’m not saying Stewart’s a bad defender. Statistically, Dewitt’s just been a bit better. I’ve got Stewart down for average and Dewitt down for a little above average.

  • DowntownLee

    If Koyie Hill gets a roster spot again this year I will vomit on myself. Reminds me of a slightly more useless Neifi Perez.

  • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

    Unless Barney shows a lot of improvement at the plate in 2012, DeWitt might be the best second baseman on the roster. If the Cubs don’t tender him, they are telegraphing loud and clear that they’ve got something else on the table to improve at second.

  • CubFan Paul

    Garza, Soto, and Wells merit no discussion at all

    hopefully Wells is tendered so he can be traded ..he’ll be way too expensive to be a 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th starter/organizational depth

    • http://cubbiescrib.com Luke

      The Randy Wells in the second half of last year I’d happily take as a fourth or fifth starter. It just depends on which Randy Wells is the real Randy Wells. I tend to think that the second half is the more accurate sample and I’d like to see what the new pitching coach can do with him.

      • Kyle

        Even if we just take his second half, I’d say “grudgingly take as a fifth starter if you can’t do anything better.” He did have a 4.04 ERA, but he needed an unsustainable .243 BABIP to get there. He was still pitching like a 5.00-ERA pitcher, just had some nice defense and luck behind him.

        Right now, I’m assuming Garza, Zambrano and Dempster will be in the rotation. If we sign one more legit pitcher, that pushes Wells down to fifth. And I’d really like to see Samardzija or Cashner given every opportunity to take that spot, maybe even piggyback them or come to some other splitting arrangement.

        I’m a lot happier with Wells as a sixth starter around in case something goes wrong (doesn’t it always) than fifth.

      • Levi

        The real Randy Wells is the Randy Wells we have always seen. He won’t just be terrible and he won’t just be really good. He will always be the guy that you just don’t know what to expect out of him. In my opinion, when he is really good, it is simply because the opposing offense that day just isn’t that good.

        • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

          He is the Kyle Orton of MLB pitchers – he won’t win you but 1 or 2 games a year but he wont lose more than 1 or 2 games a year by himself.

    • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

      Lopez has the 9th starter spot LOCKED DOWN!  Anyone who disagrees will get a 72 MPH Fastball thrown in their general direction.

      • Levi

        I agree, Lopez just isn’t very good.

  • Kyle

    Add Samardzija to that list, Jeff, right?

    • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

      Shark is not yet Arb eligible.  He only has 2.028 years of service time, while he wont earn the league minimum, he is already under (a rookie) contract for next year.

      • Kyle

        D’oh, I had this nagging feeling it was too early in the morning and I wasn’t thinking that through.

        • Kyle

          Also I called Brett “Jeff.” Tiiiired.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            I graciously ignored it, though my tiny little heart was hurt.

            • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

              I am sure there is a Sheldon Cooper quote for what you just said.

      • Cubbie Blues

        Samardzija signed a 5 year $10 million contract with a $2.5 million signing bonus. Cubs have option on a sixth and seventh year in 2012 and 2013. Total contract worth of $16.5 million.

        • Kyle

          They already declined his 2012 option.

          • Cubbie Blues

            Have they resigned him yet then? I couldn’t find any info on a new contract.

            • Kyle

              Not yet, but as I forgot above, he doesn’t have enough service time to be a free agent, so they still own his rights.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                Yeah. He’ll just be “renewed.”

  • The Omnipresent Mystery Team

    A few humble submissions for the title:

    Cubs on Tender Hooks
    Koyie: Return to Tender?
    Tender unto Cesar (Izturis) [that one’s a little dated]
    Grist for the Tender Mill
    Koyie Hill Back: O Tenderbomb!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Into the Tenderizer with Koyie Hill

      • The Omnipresent Mystery Team

        How to Avoid Tender Tantrums

  • EtotheR

    FWIW…I did see that the Angels are going to tender Kendrys Morales. I hadn’t seen it posted here. If it has been…then, I respectfully withdraw my current post, and ask that those who preceded me be recognized.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It’s been noted in comments and on Twitter, but not in a post (because that post is being written as a longer Lukewarm Stove piece), so you’re all good.

      • CubFan Paul

        we should be able to acquire him for fairly cheap considering he has no spot on the roster w/ trumbo and abreu ..i dont buy the Trumbo to 3B talk

        new tv deal or not, the Angels cant spend $3million plus on a backup DH ..or at least i hope not

        • http://casualcubsfan.blogger.com hansman1982

          The angels stating that they are moving Trumbo to 3B really only makes sense if they would rather keep Morales, which would make their “indecision” to tender Morales a contract even more strange.

          The only way it makes sense to me is, if they want to hear a bunch of offers for Morales and flip the best one over to Trumbo and try to eek another prospect out of the flip, this is assuming that they value Trumbo less than they value Morales.

          Which doesn’t make much sense, at least on the surface.  Trumbo is cheaper and younger than Morales and isn’t coming off a broken leg.

          • ferrets_bueller

            They were discussing moving him to 3B months before the Pujols signing. The reason is that even if they hadn’t signed Pujols, they still didn’t have room for all the players. They have 5OFs and 3 1B now, for 3 outfield spots, 1B, and DH. Thats 8 guys for 5 spots, if you dont move Trumbo to 3B. Which still makes it 8 guys for 6 spots- Pujols, Morales, Trumbo, Wells, Hunter, Abreu, Trout, and Bourjos.

  • NL_Cubs

    I agree parting ways with K. Hill. Let the two kids battle it out for the position in AZ.

    Thanks to a heads-up from an obnoxious Cardinal fan, another interesting note on this subject is that ex-Cub Ryan “The Klank” Theriot is likely to be non-tendered by STL. It will be interesting to see where he ends up…maybe HOU?  Klank!

  • die hard

    Rumor has it that Soriano has been working hard with infield coach on regaining his infielder skills so can move to 1B…would solve alot of problems if he could make transition to 1B..Ernie Banks did it at that age

    • Jim

      Ernie wasn’t a spaz in the field though.

  • baseballet

    I agree that Koyie Hill’s time in the majors is probably over. But he played hard for the Cubs and I appreciated that he gave it his all. Prior to last season he played good defense and called a good game and he should be given some props. if Ramirez would have played as hard as Hill then he’d be remembered as one of the all time favorite Cubs, instead of a see-you-next-time Brewer.

    • Deer

      Thanks for that nonsense Mrs. Hill

  • hardtop

    for what its worth:  admittedly, not much: ive been lucky enough to hang out with a few cubs players on a handful of occasions.  koyie hill is by far one of my favorites.  he’s an easy going guy with a good sense of humor but can still enjoy the party.  i’ve  talked old cars with him for hours.  in no way am i defending his position to be on the cubs becasue he like old cars… just sayin…. nice dude.  so if yo uare going to lay into him for his mediocre to poor play over the years, so be it, but try to keep it above the belt.

    • Internet Random

      The mere fact that he designed the “PASS10N” shirt makes him a swell guy in my book.

    • ferrets_bueller

      What sort of old cars? This very well could sway my opinion of him, lmao.

    • TWC

      While I’ve spent countless hours on this site decrying Koyie Hill’s baseball skills (or whatever they’re called), I’ve always considered his story rather inspiring, frankly.  I, too, have recovered from a catastrophic hand injury that left me permanently disabled, enduring several surgeries to fix my hand in a relatively usable shape.

      However, unlike Koyie Hill, after the injury I realized that a baseball career was no longer in the offing.  I’m sure he’s a great guy.  He’s got a lot to be thankful for, and he seems to acknowledge it.  I wish him well.  I hope the Cardinals sign him to be their starting catcher.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Damn, dude. Now I feel like crap for every time I made a Koyie Hill hand joke …. Sorry.

        • TWC

          You kidding?  I *love* Koyie Hill hand jokes. I love *making* Koyie Hill hand jokes.  I just wish my damn doctor had thought to fuse my hand in a manner that lets me hold a baseball better.  I’m pretty sure I’d be in the mix for the Cubs’ open 1B spot.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      And, for the record, I have always tried to avoid laying into Hill. Instead, I laid into Hendry…

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