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darwin barney gold gloveThe deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players (well, technically all rights-controlled non-free agents) is tomorrow. Put far too simply, “tendering” a contract to an arbitration-eligible player means that the team wants to keep the guy for next year, and is willing to pay him whatever salary an arbitrator deems he is worth. Only players with at least three years of service time, but not yet six years*, are eligible for arbitration and thus must be tendered or non-tendered tomorrow.

*(Except for Super Two players, who are among the top 22% of players with at least two years, but not yet three years – such players also qualify.)

Players tend to finally start making some real money in arbitration (which is what can make the decision to tender sometimes difficult), though they don’t quite get a market rate. The factors that go into an arbitration salary are complicated, but, the two primary ones are performance and service time (the latter of which is why salaries start out small in arbitration, and then grow over the years).

The Chicago Cubs currently sport 11 arbitration-eligible players, which is a relatively huge number, and is thanks largely to the rebuilding efforts currently underway.  The Cubs’ arbitration-eligible gentlemen this year include Jeff Samardzija, Nate Schierholtz, Travis Wood, James Russell, Luis Valbuena, Pedro Strop, Donnie Murphy, Darwin Barney, George Kottaras, Daniel Bard, and Mat Gamel.

Among them, Samardzija, Schierholtz, Wood, Russell, Strop, and Kottaras are mortal locks to be tendered a contract. Valbuena and Murphy are extremely likely to be tendered.

Some folks, including MLBTR, believe that Darwin Barney is a non-tender candidate. I tend think it’s very unlikely that Barney, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time, will be non-tendered. First, Barney projects to make just $1.5 to $2 million in his first arbitration go-around, and has openly said that he doesn’t expect there to be much of a fight on his value. Second, even as a bench player, you’ve got to believe that Barney is worth that meager sum. He brings a plus-plus glove at second base, and would presumably still be well above average defensively at shortstop. There are reasons to believe the bat could bounce back a little bit next year (but, make no mistake, he’s never going to be an average or even slightly-below-average bat). I just don’t see a non-tender on Barney.

As we’ve discussed quite a bit this offseason, Daniel Bard is your most obvious non-tender candidate. He could make anywhere from $1.5 to $2 million next year if tendered a contract, and, for all the potential, hasn’t shown any effectiveness in nearly two years. Worse, he lasted just three walk-filled appearances in winter ball, and did nothing to encourage the Cubs that he was over his uniquely awful control problems. If the Cubs still think he’s worth hanging onto – and, as a power reliever, there’s still a glimmer of hope – they could try to non-tender him, and quickly work out a minor league deal. (Contracts awarded in arbitration are not fully-guaranteed, so there’s also that angle – which is to say, the Cubs could agree to terms with him now on something like a $1 million, non-guaranteed contract.)

As for Mat Gamel, he was a waiver flyer for the Cubs, and is arbitration-eligible for the first time. If the Cubs feel like he’s in good health (he’s coming off back-to-back seasons derailed by knee injuries), he could still be worth a tender (under which he’d probably earn something like $800K to $1 million). For Gamel, the tender decision is more about the 40-man roster spot than the amount of money committed, given his potentially limited role (back-up first base, possibly play a little left field, bench bat).

Speaking of which, because the Cubs’ 40-man roster is at 40, and because they’ll want to have at least one spot open going into the Rule 5 Draft in a couple weeks (I say at least, because they’ll likely want to open up several spots for free agents over the coming weeks), we may also see the Cubs non-tender a player or two who is not arbitration-eligible. You can think of this effectively as releasing the player, as he would then be free to sign with another team. But, if it’s a guy the Cubs like, they may have worked out a deal in advance to bring the player back on a minor league deal. Chang-Yong Lim, Brooks Raley, Zac Rosscup, Josh Vitters, Logan Watkins, Brian Bogusevic, Brett Jackson, and Matt Szczur are all theoretical possibilities for a non-tender, though just about any of those guys getting the boot right now would surprise me.

In any case, we’re going to see some roster maneuvering by tomorrow, so you’re on alert.

  • Dylan Mondi

    I would say Bard is non-tendered. He might come back on a minor league deal. I also think there is an outside chance at Barney being non-tendered

    • BenRoethig

      I’d say he’s most likely tendered but traded at the deadline. He’s cheap and would be a great defensive upgrade for a team that’s already loaded offensively.

  • Kyle

    In before people overestimate how much middle infielders should be expected to hit in the current environment.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Very worth pointing out.

      But also worth noting that the answer is “more than Barney did last year.”

      • Eric

        Barney’s hitting is hard to swallow when you think about how Baez or Alcantara would probably bring the lumber when they arrive in Chicago.

      • Assman22

        Cubs FO has been on the phone with several clubs trying to move Barney before deadline…also looking into out-of-options guys on other clubs…Esmil Rogers has been of interest in the past…

        • http://bleachernation.com woody

          I haven’t heard that before. I guess all of the Samardzija talk has sucked all the oxygen out of the other possible deliberations.

        • Eric

          Just so happens to play for the Jays, who have been connected to Shark. Big trade in the making?

        • Dustin S

          Thanks for the update AM. Before seeing your post I’d think with Barney non-tendering is something that maybe crossed their mind for a minute, before figuring his low salary and lack of AAA options make him good placeholder @2B (just for 2014). Plus maybe some upside for modest trade value if he hits a little better next year. But the offense was so anemic last year that 2B also has to be glaring at them in the eye as an easy option to improve that.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          The Cubs would only care about trying to move him before the deadline if they were actually considering non-tendering him. That would surprise me, as I’ve said.

          • Assman22

            It’s not that they’re thinking of non-tendering him (which I have not heard they are)…clubs are calling about non-tender candidates in the form of bargain shopping…Cubs are not in on Stubbs FWIW…

            • Ivy Walls

              Don’t others see the tactic? Barney is now over supply on a margin while a RHP w/ MLB marginal ability is worth more to the club. More arms, Cubs have two current 2B players playing 3B, with another being groomed. They have three almost ready 3B candidates where two happen to be top 5 in all of MiLB.

        • another JP

          Good insight Assman… Rogers appears to be even trade for Barney based on age, first arby contract, value, etc… if that’s the deal it would make more sense for Toronto but is certainly plausible.

  • Eric

    I’d like to see Bard and Gamel stashed at Iowa. I wouldn’t mind see Bogusevic released.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I have to think that Barneys days as a starter are limited. Since there is no obvious replacement other than Valbuena I too think it would be stupid to non-tender him. Maybe he can pick up the pace a little bit this year and we can flip him at the trade deadline or throw him in for an extra in a future trade. Needless to say Barney’s value as a bench player will probably keep him employed for years to come. That said I believe that maybe the FO could roll the dice and give Watkins the job and non tender Barney. I was disappointed last year that Sveum didn’t give Watkins more playing time to see what he could do. I guess he thought since Barney was in the hunt for the gold glove that he needed to play him every day. It’s hard to determine the infield situation because of third base. If Olt rises to the challenge and wins the job then it seems that Valbuena would have to play second base to get any playing time. So where does this leave Murphy? If Baez and Alcantara get off to a hot start in AAA then there would be a real conundrum of how to proceed. If they don’t give Olt the job out of spring training then I’m afraid that he will be another bust like Vitters and Jackson. I’m not sure if Murphy can play second base. Needless to say that Valbuena is as important as ever to this team.

  • Melrosepad

    Saw Chang-Yong Lim in Iowa last year a couple of times and was not impressed. I’d say let him go and give some other people a shot.

    • terencemann

      Lim has a contract in the ballpark of 5 MM for 2014 so I don’t think they’re cutting him. Keep in mind that he was rehabbing last season and had not pitched since some time in 2012.

  • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

    My take on the viability of contending anytime soon. It will be 2017…
    http://deepcenterfield.mlblogs.com/

    To this post, I guess will see what shakes out tomorrow. Barney in a new town? A swap elsewhere? December heats up the stove….:)

    • http://www.draftday.com udbrky

      I couldn’t continue reading it. the moving white dots going across the words is too annoying.

  • http://BN Sacko

    Barney off the bench is fine by me.

    • Tony_S

      +1

    • TOOT

      And who to take his place?

  • cavemencubbie

    My only hope is that the FO makes the right choice, and knows the quality of our talent.

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    okay so now Jason powers we are into 2017before we hope to be competitive?

    • YourResidentJag

      It’s not Jason, though. Listen to David Kaplan. Regardless of whether you like him, he has Jed on regularly on his radio show and is well connected. He says the Cubs can’t hope to compete until at least 2017.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Saying that the Cubs “can’t hope to compete” for four more seasons – at the earliest – is a bit too much. Four season from now, the Cubs could literally have a couple top prospects who haven’t even been drafted yet on the team. And that’s just the draft.

        You can make some educated guesses about 2015 right now, but that’s about as far as you can go. Baseball is far too unpredictable.

        • Kyle

          Doesn’t that lead us toward the conclusion that any plan that is predicated on us being competitive a few years down the road in that unknowable future is a bad plan?

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            It wasn’t in 2011 when the roster needed turned over, the farm system needed stocked, and the money situation was a problem. Going into 2014? As I’ve said, I’m not interested in hearing about any plans that PRESUME the Cubs won’t be competitive in 2014 and 2015. I think that’s a silly and unnecessary approach, given where the organization stands. Punt on 2014? Fine. I see merit in it. Punting now on 2015? No, sir. Not for me.

            • Kyle

              If they want to be competitive in 2015, they need to have one of two things happen:

              1) Just about every player with any shred of talent in the upper-minors and majors needs to break out and start producing way above their median projection

              or

              2) We need to start making big moves *really* soon.

              Both of those are possible, but neither seems likely.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                They don’t need one of those two things to happen. You’re quite right that neither is likely.

                What they need is a little bit of each to happen.

                • Kyle

                  They need a *lot* of each to happen. This isn’t the 2000s NL Central where you can lol85wins your way to a division title.

                  A little bit of both might get us to not terribleness, but I think we’re beginning to underestimate as a fanbase the gap between not-terrible and really good.

                  • terencemann

                    It depends on your definition of competitive. If you mean that they could be a winning team in 2015, I can buy that.

            • YourResidentJag

              You can make some educated guesses about 2015 right now, but that’s about as far as you can go. Baseball is far too unpredictable.

              Again, though, Brett. I’m just reiterating what I hearing out there. You can be frustrated with the concept but you can’t really with me.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                I know you’re not just speaking on your own behalf. I’m taking issue with anyone who believes that it’s impossible that the Cubs could be a competitive team in 2015, let alone 2016. We can speak in grades of likely or unlikely, but anyone saying the Cubs can’t possibly compete until 2017 at the earliest is engaging in all kinds of hyperbole.

                I also think there’s a 0% chance this front office or this ownership group has any interest whatsoever in seeing the Cubs below .500 for the next four years.

                • Kyle

                  I’m sure they don’t *want* it to happen. I’m not sure they can prevent it.

                  • Rebuilding

                    This isn’t 2012 anymore where 2015 seemed so far away and you could add a couple of pieces each year to be competitive by 2015. There is no one I see, outside of Tanaka, that gets us much closer to competing in 2015.

                    I understand why some wanted to add Phil Hughes for instance, but realistically he’s probably only .5 win better than Rusin over a full season – so that takes us to 71 wins instead of 70?

                    We just have so many holes to fill that it’s very hard to conceive a scenario where we are competitive in 2 years unless Bryant and Baez come up and take the league by storm and we find/acquire 2 TOR type arms. And then we prob still aren’t as good as the Cardinals and Reds and likely the Pirates

                    • Eternal Pessimist

                      “And then we prob still aren’t as good as the Cardinals and Reds and likely the Pirates”

                      This seems like the most Plausible reason for the delay of the play. I don’t think the FO is willing to spend the extra dollars and player control years just to be a very good 3rd to 4th place team in the division.

                      Sure anything can happen, but with 3 division teams looking strong in 2014(Reds are iffy I think), why not accumulate talent for one more year and see if 2015 looks like the year to start the (limited) spending spree.

                    • Eternal Pessimist

                      …also would love to see the “street festival” start in 2014…at least something new to draw more fan interest.

                • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

                  I don’t think it’s hyperbole at all. The history of baseball bears out that 5 years, at minimum, is what it takes to field a WS-competitive team using the build up from the bottom, minor league approach, without changing plans.

                  Seven years if your intellectually honest about realistic outcomes. A decade if you have other conflicts – renovation of a stadium, TV contracts, debt servicing – seems to be those things are in flux.

                  ***If we say too it takes 1500 ABs and 450 IP to mature a draft pick, of which we’ll hit on one 1 per draft, it takes 3 years to get that first one. Add 1 per year to the team.

                  So, say Baez in 2015.
                  Bryant in 2016.
                  Almora in late 2016.
                  The draft pick this year: 2017.

                  By year 6, 2017, you finally have 3, hopefully, star-like players and 1-2 WAR guy. Hopefully too with the current guys in Castro and Rizzo you finally have 4-5, 4-6 WAR players that will change the outcomes of the franchise. You add some pitching (draft, trade, FA)…and we are in business to do some damage.

                  World Series competitive, not just sneak to the playoffs and pray the Gods smile on us with team flaws apparent.

                  Will make trades. But you give to get…and nothing is a certainty.

                  ***These guys aren’t necessarily going to rock the world their first MLB season…let’s be realistic too.***

                  But If you change the model – buy pricier FAs in a down/mediocre market – you’ll just tread water, maybe make it back to 90 wins.

                  And I’ve even advocated that at times…but without knowing their monies, its a guess which guys would even come to Chicago…

                  But maybe I am being hyperbolic about it.
                  Won’t be the worst thing I am accused of.

  • Bill

    I’m not a big Barney fan but I would still tender him a contract.Barney still has value as a defensive back up and a player coach type mentor for a Baez and Alcantara when they come up.

  • Spoda17

    I think there is no chance the Cubs non-tender Barney. If he bats to his average .243 lifetime I believe… I would take that in a second for the next year or two. Don’t forget about his defensive WAR.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    Funny how just a short time ago people were saying that Barney should be one of the “core” pieces. How quickly things change. For me I’m very interested to see how the third base situation plays out. And then the whole Castro equation plays into second base also. Reports that they don’t see Baez playing another position. Does that mean Castro would move to second? Something has to give somewhere. But where?

  • Fastball

    I think Casro moves to 2b. But we need to be ready for a few years of worse than Castro defens3 at short from Baez. He will be hard to accept becayse there will be a lot of errors, more than Castro. I think Olt will hold diwn his position at 3b. 2016 seems more reasonable than 2017. But thus org has never been good at putting its home homegrown players in the limelight. If any of the stumble the media and fan base will crush tgem just like in the past. There will be so much pressure to win it will smother them.

  • Rich H

    I do agree with JP. 2017 we should be ready to say we have a WS type team on paper. Not that the Cubs are or should be punting on 2014 or 2015. Just that most of our prospect depth has not seen AA ball let alone sniffed the big leagues.

    It takes time for players to aclamate to playing in the majors. The guys like Trout have really messed with a realistic expectation of top prospects.

    For argument sake we say that Olt takes the 3rd base in ST. Wood cements himself as what he was last year. We get Tanaka. And we get a dream return for Shark. We will still have needs in 2014.
    But say Baez, Bryant, and some of the others actually get significant playing time 2nd half. Even if they struggle at first the time they spend with the big club helps. Then 2015 looks very different.

    In 2015 our core “could” be Rizzo, Castro, Baez, Bryant, Wood, Tanaka, and which ever dream TOR arm we get for Shark. Then as the kids come up in 2016 they will be supplimental pieces more than required to be top of their ceiling right away.

    I could definitely see that team rushing towards 90 wins with a few lucky breaks and some smart trades from depth.

    Then going into 2017 with a season expectation of a playoff spot and push to a WS.

    • Professor Snarks

      This seems to be the most likely scenario, considering what we know now.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      That is close to my take too. I’m not sure how the middle infield log jam will play out, but you can bet Barney will be the loser. You didn’t mention Alcantara. He seems to be running a parallel course with Baez in his development. The difference being that Baez will arrive sooner due to his offensive potential. I think Castro”s progress in 2014 determines who gets moved where and if Castro will be a long term option. Alcantara is a switch hitter with some pop in his bat.

  • Ivy Walls

    Actually this is one of the first off season threads that possesses much thought and insight. Let me say again the human competitive progression is never linear. It either stays the same, mildly improves, or bounces up and down then spikes up. Baseball is played in the constant combination of nine moving parts that act off each other simultaneously.

    Let us say that the Cubs by June 1st Cubs which had a platoon at 2B and 3B where they brought up Baez at 3B where he immediately had an impact on defense and offense. This allowed Castro to play more aggressively up the middle defensively and also hit like he did in his rookie year down the lineup. Cubs moved Valbuena to 2B and platooned him with Murphy, more offense in the lineup no loss in defense.

    Cubs then bring up Bryant in July to LF and trade Schierholtz for value. Bryant also adds better defense and offense to the lineup, pushing Lake to RF full time. This affects Rizzo who is seeing better pitches now with Bryant and Baez in the lineup.

    The issue is pitching.

    • wvcubsfan

      How’s the weather in your fantasy land?

      If all of those other things can happen why can’t you magically turn all five starters into Kershaw’s and all of the relievers into Rivera’s?

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